That thought brings us along nicely to Hell in a Cell. Although there is no denying the remarkable nearsightedness of the Fatal 4-Way event, at least it had the grace to die quickly and quietly as a failed experiment. But Hell in a Cell lingers on as a constant disappointment for those of us fans that remember the days when the Devil's Playground was as fun and dangerous as its nickname. Now, it is simply a drab filler between SummerSlam and Survivor Series, and that is the saddest fate the gimmick could ever suffer. In reality, it would be better off dead in this day and age than in its current lukewarm state.
This was the beginning of a love affair with the steel for both WWE and its fans. If you were in one of these matches, it meant you mattered and your feud was one of the hottest things in wrestling. It's contained six of the biggest superstars in an Armageddon battle royal, it witnessed the coming of ages of Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and Batista, and saw the demise of Foley as an active competitor—at least for a few years. It was a setting steeped in history and lined by the blood, sweat and tears of the biggest names in WWE history.
However, since the inauguration of the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, the quality of the matches has undoubtedly suffered a significant decline. Where once was a cage that promised nothing but broken bodies and a raucous crowd now ensures only tedium and wistful thoughts of what once was. The sole benefit that the Hell in a Cell event has provided is that it has allowed fans to appreciate the classic encounters before it began that much more.
A clear indicator of the negative effect the pay-per-view has had on its namesake match is the gulf in difference in the ratings between Hell in a Cell bouts on that card to those outside it. The Cell matches that were not featured on the October pay-per-view have an average rating of 3.87 on the Dave Meltzer scale. That is even more remarkable when that takes into account the dud at WrestleMania XV between Undertaker and Big Boss Man. Compare that to the Hell in a Cell matches that have taken place at its own event, which have a measly average of 2.7.
The major problem with the Hell in a Cell PPV is that it has ended the spontaneity of the match and restricted it to the October event. No longer is the match the ultimate means to conclude a heated rivalry that has stretched for months, if not years. When Triple H and Shawn Michaels concluded a feud that had stretched from 2002 to 2004, the Hell in a Cell was the only answer. When Randy Orton's quest to finally kill the Undertaker needed a final battle, the Cell obliged. When Batista finally proved to the world that he was the man of the hour, the Cell gave him the opportunity. When Randy Orton had his first rematch for the World Championship against Mark Henry after a month-long rivalry, the Cell was dragged kicking and screaming to be an unwilling background.
That is the point. Since the pay-per-view began in 2009, it has been an enforced component of the show, and thus it has been kept off other cards on the whole to keep this as a special occasion. So, instead of seeing Evolution and the Shield have an epic confrontation in the steel confines, we are treated to Randy Orton vs. Sheamus in a basic title defense. Rather than place the monstrous Bray Wyatt in a structure that in another era could become his home, we get two years of dull mismatches between CM Punk and Ryback. It couldn't be the setting for a momentous clash between Cena and Punk, but toss in Alberto Del Rio because it made sense at the time.
Not only has the transition of the Cell from a feud climax to a standard pay-per-view affair restricted the match's importance and ability to be used when it seems appropriate, it has also completed a stunning double-whammy by also over-exposing the Hell in a Cell. Restricted and over-exposed – confused? The WWE officials probably would be as well. By featuring two or three Cell matches a year at the same exact time means the match is no longer special, but has become a repetitive process where creativity has been depleted. The Cell has become an unnecessary addition; the only thing it offers in the current format is making the action in the ring harder to see first-hand.
The Hell in a Cell can yet be salvaged from the rubble that it currently finds itself in. But the pay-per-view needs to die before it is allowed to rust the Cell to an irreparable degree. It has proven to be harmful to a structure that was once the house of the matches most likely to bank great ratings and superb crowd reactions. The PG Era already places enough limitations on the bouts, so placing them as a filler contest in October's doldrums is gradually going to make the Devil's Playground more like the Devil's School Prom; a yearly tradition that promises more than it delivers, is given far more significance than it's worth and ends with more than one person feeling sick.
Do you like the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view or do you agree that it has been more of a problem? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!