Why Hell in a Cell Was Killed By Its Own PPV | Smark Out Moment

Why Hell in a Cell Was Killed By Its Own PPV

Posted by Callum Wiggins Tuesday, September 30, 2014
WWE has had a long-running fascination with naming pay-per-views after some of their biggest gimmick matches. This has proven successful on more than one occasion.

steel cage Hell in a Cell Devil's Playground
Money in the Bank is often one of the most entertaining events of the year, built around the annual ladder match for the coveted briefcase. A similar tale can be told about TLC. The barrage of ladder and table matches offered for that night have been a sure-fire means of engaging the audience and end the year in style. Others have had more mixed results. Elimination Chamber is a great match in principle, and having one for the title every year is a workable idea. But placing it as the run-in to WrestleMania usually makes the chances for a World Championship change unlikely. And some—like Fatal 4-Way—flat out sucked.

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.

Undertaker Mankind King of the Ring 1998 HIAC Match
For those unaware of the esteemed history of the Hell in a Cell match, you're unlikely to be visiting this website in the first place. But for those few that need filling in, here is a short history lesson. It was introduced at Badd Blood 1997 as the conclusion to a violent feud between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. The viciousness and jeopardy of the action within the steel structure handed the WWE its last 5-star rated contest until 2011. It was not until a year later that the Cell became bound to wrestling folklore and the memories of millions of fans, as Mick Foley was throw from the summit 20 feet to the announce table below.

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.

WrestleMania 28 Hell in a Cell Match photos
However, I would not like to have this confused as a belief that the Hell in a Cell died as soon as the PG Era began. It certainly hasn't benefited the structure, as the loss of blood and extreme levels of violence have taken the edge off the demonic nature of the Cell. But that didn't stop Undertaker and Edge having a spotfest with tables and ladders in 2008, or the Deadman and Triple H having an emotional slugfest with dozens of near finishes at WrestleMania, which was a Match of the Year winner. Even in this era of PG, wrestlers can push the boundaries to their limits to make a great match when called upon.

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.

Hell in a Cell 2009 WWE Championship
Look at this upcoming event and consider for a second what feuds have been built leading up to it. Brock Lesnar may not even be defending his WWE Championship at Hell in a Cell, let alone having the match against John Cena. That was the only match that could even be vaguely considered worthy of a match in the Cell, and if that disappears, then the pay-per-view is already on the back foot. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins are having an entertaining rivalry, but it has not yet reached the point where a Cell match is appropriate – maybe in four or five months, but now would seem rushed. Maybe they can stick Heath Slater in with the Bunny and end their budding feud. Otherwise, a battle in the Cell will end as it has done the past, with a disappointing encounter that has already entered with a lackluster feud.

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!

Callum Wiggins hails from Essex in the United Kingdom. He recently graduated from the University of York with a degree in History and has been a fan of professional wrestling since 2002. Outside of wrestling, he is also a fan of Arsenal FC and enjoys video games, darts, and Formula One. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.


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