Wrestling History Lesson: The Genesis of Hell in a Cell | Smark Out Moment

Wrestling History Lesson: The Genesis of Hell in a Cell

Posted by Walker Stewart Monday, May 31, 2021

For the first time since its inception, the WWE Hell in a Cell PPV is occurring outside the month of October. When reflecting on this strange revelation, I started to consider the logistics behind WWE's most devilish structure. As one of WWE's most hellacious gimmick matches, the Hell in a Cell match is an intense fiasco of chain, steel, and carnage.

For the first time in over one year, it's time for another Smark Out Moment 'Wrestling History Lesson.' Starting off as the match to end all feuds, this gimmick is now utilized as a yearly occurrence with a pay-per-view named after it.

In this article, we are going to dive into this historical five-sided cube of steel mesh chain-link fencing. Let's step into the devil's playground.

The Beginnings of Hell

Originally created by Jim Cornette, the Hell in a Cell match has its roots in the steel cage match concept (watch out for our upcoming Wrestling History Lesson on the evolution of steel cage matches!) However, the difference between your typical steel cage match and the Hell in a Cell concept comes in the size of the cage. Originally, the Hell in a Cell match boasted a 16-foot high frame that weighed over 2 tons. However, the cell would be increased to 20 feet tall and 5 tons of solid steel later on. Alternative to your typical steel cage match, the Hell in a Cell match completely encloses the ring and a couple feet surrounding ringside. How would the first iteration of this match go down?

The first-ever Hell in a Cell match would take place at WWF's Badd Blood: In Your House pay-per-view on October 5, 1997. The Kiel Center (now known as Enterprise Center) in St. Louis, Missouri, would house the first iteration of this monstrous structure. In this match, we would see Shawn Michaels pin The Undertaker in an intense match which saw the debut of The Undertaker's half-brother, Kane. After Kane would hit the ring and plant The Undertaker with a Tombstone Piledriver, Shawn Michaels would pin The Undertaker to become the #1 Contender for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series 1997. This match would allow for one of the most iconic moments in professional wrestling - the debut of Kane, the man who ripped the door off of this monstrous structure.

Wrestling's Most Iconic Performance

In 1998, the most famous match in professional wrestling would take place - and it would take place on top (and off the top) of the Hell in a Cell structure. WWF's King of the Ring 1998 pay-per-view would be the site of the infamous Mankind vs. The Undertaker - Hell in a Cell match. This match would be considered one of the most memorable matches in all of professional wrestling due to its extremely violent spots. In this match, The Undertaker tossed Mankind off the side of the Hell in a Cell structure from the top, sending Mankind crashing through the announce table below.

While this spot off the top of the cell was pre-determined, the intense spot afterward most definitely wasn't. After crews checked on Mankind to make sure he was capable of continuing the contest, Mankind would triumphantly climb his way back to the top of the cage. Mankind and The Undertaker would continue to brawl, only for The Undertaker to drop Mankind with a chokeslam that may have gone... awry.

When The Undertaker dropped Mankind with the chokeslam, Mankind landed on the top of the cell. Mankind also managed to land 16 feet below the top of the cell on the ring canvas. In an unplanned spot, the top of the cell broke loose when Mankind landed on it, sending him crashing to the mat below. This would lead to Mankind's real-life compadre, Terry Funk, running down to ringside to check on the hardcore icon.

In his autobiography More Than Just Hardcore, Funk would write:

"...watching from the back, I thought he was dead. I ran out and looked down at him, still lying in the ring where he'd landed. His eyes weren't rolled back in his head, but they looked totally glazed over, like a dead fish's eyes."

Mankind would sit up, and the crowd would bear witness to a bloody man knocked loopy with a tooth sticking out of his nose. This match would end with Mankind being chokeslammed on a pile of thumbtacks, followed by a Tombstone Piledriver. The Undertaker would pin Mankind to end the match. As the match ends, Mankind would receive something we had never seen in professional wrestling before - a full-on standing ovation for both of the men in these matches. This match would officially solidify the Hell in a Cell match as one of the hellacious contests in professional wrestling.

The Evolution of Destruction

Throughout the years, the Hell in a Cell structure hasn't undergone many physical changes. Other than the alterations we've mentioned already, there haven't been many other changes made to the cell. However, there has been one fairly controversial change made to the cell. At WWE's Hell in a Cell 2018 pay-per-view event, WWE first unveiled the red rendition of this vicious structure.

Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy would be the first match to take place in the red variation of the devil's favorite playpen. While this match may rank amongst our 'Top 5 Hell in a Cell Matches' (stay tuned for that), all the WWE Universe could talk about was this "abhorrent" red structure.

Wrestling Twitter was ablaze for this match. For instance, wrestling analyst @JDfromNY206 tweeted:

"#WWE have already ruined the luster, appeal, value and prestige of the Hell in a Cell structure by over exposing it, featuring it more than once at a single show, and featuring performers (Sasha & Charlotte) with no business being there at all. WHY NOT PAINT THE CELL RED? #HIAC"

Twitter user @AmrGamesXD also tweeted about the cell, stating:

"#HellInACell red hell in a cell cage wtf that dumb I don't know what is Vince obsession with the color red."

Needless to say, WWE got a lot of flack for the red-branding of the cage. The cage has remained red ever since, and sources state that it will remain that way for the foreseeable future of the match-type.

Nowadays, this match is considered one of the most brutal matches of all time. However, some people's perception of the match has been altered by the match being engrained in our yearly October pay-per-view. For example, wrestling legend Arn Anderson once claimed that the WWE overused the concept. This sentiment is one that has been echoed by many in the wrestling community. In past affairs, this match concept was only utilized for deserving feud-ending encounters. Instead, every single October, we are forced into witnessing a Hell in a Cell match for the purpose of branding.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. While it may force WWE into uncomfortable corners, it has surely led to some of the most entertaining matches in company history. For that and so much more, we celebrate the Hell in a Cell match today!

Hell in a Cell Facts & Figures:

With WWE's next pay-per-view being Hell in a Cell, here are some fun fast facts to think about during the event:

  • The Undertaker holds the record for the most Hell in a Cell match victories at 8.
  • Mick Foley holds the record for the worst win-loss record competing inside the structure, at 0 wins, 3 losses, and 1 no-contest.
  • Jimmy Uso, Mark Henry, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Brock Lesnar, Batista, and Kevin Owens all remain undefeated in Hell in a Cell matches.
  • Dallas, Texas holds the record for hosting the most Hell in a Cell matches with five (although, technically, four were in Dallas and one was in the suburb of Arlington, Texas.)
  • The Hell in a Cell match has only occurred at WrestleMania three times, with The Undertaker winning every single one of them.
  • The longest Hell in a Cell match took place at WWE's Bad Blood 2004 pay-per-view between Triple H and Shawn Michaels. This match lasted 47:26.
  • There has only been one Hell in a Cell dark match in history. On the September 26, 2011, edition of Monday Night Raw, John Cena would defend his WWE Championship against Alberto Del Rio, CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, and Jack Swagger. Cena would do so successfully in a match lasting 5:01. This would also be the shortest Hell in a Cell match in history.
  • The shortest Hell in a Cell match to take place on television took place on the August 24, 1998, edition of Raw Is War. In this match, Mankind and Kane would wrestle to a no-contest (Yikes.) This match would be a meager 7:41.
  • The first title change to take place in a Hell in a Cell match would take place at Hell in a Cell 2009. On this day, The Undertaker would defeat CM Punk to win the World Heavyweight Championship.

Walker's Top 5 HIAC Matches

In conclusion, the Hell in a Cell match is a true treat for wrestling fans. In professional wrestling, fans seek brutality, violence, and the uniqueness that the solid steel structure provides. While it may not be my favorite match the sports entertainment giant has ever produced, I can always enjoy a ferocious Hell in a Cell contest!

In celebrating the upcoming Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, I'd like to leave the readers of Smark Out Moment a viewing list for your pleasure. Without further ado, here are Walker's top five Hell in a Cell matches as of 2021.

Honorable Mention: Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton - WWE Hell in a Cell 2018, September 16, 2018 

With this match being the first one to showcase the new "red" Hell in a Cell, many fans did not resonate with the match well enough. However, there were some absolutely brutal spots in this one. With spots ranging from Orton piercing Hardy's ear with a screwdriver to the massive splash from Hardy hanging from the top of the cage - this match delivered beyond expectations, and it's definitely worth the watch.

5. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker - WWF Badd Blood: In Your House, October 5, 1997

The aforementioned first-ever Hell in a Cell match, this match lands on the list for its historical significance and the debut of The Devil's Favorite Demon.

4. Jey Uso vs. Roman Reigns - WWE Hell in a Cell 2020, October 25, 2020

While I may realize that there could be recency bias here, this match is absolutely brutal. As one of Jey Uso's first stand-out singles matches, Uso and Reigns put on quite the stellar and brutal match. If you don't believe Jey Uso has what it takes to be a main eventer, go watch this match!

3. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack - WWF No Way Out, February 27, 2000

This match was the first time the WWF Championship would ever be contended for inside this massive structure. This match was worthy of Hell in a Cell status. In your classic Career vs. Title match, Cactus Jack was put through the wringer in a disgusting and brutal match with Triple H. While Triple H would end up victorious and retain his title, Jack wouldn't be gone for long.

2. The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods) vs. The Usos (Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso)

WWE Hell in a Cell 2017, October 8, 2017 - As the lone tag team contest on this list, The New Day and The Usos were embroiled in a heated rivalry over the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships. While, recently, it has been established that The New Day and The Usos have mutual respect for each other, they have had to beat the bejeezus out of each other to get to that point. This match was a stepping stone in that sequence. Go out of your way to watch this one - it is absolutely brutal!

1. Mankind vs. The Undertaker - WWF King of the Ring 1998, June 28, 1998

You had to imagine that this one would be on the list. While its placement at number one may be controversial, this match set the tone for Hell in a Cell matches to come. Many consider this match to be so good that no other Hell in a Cell match could possibly meet its standards. No matter your stance on it, this match ranks at number one on my list!

Happy watching, and enjoy WWE Hell in a Cell 2021! Check back to SmarkOutMoment for your latest wrestling news, rumors, results, and reviews! Check out some other articles on our website, and don't forget to check out WWE's content for more Hell in a Cell content.


Avid professional wrestling fan and self-proclaimed smark. Creative Media/Journalism and Vocal Performance student at the University of Oklahoma. Buried by TJP on Twitter.


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