(With the PPV later today, I figured I’d repost the DVD set review for fun.)
The SmarK DVD Rant for Hell In A Cell
– I’m talking about the 3-disc DVD set here, not the recent PPV. I know this is an older set, but I found it on Ebay for like $3 and I’ve been wanting to work in a proper review for a while now.
– Hosted by Mick Foley, fittingly enough.
Shawn Michaels v. Undertaker
So of course we start with the first one from 1997, as Brian Pillman’s death had cast a pall over the entire locker room and Shawn decided to go out and have a great match anyway. Not even a tragic death steals Shawn’s spotlight! This was the final result of Summerslam 97, where Shawn reffed the UT-Bret title match, and ended up fucking up and hitting UT with a chair to give Bret the WWF title. They had a wild match at Ground Zero, and then Shawn was forced into a tag match with HHH, and D-Generation X was formed. After another couple of weeks of incredibly obnoxious antics on Shawn’s part, this match was signed. And the general concensus was that Shawn was dead meat. DX tries to accompany Shawn, but get sent back. Shawn tries to avoid UT, who slowly stalks him around ringside. He runs into the ring and right into a big boot. UT rams him to the turnbuckle, and again, which Shawn sells bigtime. He goes for the chokeslam but Shawn kicks him in the shin and hammers away. UT shrugs it off and reverses a whip, sending Shawn crashing to the corner. UT with a wristlock, and he slams into Shawn’s shoulder a few times, then does the ropewalk. Shawn oversells again. UT with a headbutt and choking. Slam and legdrop for two. Michaels is dazed, and UT backdrops him to the heavens. Shawn gets up so UT knocks him on ass several times, and then tosses him over the top rope in a wicked bump for Shawn. He chokes Shawn against the cage, prompting Shawn to try to climb out of the cage. UT pulls him down to the floor, another wicked bump. Front row starts yelling “Make him bleed”, thus demonstrating how much Shawn was despised at this point. UT whips him into the cage, and then tears his head off witha clothesline coming back. Again. Great bumping by Shawn. The announcers are totally selling the idea of UT taking his time and destroying Shawn bit by bit. Taker tries a piledriver on the floor, but Shawn flips up and hammers on his head. UT calmly smashes the back of his head into the cage and drops him on the floor. Ouch. To the steps. UT hammers away on Shawn, and rams him backfirst into the ringpost, then to the cage, then to the ringpost, to the cage again. Crowd eats it up. This, folks, is a shitkicking of the first order. Shawn tries to push UT into the cage, but UT simply clotheslines him on the way back. He smashes Shawn into the stairs. UT whips Shawn into the cage, but Shawn uses the momentum to nail UT on the way back, giving him the advantage.
He wisely rolls back into the ring to escape the Undertaker. He nails him a few times on the way back in, but UT snaps Shawn’s neck on the top rope on the way down. Shawn comes back and knocks UT off the apron into the cage. UT keeps coming. Shawn tries a tope suicida, sending UT crashing into the cage, then he climbs halfway up the cage and drops an elbow to UT on the floor. UT keeps getting up, so Shawn clotheslines him off the apron. Shawn, getting desperate, grabs the stairs and rams them into UT’s back a few times. He piledrives Taker on the remains of the stairs and rolls back into the ring to escape again. He comes off the top rope with a double-axehandle to UT on the floor. Back in the ring, and Shawn finds a chair under the ring before returning. A shot to the back puts UT down again. UT gets up, so Shawn knocks him down again. It get two. Notice the story, as UT controlled for the first portion, while Shawn had to use his brain and every advantage possible to come back. UT tries to come back, but gets caught in the ropes and pummelled by Shawn. Shawn charges and eats a boot to the mouth, and charges again and gets backdropped over the top, onto a cameraman. He nails the cameraman (a local worker) and injures him. The medical crew opens the cage to give the guy assistance as Shawn hits UT with the flying forearm back in the ring. Shawn with the Randy Savage elbow, and he cues up the band. Superkick, but UT sits up. So Shawn runs out the door.
UT follows and they fight in the aisle. Shawn dropkicks UT, but on a second attempt gets caught and catapulted into the cage. If you go in slow motion, you can see Shawn rip the blade across his forehead in mid-air. It’s not noticeable, though, otherwise. UT rams Shawn into the cage a few times like a batterring ram. Shawn kicks him in the nuts to counter. Shawn climbs the outside of the cage to escape the increasingly crazed UT, and UT follows. They fight on the roof, and Shawn attempts a piledriver, reversed by UT to a big pop. UT grates Shawn’s face into the mesh as a neat camera angle from below lets us see it. Taker military presses Shawn onto the cage, then nails him, sending Shawn scurrying to the edge to run away. He starts to climb down the cage, so UT stomps on Shawn’s hands until he crashes to the table below. Like the Terminator, Undertaker follows and biels Shawn onto the French table, then press slams him to the remains of the Spanish table. Shawn is just bleeding all over the place. UT literally kicks Shawn’s ass around the cage, and tosses him back into the ring. Clothesline, then he puts Shawn on the top rope and chokeslams him off. UT finds his own chair and smashes it into Shawn’s face, then calls for the tombstone…and the lights go out.
The now-familiar music and red lights start, and Kane makes his first appearance. He rips the door off the hinges, does the pyro thing, and tombstones Undertaker, then leaves. Michaels pulls his blood-soaked carcass off the mat, rolls over with his last ounce of strength, and covers for the pin. D-X drags him out of the ring before the Undertaker can wake up and finish killing Shawn. *****
– Enough people have pointed out the hypocrisy of giving Shawn-Mankind the full monty despite the DQ finish that I’ve finally caved and acknowledged that yes, the first HIAC match is indeed the full *****. So I hope you can all sleep better now.
– We get the video package for King of the Ring 98, which leads to Steve Austin & Undertaker v. Mankind & Kane in the forgotten Hell in the Cell match. So forgotten that I had forgotten about it, too. Mick Foley has now morphed into Corporate Mankind following the “death” of Dude Love, and this apparently marks the debut of the shirt-and-tie look according to the commentary. Undertaker fails to show up even after two ring introductions, so Austin goes it alone because he’s a real man. Kane and Mankind attack him on the ramp while Paul Bearer locks everyone OUT of the cage…but Undertaker shows up via a hole in the ring and gets some revenge on him. There’s another Russo favourite: People showing up from under the ring. Kane tries to break through the ceiling while Bearer does a gory bladejob (for a manager) and Undertaker beats the hell out of him. Austin just kills Mankind with a chair and then goes after Kane on the ceiling while the crowd goes insane. And we just end it there. Not actually a match, just an angle.
Mankind v. Undertaker
From King of the Ring 98. Following the advice of Terry Funk, Mick decides to start the match on top of the cell, which proved to be a bad move on his part. Taker follows him up and they slug it out on the roof to start, and Mankind uses a chair to pound Taker down. The roof nearly gives way early as they fight to the other side of the cage, but it’s the famous moment as Taker tosses Mick off the cell and AS GOD IS MY WITNESS, HE’S BROKEN IN HALF! Things predictably grind to a halt at that point while Mick resists the urge to go into the light. Just for fun, watch the bounce that Mick takes off the table and wonder how he lived. They raise the cage as if the match is over and wheel Mick out on the stretcher, but he’s crazier than THAT. So he fights off the medics and climbs back up the cage again to continue, at which point Undertaker chokeslams him onto the roof, through the cage, and to the mat below where he hits a chair on the way down. There’s bad days and then there’s bad days. In his books, Mick credits that bump with doing the majority of the damage, and in fact it knocked him out and necessitated Terry Funk stepping in and stalling Taker until he came back to the land of living again. So Taker chokeslams Funk, giving Mick the chance to remember what country he’s in. And indeed, he manages to reverse the ropewalk and smile at the camera, giving us the iconic image of the tooth sticking out of his nose. He somehow manages to put Taker on the floor and he tries for the stairs, but his arm is gone and he can’t carry them. Taker uses them instead and smashes them into Mick’s head, apparently not having sufficiently made his point yet. He tries to follow with the suicide dive, but he misses and hits the cage, drawing blood. Back in, Mick piledrives him on the chair for two, finally recovered enough to make his own comeback. Legdrop on the chair gets two. Double-arm DDT and he retrieves a bag of thumbtacks from under the ring, back before it became a silly TNA cliché. Mick tries to knock him into them, but Taker catches him with a tombstone attempt, which Mick reverses to the Mandible Claw. Taker fights out of it and drops Mick on the tacks, and of course Mick rolls in them for effect. And Taker hits an additional chokeslam in them, then puts Mick out of his misery with the tombstone at 17:31. Much like the Bret-Austin match, Mick lost but became a much bigger star as a result. Total one-man stunt show from Mick Foley, but the years have mellowed me on it and I can watch it much easier now than I used to be able to. It’s still not the Match of the Year for 1998 or even the best match in the WWF for that year, but it’s pretty damn good. ****
Mankind v. Kane
From RAW, August 24 1998. I don’t remember this one at all. This would have been a week before Summerslam, with Kane and Mankind being tag team champions and yet having problems, which necessitate a Hell in a Cell match. So Russo must be booking. Mankind takes out the ref and runs Kane into the door, then can’t quite get a chair tossed onto the top of the cage. He tries to climb, but Undertaker shows up and throws him through a table to bring him down. So they finally head into the cage to start the match, as Kane batters Mankind with the stairs, but Mankind fires back with a pair of chairshots and they slug it out. Mankind with a piledriver and they both bump onto a pile of thumbtacks, but Kane gets the chair back and puts Mick down again. Chokeslam and tombstone follow, but Undertaker tells Kane to finish him off with something worse. I know, you’re thinking “He’s going to make him watch The Marine?” but instead he hits another tombstone onto the chair, drawing Steve Austin in for the DQ at 4:18. Oh, that wacky Vince Russo, booking DQ finishes in Cell matches. This wasn’t much of a match, obviously, but I’m glad they included it for completeness. *1/2
For some strange reason, we totally skip over Wrestlemania XV and Mick doesn’t even MENTION that there was a Cell match there. So for all you completists, sorry.
WWF World title: HHH v. Cactus Jack
“What big star ever laid down for me?”
From No Way Out 2000, as Cactus Jack lost the street fight to HHH at Royal Rumble and was forced to put his career on the line in order to get one last title shot in Hell in a Cell. This match reminds me of better times, when HHH had better theme music and a belt that wasn’t like something out of a Toys R Us catalogue. They slug it out and HHH goes down, as Jack pounds away on the mat and puts him down again with a running elbow. Jack’s frustration at the super-duper-padlocked door is a nice touch, back when HHH’s devious plans involved more than just hitting people with sledgehammers. So that begins a subplot as they brawl on the floor: How does Jack escape from the cage when there’s literally a dozen chains holding the door shut? HHH slugs away in the corner and gets the facebuster, but Jack backdrops him to the floor again, but comes back and whips Jack into the stairs. Jack shows some cunning of his own (albeit a more “stupid like a fox” type), as he goads HHH into tossing the stairs at him…and gets hit in the face with them. Well, it’s not a perfect plan. Back in the ring, HHH lays him out with a chair for two. DDT gets two. Jack wants more punishment, but he suckers HHH into charging and hits him in the nuts, then follows with the double arm DDT for two. Legsweep on the chair gets two. Jack fires away in the corner, but charges and gets taken down into a chair for two. Back to the floor and Mick positions himself by the cage again, but fights off a Pedigree attempt on the stairs and catapults HHH into the cage off that. And we have blood. You remember blood, right? Used to happen in every Cell match?
Jack continues throwing HHH into the cage, clearly trying to find the weak spot, but then stops his quest long enough to come off the middle rope with a chair onto him. And then, finally, Jack tosses the stairs at the weakened Cell and breaks on through to the other side. And so out through the new door they go, as Jack immediately piledrives HHH on the announce table, and then climbs the cell. Stephanie brings him down, so Jack retrieves his trusty barbed wire 2×4 and they head up to the top of the cell. HHH gets the board and uses it to bust Jack open on his way up the cage, and Jack goes through the table as a bonus. Jack fights his way to the top again and gets pounded with the 2×4, but Jack goes low and comes back. Parts of the roof start to break, which hints at the finish, and Jack gets a suplex. Jack with the DDT, but that’s not quite enough, so he lights the 2×4 on fire, and you’d never see this shit on WWE TV today. BURNING 2X4 IN THE FACE! Jack signals for the finish, but that’s never a good idea, and indeed HHH reverses a piledriver and Jack goes through the cage and breaks the ring on the way down. This made for not only a more visually impressive bump than his original one against Undertaker, but also a completely safe one. Jack is dead and HHH is even kinda shocked at this, but he climbs down and Jack is still moving. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE ends Mick Foley’s career (until all the times he came back) at 24:00. But yeah, no one ever laid down to make HHH a bigger star. I have to say, judged against the other HIAC matches thus far on this set, I have to downgrade it a bit for being a tad contrived at times (like what were they gonna do on the top of the cell, for instance? There’s no ref up there!), but it’s still an awesome piece of business. ****1/2
WWF World title: Kurt Angle v. HHH v. The Rock v. Steve Austin v. Undertaker v. Rikishi
From Armageddon 2000. Holy crap there’s some star power there! And Rikishi. They’d be creaming themselves to have that kind of name value in one match these days. Normally I’m peeved about licensed music getting edited out, but in the case of Undertaker, I can live without ever hearing Limp Bizkit again. Everyone brawls to start and Taker gets two on Angle. He chokes Angle out in the corner, but then they disappear and Rock slugs it out with Rikishi. And then it’s HHH v. Austin, as Austin gets the Thesz Press and drops the elbow for two. Austin chokes away on the ropes and gets two. HHH comes back with the high knee, but now it’s over to Rock and Angle. Rock with a samoan drop for two and then they head outside, and we switch to Angle v. Undertaker. Angle escapes and baseball slides Rikishi, while Austin and HHH continue their ongoing battle. HHH gets to eat steel and bleeds as a result, but Rikishi takes advantage by legdropping Austin on the way into the ring. Rikishi offers his support for HHH, but KICK WHAM PEDIGREE gets two. Rikishi was never portrayed as being the bright bulb in the package, was he? Great sequence sees everyone hitting their finishers off of that in a kind of glimpse into the future of these sorts of trainwreck matches. And with everyone out, Undertaker tosses HHH around the cell. In the ring, Rikishi misses a corner splash on Austin, but slugs him down instead.
Then things get a bit silly, as Vince drives a truck down to ringside and vows to rip down the cage, but gets chased off by Commissioner Foley. So that conveniently leaves a pickup truck at ringside, filled with some sort of packing material. Driving the truck into the cage has broken the door down, so Austin and HHH escape and fight down the aisle and into the cart-themed set by the entrance. This gives us an innovative spot with Austin using the boom camera as a weapon. Soon everyone fights to the car lot and Rock teases Rock Bottom on HHH on top of a car, but instead he takes KICK WHAM PEDIGREE and bleeds a little. Austin catapults HHH into a car for another great visual, and everyone fights back down to the cage again. Austin and HHH continue their little war by heading to the top of the cage and actually manage to make it suspenseful by slugging it out on the edge. Austin with KICK WHAM STUNNER, but now Angle and Undertaker have followed them up there. Undertaker beats the hell out of Angle and ponders which side of the cage to toss him off of, but now Rikishi and Rock head up there. Another great moment as Undertaker threatens the timekeeper, from the top of the cage mind you, and convinces him to throw a chair up to the top. Man, that’s some respect. Rikishi gets the chair, however, and beats UT down with it. However, Rikishi is of course NOT SMART and going after Undertaker on top of the cage is a supremely bad idea. Which he learns when Taker chokeslams him off the cell and into the truck in retaliation. Rock and Austin have a staredown on their way to drawing a million buys for Wrestlemania, but their all-too-brief slugfest leads to the People’s Elbow, which is interrupted by HHH. Rock lays the smackdown on him and hits Angle with Rock Bottom for two, but Austin saves. KICK WHAM STUNNER and Rock sells the shit out of it, but HHH lets his hate of Austin consume him again by making the save, allowing Angle to pin Rock at 32:00 to retain the title. This did an awesome job of making me want to see the big Austin-HHH blowoff, although Angle still wasn’t at the top of his game as a worker, which is kind of scary. I wasn’t a huge fan of this one back in the day, but watching Austin, HHH, Rock and Undertaker going out there and doing their thing in their primes has allowed this one to age quite gracefully and set the stage for bigger car crash matches to come. ****
HHH v. Chris Jericho
From Judgment Day 2002, the first PPV of the WWE era, which means no more blurring on this set. This was the final result of the disastrous 2002 HHH-Jericho feud, as the feud was more bad comedy than blood-tinged hatred, which is probably why no one remembers this except as yet another example of Jericho’s main event run getting buried six feet under. Like really, Jericho had never even BEATEN HHH at this point, and we’re supposed to think he suddenly has a chance here? In fact, has he ever beaten HHH, come to think of it? Slugfest to start and HHH puts him down with the high knee and follows with a backdrop, then pounds away in the corner. They head to the floor and do nothing, then back in for a flying forearm from Jericho. The crowd is completely dead for this, I should point out. Jericho misses a charge and hits the post, putting him on the floor, and HHH runs him into the cage. Back in the ring, HHH hits him with a pair of short clotheslines and a suplex gets two. Jericho reverses him out to the floor, but gets sent into the stairs. HHH threatens a piledriver on them, but Jericho catapults him into the cage instead. When does HHH ever do a piledriver? Jericho gets a ladder and runs it into HHH’s face to take over. They brawl to the floor again and HHH gets a chair now, trumping Jericho’s ladder. Back in, Jericho gets the stairs again, but HHH drops him on the stairs. Then in the most important moment in a relatively meaningless match, Tim White gets bumped into the cage and bleeds, which actually turned out to be a real injury that ended his career. Jericho gets a chairshot for the visual pinfall while the crew of refs break into the cell and rescue White. So with the door open, HHH hits Jericho with the SLEDGEHAMMER OF DOOM for another visual pinfall (never mind that there’s literally a dozen referees at ringside tending to White who could have counted). Jericho recovers and heads out of the cage, stopping to slam the door into HHH, and they brawl outside of the cage. HHH gets a DDT on the table and Jericho flees to the top of the cage, but HHH now brings Cactus Jack’s barbed wire 2×4 with him to shows just in case of such an occurrence, apparently. They brawl on top and Jericho gets the Walls up there while another ref climbs up there too. This was the first and only time where a Cell match suddenly became falls count anywhere, I should note. Jericho tries to use the barbed wire, but HHH goes low and tries the Pedigree. Jericho reverses and there’s a moment where people almost think HHH might go through the cage on the bump, but no. Barbed wire to the head and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finish on top of the cell at 24:30. This was like a Frankenstein monster of Cell matches, assembled from leftover parts of other, better matches but without the heat or great bumps that made them memorable. ***1/4
WWE World title: Brock Lesnar v. The Undertaker
From No Mercy 2002, as Undertaker was supposed to job to Brock at the previous PPV but “wasn’t feeling it”, so they did a double DQ and set this up instead. Boy, this match would be a lot different and more interesting today, what with Undertaker’s fascination with MMA and Brock being, you know, UFC heavyweight champion and all. Undertaker has a “broken” hand stemming from an angle on Smackdown, although I’m sure there was some other actual reason for the cast. Taker charges in and pounds away on Brock to start, but gets powerslammed for two. Taker comes back and threatens to backhand him with the cast, so Brock bails and takes a breather. Back in, Brock pounds on the cast in the corner, then goes to an armbar. See, who says Brock doesn’t have submission skills? Taker hits him with the cast to escape, then puts him down again with a straight shot to the head with it. Hey, it’s all legal, why not? Brock is bleeding already (super abrasive plaster, I suppose) and Taker beats on him outside and sends him into the stairs. Brock takes a nice bump into the cage and I immediately miss JR calling this. Taker sends him into the cage again and clotheslines him on the rebound for two, as it’s still falls count anywhere in 2002.
Back to the cage for the Brock and they head into the ring, as Taker clobbers him with the cast again and adds the guillotine legdrop on the apron. An awkward knee off the top gets two. Back to the floor as Paul Heyman flails away through a hole in the cage, but Taker boots him into the railing and even the MANAGER is bleeding. UT grabs Heyman by the tie and rams him into the cage a few times as well in a fun spot, but he charges and hits the cage. Brock, caveman that he is, uses a double-leg to ram Taker into the post and then into the cage. He should have just been in UFC all along. Heyman lends Brock his belt and they tie Taker to the cage with it, and that allows Brock to abuse the broken hand with a chair as well. See, I like that they’re going in a totally different direction with this match, ramping up the blood and personal violence rather than trying for gimmicky bumps and cute ways to escape the cage. Back in the ring, Brock stomps away on the hand and gets the cast off, but he doesn’t even want to use it himself because he’s a REAL FUCKING MAN. He continues working on the hand instead. They head up to the top, and it’s more innovation as Brock swings from the top of the cage and kicks Taker RIGHT IN THE FACE. That’s a pretty low ceiling, actually. Taker fights him off and ropewalks over to drop an elbow, and that gets two. Brock escapes to the apron, but Taker boots him into the cage and follows with the suicide dive. Unfortunately they don’t have enough room to pull it off properly and it falls kind of flat, with both guys just kind of going into the cage. Brock clotheslines him and then adds a shot from the stairs, and Taker does a SPECTACULAR blade, literally pouring blood out of his head. He bleeds Booger Red! Brock is so inspired that he hits him with the stairs again.
Back in, Taker is still fighting, but Brock hits him with a spinebuster and pounds away in the corner. They slug it out and Taker puts him with down with a clothesline, then stomps the hand for some revenge. He goes old school, but Brock just throws him off the top. Taker is still bleeding all over the place. Brock tries the F5, but Taker escapes and chokeslams him for two. Corner clothesline, but Brock catches him with a boot on the second try and sets up for a piledriver. UT reverses out and hits a DDT for two. Last Ride is blocked by Brock and he pounds away in the corner, but that’s never a good idea. And indeed, that earns him the Last Ride, but it only gets two because Brock is in the ropes. That’s right, there’s no rules in this match except for “the ropes are out of bounds.” You can smash chairs in the face of your opponent, but god forbid you pin someone while they’re in the ropes. Taker goes for the tombstone, but it’s F5 and good night at 27:15. Finish could have been stronger, but Brock looked like a beast and this was a very different style of match than the previous stunt shows were. ****1/2
RAW World title: HHH v. Kevin Nash
This is from Bad Blood 2003, the first RAW-only PPV. They were following up quite the shitty match at Judgment Day, which didn’t leave expectations for this terribly high amongst anyone. 2003 was not a stellar year for HHH in the ring, excuses about his opponents aside. Yeah, he had to work with Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash and Goldberg all year, but people have gotten much better matches out of that group of suck than HHH ever did. So they stuck Mick Foley in there as the guest referee to hopefully make it better. The whole 2003 push for Nash was just mind-boggling, and ended with Nash literally tearing his quad by walking into the ring during a six-man tag. 6 years later and I still don’t even really understand what the feud was over. Nash has the old Diesel music here — is that because of licensing issues or because they were so stupid at the time to think people liked that? Another minor point — the Big Gold Belt sported by HHH here looks so much better than the toy replica they’re using today. The one now looks like some sort of cheap plastic imitation by comparison. They slug it out and Nash gets the knees in the corner and FRAMED ELBOW OF DOOM, then puts HHH on the floor with a clothesline. HHH goes into the cage a couple of times and Nash backdrops him on the floor. Back in, a side slam gets two. Lazy elbow gets two. They fight to the floor again and Nash whips him into the stairs, but chucks them at HHH and misses. HHH finds (I shit you not) a toolbox under the ring, loaded with everything you need to build a house. So he hits Nash in the knee with a ball peen hammer to get the heat, and they head into the ring. Nash is now bleeding and they slowly brawl on the floor.
Back in, HHH is apparently so upset with Nash that he tries to stab him in the face with a screwdriver, but unable to stick it into his eyeball like an icepick, he has to settle for rubbing it into the cut instead. Don’t tease me with lobotomizing Big Daddy Cool live on PPV and then cop out like that! HHH brings in his trusty barbed-wire 2×4 (with Mick Foley standing RIGHT THERE no less), but Nash gets it away from him and puts him down with it. You’re probably wondering how they could make a match with attempted lobotomy via screwdriver and a barbed wire 2×4 boring, but here we are and I’m fucking bored. HHH at least does a much better job of bleeding than Nash does, as Nash makes the comeback with his dizzying array of clotheslines and Snake Eyes on the barbed wire. HHH bails to escape and now finds a wooden crate to use as a weapon. Is he gonna find a chicken coop under there next? HHH gets the sledgehammer, but that’s TOO FAR for Mick Foley, and he stops HHH from potentially ending this stupid match. BOOOO! HHH charges with the stairs and Nash trips him into them, which is a spot that looks terrible most of the time. Nash gets two from that. HHH gets a chair and puts both Nash and Foley down with it, and even Mick is bleeding. That’s enough for Mick, and it’s time for Mr. Socko, but HHH kicks him in Mr. Cocko and ends that. Nash hits both of them with the stairs and covers HHH, but of course Foley is out because NASH HIT HIM WITH THE STAIRS. Dumbass. Poor Mick keeps getting abused, as they bump him into the cage and Nash catapults HHH into the barbed wire and hits the POOCHIEBOMB for two. Both guys lay around sell how tired they are, but HHH gets the sledgehammer and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE ends the boredom at 21:01. Overly long and self-indulgent, with two guys taking every shortcut in the business and still only barely getting a watchable match out of it. I remember back in 2003 people were like “Wow, this wasn’t excruciating, what a good PPV!” but I’d like to think we can hold it to a bit of a higher standard now, especially since this set is supposed to be the “Best” Cell matches. ***
HHH v. Shawn Michaels
Skipping ahead a year to Bad Blood 2004, as these two were engaged in a neverending feud that makes John Cena v. Randy Orton look like a quick run on the house show circuit. At least here it produced some insanely good matches. Not this one, unfortunately. They take turns slugging it out and Shawn bumps to the floor, but they head back in right away. Shawn gets a neckbreaker for two and they head back out again, where HHH eats cage. And starts bleeding. Back in, Shawn drops a Dibiase fist, but hits boot on a blind charge. Back to the floor and HHH goes into the cage again, but he takes over in the ring and whips Shawn into the corner to hurt the back. HHH with a suplex for two. Backbreaker gets two. A chair gets involved, but Shawn fights back and slugs HHH down. They head to the floor and HHH does the Brock spot, taking HBK from the post to the cage with a spinebuster to really destroy the back. Back in the ring, HHH with a chair to the back for two. Keep in mind we’re at 15:00 in and nothing has really happened thus far. Shawn hiptosses him out of the ring, and back in he goes low and makes the comeback. Shawn gets a pair of atomic drops and a corner clothesline for two. They fight outside again and Shawn tries a piledriver on the stairs, but gets backdropped. Back in, HHH gets a chairshot. Stairs to the head, but Shawn pops up, so HHH hits him with the stairs again and draws blood. That gets two. Back to the floor and Shawn goes into the cage. This match is what happens when the owner’s son-in-law and his best friend get the main event slot and no one who’s able to edit them down to a reasonable time. Back in, MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER gets two. HHH’s Luger-ish bloodflow has already dried up as he follows with the MAIN EVENT SLEEPER. He tries to switch the Pedigree, but Shawn counters with a DDT and both guys are out. Shawn grabs a chair first and puts HHH down with it, for two. HHH comes back and USES THE KNEE and Shawn bumps to the floor off that, allowing him to find a ladder under the ring. He dishes out some abuse with that, then whips HHH into it. Back to the floor and Shawn pounds on the cut to reopen it. Back in, Shawn goes up and misses the elbow, and HHH gets two. They slug it out on their knees as JR notes that this is now the longest Hell in a Cell match in history. And it feels like it. HHH gets a table next, but Shawn puts him on it and goes up the ladder, finally justifying having the damn thing in the match some 20 minutes later. Flying elbow puts HHH through the table and you’re thinking that’s the finish since it’s 40 minutes in and that’s the most impressive spot so far, but we’re not so lucky. It only gets two. Shawn sets up for the superkick, but HHH goes low to counter and hits the Pedigree. That only gets two, and Shawn recovers with the superkick out of nowhere and both guys are out. AGAIN. Shawn gets two. HHH with another Pedigree and both are out. AGAIN. So they lay there for over a minute, with the crowd actually getting behind Shawn, before slowly crawling to their feet, and HHH hits another Pedigree out of that and pins Shawn at 46:30 to totally deflate the crowd again. I wouldn’t call this a total disaster or anything, but they could have easily chopped 28-30 minutes out of it and had a match that was just as good. It wasn’t really bad or good either way, just LONG. ***1/4 I know I’ve said it before, but I NEVER want to watch this match again.
RAW World title: Batista v. HHH
From Vengeance 2005. Batista is decked out in the badass white tights and pads tonight. HHH attacks to start and Batista recovers outside. Back in, they fight over a lockup and Batista overpowers him and adds a clothesline in the corner, and dumps HHH with a clothesline. They brawl outside and HHH gets rammed into the cage a few times, but recovers and sends Batista into the post. HHH adds a necksnap as Batista tries to head back into the ring, then pinballs him into the cage for a wicked bump from Batista. HHH takes over and pulls out his trusty toolbox, finding a chain there. Now what would a chain be doing in a toolbox? I’m tempted to deduct 1/4* for that. Anyway, HHH beats the hell out of Batista with it and hangs him on the top rope with it, forcing Batista to necksnap out of it. With that accomplished, he proceeds to whipping HHH like the proverbial dog with the chain. Sadly the moment is ruined somewhat by HHH blatantly telling Batista “Now post me” while on camera, which sets up Batista ramming his back into the post and cage in succession. This draws blood on HHH, who responds by coming back with a spinebuster. JR’s analysis of the situation: “He may be able to capitalize, but maybe not.” How truly insightful. HHH does, however, capitalize, by grabbing a steel chair wrapped in barbed wire. JR declares that this is why he’s called The Cerebral Assassin. Because he can hit a guy with a chair? I mean, sure, it would hurt, but it doesn’t take Einstein to figure that out.
Batista absorbs some nasty shots with that weapon, and then comes back with a lariat and grabs the chair himself, continuing the theme of the match thus far. He absolutely lays into HHH’s face with it, which is pretty cool. Then we get the classic “grinding the barbed wire into his face” spot, followed by the equally-classic “cheese grater on the cage” spot. Batista adds a javelin into the cage as HHH bleeds buckets all over the place. Back into the ring, although with Batista’s luck out there tonight I’m not sure why he’d want to head back in, Batista pounds away in the corner. And indeed, he misses a charge and hits the post, allowing HHH to take over again. Shoulda stayed on the floor, Dave. HHH tries KICK WHAM PEDIGREE on the chair, but only gets as far as KICK WHAM before Dave backdrops out of it. They slug it out and Batista powerslams him on the barbed wire chair, and that gets two. JR gives him a nice backhanded compliment by noting that “he may be a no good bastard, but that was a hell of a kick out.” Not the kind of thing you can have printed on a Xmas card, but good enough. Batista grabs the chain and goes for the kill, but HHH DDTs him on the chair and Dave starts his own river of crimson. And now, because YOU demanded it, HHH pulls the sledgehammer out from under the ring. What all is UNDER there? JR of course notes that it’s as legal as a wristlock. I’d like to see a weapons match where everything is legal BUT wristlocks, just to hear what his analogy would be. They slug it out and Batista goes for the demon bomb, but HHH backdrops out of that and then does his usual Evil Plan Culmination: He hits Batista with the sledgehammer, but Batista hits him right in HIS sledgehammer. If you know what I mean.
And again, Batista uses the “anything you can do” mentality and gets the hammer for himself, but runs into a chain-assisted punch from HHH. That gets two. However, when HHH tries to come off the top with the chain, Batista holds up the hammer and HHH lands on it. Well, they’re 1-1 now, I guess. Normally I hate that spot because it involves holding up a boot to block a move that couldn’t conceivably do any damage even if it wasn’t blocked. However, seeing HHH spit out blood upon impact made it pretty cool. Batista gives him a ride to the floor, via the top rope and Utica, and adds a shot to the stairs for good measure. Then in case HHH didn’t quite get enough, he grabs the stairs and rams them into HHH’s head. I was hoping for something more visually dramatic like THROWING them at HHH’s face, but that might be a bit too dangerous. Into the ring, and now the base of the stairs gets set up in the corner, and HHH meets it head on a few times. Luckily his Neanderthal forehead gives him a few inches of extra padding. With HHH dead to the world, Batista gives him the thumbs down and goes for the powerbomb, but HHH goes low and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE follows. That gets two, as someone actually gets to kick out of the deadliest move in wrestling. They actually shouldn’t have Batista do the “thumbs down” signal unless the move is gonna hit. HHH goes for another Pedigree on the stairs, but Batista counters with a NASTY spinebuster on them instead. That’s gonna hurt in the morning, man. He tries to finish with the powerbomb, as HHH grabs the sledgehammer in an effort to counter the move, but he can’t swing it in time and Batista finishes him at 26:57 to retain the title. This was HHH’s first singles loss in the Hell in a Cell match, and Batista’s last match on the RAW brand that year, as he moved to Smackdown in the draft lottery on the very next episode. Simply brutal and hellaciously violent, it ruled not only because of all the crazy violence, but because both guys exchanged stuff rather than one guy taking a beating (ie, Batista) for 20 minutes and then making a comeback. It was about Batista beating HHH at his own game (pardon the pun), and it was probably Batista’s best singles match, well, ever. ****1/4
Undertaker v. Randy Orton
From Armageddon 2005. Man, Orton aged a LOT in four years. Maybe it’s all the extra tattoos and shaved head now, but he looked like a baby back then. And the Rev Theory song is definitely better suited to him and the worker he is now. Orton evades Taker to start and tries to grab the headlock, but Taker sends him to the floor. Back in, Taker with the headlock, but Orton puts him down with the dropkick for two. Orton backdrops him, but walks into a boot and gets tossed. They fight on the floor, but Orton slides back into the ring to avoid any damage and slugs away in the corner. UT fires right back on him, then wraps him around the post and pounds the ribs. To the floor, and he sends Orton into the stairs, and then absolutely decimates him with a chair, drawing blood. We get some cheese grater action to follow and Orton tries to grab a handy chain to fight back, so Taker runs him into the stairs again. Michael Cole: “Maybe he should have thought of that before he set the Undertaker’s casket on fire or blew up his car!” Only in professional wrestling do you hear people having to say lines like that with a straight face. OK, maybe Melrose Place, but sometimes.
Orton manages to get the stairs and charges with them, but Taker boots them back at him. Great visual with Orton’s blood literally smeared all over the ringpost. I miss those days. Undertaker makes the mistake of stopping to glare at Cowboy Bob, however, and Randy hits the RKO out of nowhere when UT is getting back into the ring. Nice. Orton pounds away on the floor to take over and then hits him with the stairs, and we’ve got double juice. Back in, Orton chokes him out with the chain and uses a chair for two. UT bails to think about it and hauls Orton out for some headbutts, then puts him against the cage and hits a jumping splash off the stairs. Back in, Taker ropewalks, but misses a flying elbow from there. Orton retrieves a table and sets it up, while Cowboy Bob makes a nuisance of himself from the other side of the cage. Taker kicks his ass and Bob’s bleeding, and that actually set off quite the political firestorm because Bob has hepatitis and no one told Undertaker about it. Taker charges Orton and gets powerslammed into the cage, and that gets two for Randy. Back into the ring, UT with the flying clothesline for two. Old School and a Downward Spiral get two. Snake Eyes and the big boot into a legdrop get two. Chokeslam gets two, as Orton is in the ropes. As always, pinfalls count anywhere in the arena, except there. Taker with a high knee into the corner, but a second try misses and Orton hits him in the junk for good measure. Finally the table gets used as Orton puts UT on it and goes up, then puts him through with a flying splash. That gets two. Orton gets cocky and tries to pound on Taker in the corner, but gets reversed into the powerbomb. Orton escapes and bumps the ref, and it’s RKO out of that, but now we have no ref. So with the door open to attend to the ref, Cowboy Bob sneaks in as they slug it out. Taker with the Last Ride for two, but Bob pulls out the ref and decks him. Taker disposes of the Cowboy and heads back in, but his tombstone attempt is reversed by Orton into one of his own. That gets two, but Undertaker is PISSED about that and sits up. Really, only Kane can get away with that shit. Orton slugs him down, but stops to gloat and gets caught. Undertaker goes after Bob again and fights off an RKO attempt, then nails Randy with the urn, tombstones both family members, and finishes at 30:25. OK, that was a hell of a finish. Orton took a while getting into the spirit, but once he started channeling his goofy supervillain facials this was gold. ****
Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon & Big Show v. HHH & Shawn Michaels
From Unforgiven 2006. D-X attacks Show with a double nutshot as the crowd reminds the babyface Shawn that he screwed Bret. D-X brawls with the McMahons outside and Shane meets the steel, drawing our first blood of the match. Vince also heads into the cage and you just know he’s not gonna waste a chance to gush all over the ring. HHH finds a screwdriver and digs it into Vince’s cut, but back in the ring Big Show returns from nursing his groin and clears the ring. D-X teams up and sends him into the stairs (“the sinful steel has no conscience,” notes JR. Good to know.) Back to the beating of the McMahons, but Big Show takes over for the heels again by headbutting HHH down via the injured ear. He heads out and powerbombs Shawn into the cage, which is sinful and thus completely against everything Shawn stands for. So back in the ring and the McMahons team up on HHH while Shawn bleeds on the floor. Shane gets the Van Terminator and HHH is bleeding from the ear yet again. Outside, Shane catapults HHH from the stairs and into the cage, as the match has just ground to a halt while they literally stop and set up spots. Show hits Shawn with a pump splash, giving Vince two, but he picks Shawn up. Show with the cobra backbreaker, but Vince picks him up again at two. HHH comes back and tries a Pedigree on Vince, but Shane breaks it up with a torture rack of all things. WTF? Shawn puts Shane on the floor with an enzuigiri, but Vince clobbers him from behind and wants to have a Kiss My Ass Club meeting. Really? During a Hell in a Cell match? HHH breaks that up, but Show lays them out, and then accidentally splashes Vince in a contrived spot. D-X posts Show to get rid of him, then they destroy Shane with an atomic drop/spinebuster combo, setting up Shawn’s flying elbow onto a chair. Show recovers as this match has gone way past the expiration date, and he does that stupid spot where charges while holding the stairs and lands facefirst on them as a result. Shawn superkicks him to end his night, but Vince won’t stay down. So D-X yanks the unconscious Show’s tights down, and shove Vince’s face into his ass for the big blowoff spot. And of course, a superkick into the sledgehammer (which breaks impressively) ends this insipid feud once and for all at 22:45. I don’t even know what the point of the “new, giant Cell” was, because they barely used it outside of a couple of spots where guys got rammed into it for color. It’s nice that they blew it off so completely, but this match was overly long and really dull and didn’t need Big Show except for the Kiss My Ass spot. ***
Smackdown World title: Batista v. Undertaker
From Survivor Series 2007. Batista blocks a hiptoss with a clothesline, but Taker gets his own for two. Snake Eyes into the big boot gets two. They fight to the floor and Taker slugs away against the cage. Back in for the guillotine legdrop, and then a vicious spot where he jams a chair into Batista’s throat and then rams it into the stairs. Back in, he goes old school, but Batista catches him with a spinebuster in a spot I’ve never seen before. That gets two, and Batista follows with a clothesline and pounds him in the corner. Corner clothesline and running powerslam gets two. They hit the floor again and Taker goes into the cage to set up a Batista clothesline, but Taker sends Batista into the stairs to even it up. He adds a chairshot to draw blood, and gets two back in the ring. They fight to the top and Batista gets a superplex, but manages to crawl into a triangle choke attempt, but he makes the ropes and bails, bleeding all over the mats in the process. Taker tries to hit him with the stairs again, but Batista blocks it with his feet and pounds Taker into silly putty with the stairs himself. Taker is bleeding, and enjoy it while you can because that’s the last blade you’ll see in a Hell in a Cell match. Back in, Batista pounds away in the corner, but it’s a Last Ride as a result. That gets two. Chokeslam gets two. Taker goes for the tombstone, but Batista reverses to a spinebuster for two. Another one and Batista sets up a table, then puts Taker through it with the powerbomb. That gets two. Next up, the stairs get brought in, but Batista can’t powerbomb UT on them, and Taker backdrops Batista onto them for two. Tombstone gets two. Another try, this time on the stairs, and you’d think Batista would be dead and buried, but Edge (who had been the cameraman all along) pulls the ref out of the ring and clobbers UT with the camera! Having never seen this match before, I was totally caught off-guard by that and had no idea it was coming. Edge destroys Undertaker and puts Batista on top to retain at 21:23. The match wasn’t really up to the levels of the Batista-Undertaker match at Wrestlemania or anything, but that screwjob was magnificent. ***1/2
Well this is a pretty easy recommendation, since almost everything on this set is around ****. It gets a bit much to watch the same match format over and over in one shot, but if you want the definitive collection of Cell matches in one set, this is it. Highly recommended!