Wow, is it really February already? Seems like only yesterday that I was watching the fireworks going off to welcome in 2019, and now here we are a month in. this time out we’re looking at the event WWF/E regularly used to run in February before shelving the name in 2009, bringing it back once more in June 2012. I’ll only be looking at events that took the No Way Out name, so there’ll be no mention of In Your House VI, Final Four or St Valentine’s Day Massacre in this article (Outside of just then, obviously)
As always, these are just my own personal picks. This isn’t supposed to be some sort of objective list or anything. If I leave out a match that you think warrants inclusion, then please feel free to put it down in the comments section below. As with previous lists, I’ll be listing the matches in chronological order.
So without further to do, let’s get to it!
No Way Out 2000
Hell in a Cell
Cactus Jack Vs Triple H
This was Mick Foley’s original retirement from wrestling, as he put Triple H over clean for the second pay per view in a row to really establish him as the top heel in the business. I was a huge Foley fan back in the day, so this result upset me quite a bit as I’d allowed myself to believe that he might actually win. Looking back at it now, Triple H was obviously going to be the one taking the title into WrestleMania, but the passion from Foley was infectious and I think quite a few people thought he might just pull an upset.
What I like about this one is that they make no false pretentions as to what is going to happen in regards to the Cell itself. In the build-up Cactus outright said that he was going to come off the Cell at some point, and from the very off he’s trying to get out to fulfil that promise. It gives the match a different feel to other Cell matches, as getting out of the cage itself is almost the aim of the match itself in this one, which is not something shared with the others.
In the end Cactus signs off with two big bumps, one off the Cell through a table and the other through the roof via a Triple H back body drop. Thankfully the WWF ring crew knew about this one in advance, so they gimmick the ring to buckle upon Cactus landing, which at least makes the spot far safer than Foley’s similar tumble through the roof at the 1998 King of the Ring. Cactus missing Triple H with the steps, only for the steps to break open the Cell, is still probably the best way someone has broken out. Foley lamented in his book that the hole formed too easily, as he wanted to really fight his way through it to fire the crowd up, but I don’t think it takes anything away from the match.
Triple H is his usual big match intense self here, and sells his exasperation at Foley’s continued resilience really well. This marked a period of the Cell becoming “his” match, as he didn’t lose a singles Hell in a Cell match until 2005 against Batista. This really is a fantastic brawl with a truly memorable finish, as Foley goes out in style in a big match. Sadly his return at WrestleMania XVI tainted the moment somewhat, but that still doesn’t tarnish what is a really great match.
No Way Out 2001
Three Stages of Hell
Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs Triple H
For those not familiar with this match concept, Three Stages of Hell was essentially a Two Out of Three Falls match, with the twist of each fall having its own stipulation. In this instance, the falls were straight wrestling, a street fight and a steel cage. Having the first fall be straight wrestling was because Triple H (The creator of the concept in storyline) wanted to humiliate Austin in a technical wrestling exhibition before brutalising him in the street fight. This being wrestling however, it is actually Austin who wins the first fall, which in turn meant Triple H had to win the two falls he was least favoured in to emerge victorious.
This was the ultimate payoff to what was essentially a two year feud, as Austin came in search of vengeance against the man who had organised the hit and run attack that had put The Texas Rattlesnake out for a year in storyline. In reality, Austin had required serious neck surgery, but it gave him an immediate storyline upon his return. Triple H being the heel who always won his feuds was already starting to get tiresome by 2001 (If only we knew how much more of it we’d have to sit through) but it at least served a purpose here.
By this stage the WWF higher ups already knew that they wanted Austin to turn heel at WrestleMania X-Seven, so Triple H won here to set him up as a challenger for Austin in the summer. Sadly a torn quad meant we never got to see babyface Triple H against heel Austin, as by the time Triple H had come back Austin was a face again. I’m really not sure how the crowd would have reacted in that scenario, but it would have been intriguing to see the answer.
The street fight fall in particular is suitably vicious and is probably the best portion of the match, as Austin violently tears Triple H apart in the quest of vengeance. With the benefit of hindsight, you can almost see Austin’s eventual heel character seeping through into this match, as he not only comes across as psychotic but also somewhat desperate, as he tries to take Triple H down and achieve his revenge. Knowing where they wanted to go with the story, that’s actually brilliant foreshadowing if it was intended.
No Way Out 2004
Rey Mysterio Vs Chavo Guerrero
This was the payoff to Chavo’s big heel turn on his uncle Eddie, as he was given the Cruiserweight title here as a way to sort of make up for Eddie utterly dismantling him at the Royal Rumble in just 8 minutes as the blow off to their issue. Rey Vs Chavo was a match that WWE completely ran into the ground by the end of the 00’s but this was the first time they’d done it in a while, so it not only felt fresh but was also one of the most high profile matches the belt had been contested in for a while.
To put it in perspective, Rey’s title defence against Jamie Noble at the Royal Rumble a month previously had last a paltry 3 minutes and 12 seconds. In comparison, this match lasted nearly 17 minutes and featured good crowd heat throughout, owing to the event taking place at the Cow Palace with a healthy number of Hispanic fans in the audience. On top of the good heat, the wrestling was also enjoyable thanks to the solid chemistry between the two men.
Rey and Chavo have always seemed to mesh well as opponents due to their ring styles complimenting one another. Chavo’s heel antics and more ground based technique has tended to contrast favourably with Rey’s pure babyface act and high flying approach. The combination of an invested crowd and solid in ring performance make this a really fun match and I really enjoyed it when I went back to watch it for this feature. It’s kind of a shame that the WWE burnt the fans out on this as a feud, because when both Rey and Chavo were feeling it they almost always had a good match together.
No Way Out 2004
Brock Lesnar Vs Eddie Guerrero
As a fan this is still one of my favourite moments. Whereas I had allowed myself to dream that Cactus might win in 2000, by the time 2004 rolled around I was far more cynical about wrestling and just couldn’t convince myself that the big man obsessed WWE would put its top title on a guy Eddie Guerrero’s size. Thankfully, my cynicism was, for once, unjustified as the WWE delivered an Eddie victory and gave their fans a moment to remember and savour forevermore.
Besides it just being a great moment, the match is also expertly worked as well, with a fantastic dynamic of Brock being the big bully heel whilst Eddie is the gutsy and resourceful babyface fighting from underneath to try and get a foothold in the match. This doesn’t feel like a show or an exhibition, it is presented and feels like two men actually trying to out wrestle each other. Even basic moves are sometimes made to look like a struggle, as both men have to fight for holds throughout the contest.
I’d go as far to say that this is the best traditional match that Brock has ever had, as his best stuff from 2012 onwards has mostly either been in brawls or suplex fests. In this match Brock works like a professional wrestler and takes part in the sort of traditional wrestling spots that he wouldn’t do these days as it wouldn’t suit his act. Ultimately, the interference of Goldberg proves to be the beginning of the end for Brock’s title reign, as he runs in to hit him with a Spear as a way to avenge Brock costing him the Royal Rumble a month earlier.
What I love about the Goldberg run in though is that Eddie doesn’t just get the win straight off it. Brock kicks out of Eddie’s resulting pin and Eddie has to actually win the match himself by countering the F-5 into a DDT before getting the Frogsplash. Eddie actually having agency over his win is what makes the moment all the better. Yeah, Eddie draping an arm over Brock and winning from the Spear would have still produced a big pop, but it would have been Goldberg’s moment and not Eddie’s. Eddie having to do more following the run in makes the win and the moment his and I love that. Its little things like that which really matter. These days I honestly think they’d just have Eddie win off the Spear, because they just don’t seem to have appreciation for little things like that anymore.
No Way Out 2006
The Undertaker Vs Kurt Angle
At the time, this was probably the best non-gimmick match The Undertaker had been in for years, as he and Angle went out there and worked an engrossing battle for the World Title. This match didn’t really have much of a storyline going in and was essentially just promoted as the two top stars on Smackdown going at it. In all honesty, it was probably the best approach to take for the match, as you don’t really need to do much to heat up an angle with these two.
There’s no real heel/face alignment to the bout, with both men just working the match as a contest between two evenly matched competitors. Both men do things which could be considered heelish and also show the guts and effort that you’d associate with a babyface. For instance, Undertaker preps one of the announce tables so that he can send Angle through it, but Angle fights off the attempt and Angle Slams him through it instead. However, rather than take the count out, Angle stops the count and goes to heave Taker back in so he can beat him fairly.
In some ways this match reminded me quite a bit of Undertakers matches with Bret Hart over the WWF Title back in the day, as both men hold nothing back but you can also see that they have a healthy amount of respect for each other. Angle even busts out a ring post Figure Four at one point, as if to really ram home the comparison. The match tells a really good story of two Hall of Fame calibre wrestlers going at it in an incredibly competitive contest. Angle just edging it with a last gasp pin counter is almost a perfect ending, as it shows how little there is between the two men whilst also giving a clean ending.
No Way Out 2008
Umaga Vs JBL Vs Jeff Hardy Vs Chris Jericho Vs Shawn Michaels Vs Triple H
This is one of my all-time favourite Chamber matches, owing to a really good list of competitors and an interesting mix of styles. Everyone in the match brings something to the table, whether it is the general elite work of Michaels, JBL’s heel antics or Umaga’s great monster act. It really is a great cast to characters to have in match like this and the match itself is all action from the opening bell.
Umaga is the star of the match for me, as he hits some incredible power moves and just generally acts like a near unstoppable monster. The fact it takes a JBL chair rampage and everyone else’s finisher just to hold him down long enough to eliminate him tells it all. He really was a fantastic worker to get so much out of such a tired gimmick. He actually made the wild savage character relevant again during a time where it had long since outrun it’s sell by date.
The only downside of this match is that crowd favourite Jeff Hardy eventually succumbs to Triple H in the closing section. He and Triple H have an excellent final segment however, which sees Hardy busting Triple H open and even kicking out of a Pedigree, before finally staying down after a second one on a chair. Say what you want about Triple H, but he always tended to make Jeff look good in their matches.
El Pantera Vs TAKA Michinoku (No Way Out 1998), Triple H, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg and Savio Vega Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (No Way Out 1998), Chris Jericho Vs Kurt Angle (No Way Out 2000), Kurt Angle Vs The Rock (No Way Out 2001), Team Angle Vs Brock Lesnar and Chris Benoit (No Way Out 2003), Undertaker and Batista Vs John Cena and Shawn Michaels (No Way Out 2007), Raw Elimination Chamber Match (No Way Out 2009), Kane Vs Daniel Bryan Vs CM Punk (No Way Out 2012)