This past Sunday I celebrated my sixth wedding anniversary. I lit a fire in the fire place, turned the lights low, and did what any living husband would do; I turned on WWE’s Pay Per View event Hell in a Cell. Thank God my wife is a wrestling fan! With much anticipation I looked forward to seeing CM Punk finally get his revenge on Paul Heyman, and witness the crowning victory of Daniel Bryan as he finally earned the championship. All week long, I watched The Best of Hell in a Cell DVD and listened as they spoke of the diabolical effects of the chamber.
Since its inception in 1997, Hell in a Cell has given us some of the most outrageous and amazing moments in wrestling history. Originally constructed of a 16×16 frame it eventually warped into a massive 30×30 cell. While it’s easy to discuss the events that all fans know by heart; Mick Foley being pushed off the top of the cell, Shawn Michaels’ first match, etc. there have been other matches within the confines of the chamber that have made their mark on wrestling history.
One being the match between the most recent combatant to walk into the cell, Randy Orton vs. “the Dead Man” the Undertaker at Armageddon 2005. The story leading up to the match took a full eight months to come to fruition and there were no other options to ending this feud, except within the cell. Orton was introduced first and came to the ring nervously looking at the cell, portraying to the fans that he was petrified. The Undertaker’s entrance was amazing this evening and one could truly feel the ambiance of fear as the phenom approached the cage. When the Undertaker finally got into the ring, he slammed the cell door behind him and gave Randy a “you are mine!” stare. What first transpired within the cell was a captivating round of cat and mouse, with Orton being the rat. This gave the fans the understanding that there really was nowhere to go once within the walls of the devils’s structure. Although Orton was the heel in this match fans could not help but feel a little sorry for him. Once the Undertaker got his hands on the legend killer he made him a bloody mess. Taker hit Orton with massive chair shots to the head that you couldn’t help but cringe when viewing. If getting his revenge on Orton wasn’t enough, the dead man also gains revenge on Orton Sr. bloodying him and pulling his head forcefully into the cell. When Orton did gain an upper hand it was almost like a caged animal fighting for its existence. The chamber was used purposely throughout the match with a keen eye to detail. Thus presenting a classic match to the fans that will go down in the files of wrestling history.
Yet, what I witnessed this year was a sad event that in no way took advantage of the cell and did not resemble the spectacle the cell gave us before it became a pay per view. It wasn’t due to the abilities of the combatants, Orton had shown eight years previously and a lot more inexperienced that he was able to provide amazing moments from within the cell. Aside from Punk caning Heyman on top of the cell there was no reason for the structure. This made me realize that perhaps Hell in a Cell is a thing of the past. Unlike the Attitude Era in which the cell was birthed this safe pg rated era is not the appropriate environment for this match.
This pay per view titled Hell in a Cell was first broadcast in 2009. This was a full year after WWE made the following statement:
WWE’s family programming has been deemed a PG television rating by their network distributors. World Wrestling Entertainment has been engaging families across all generations with their family programming for more than two decades, and will continue to do so for years to come with all the action on Raw, Smackdown, and ECW. (7/22/2008 WWE.com)
There is a big distinction between a good match and a good Hell in a Cell match. There is a different set of expectations that the WWE fans demand out of a cell match. For example, fans need to know and fully understand that the combatants within the cell had no other way to solve their differences and that a cell is the only place that this can be finished. There is an expectation of blood shed. Why? Because, since it’s inception 16 years ago, there has been blood shed in most matches. The first Hell in a Cell match featuring The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels set the bar very high and the following match with Mick Foley put the bar almost out of reach.
Using the Hell in a Cell as a Pay-Per-View gimick instead of a way to end feuds is simply not the way to tell the fans that the cell is the only way to end the feud. Also, the WWE creative team is simply not giving the story lines enough time to develop before giving the combatants their go for the cage. The match discussed above between Taker and Orton was given eight months before the conflict was given an ending. The matches going into the pay-per-view now feel rushed, undeveloped, and insignificant.
Blood is a normal occurence within the cell and is not something the WWE is able to do within the confines of this PG rating. The WWE is making a vain attempt to please the attitude era fans in this time period where we see a return to family entertainment. We are seeing the reemergence of the gimicky tag teams like Tons of Funk and El Matadores and are distancing the fans further and further from the Attitude Era. If the WWE is trying to regain families and lose much of the taboos phrases like Suck It, matches like Hell in a Cell, and a lot of the old mentality needs to go. The focus needs to be more on story lines, a more distinction between heels and baby faces, and reactions from the fans. By attempting to please everyone they are leaving the fans with a disconnected feeling that, in time, will leave the business in trouble. Its time that the WWE takes a giant leap and pick the path they want to go down.