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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 500 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: November 10 2008
Before WWE went PG, the ultimate battleground in the company was Hell In A Cell. A huge steel cage structure with a roof that also surrounded ringside, HIAC not only created a no-holds-barred forum for the most personal scores to be settled, but the structure itself could also come into play, even if the action spilt out of the cage and onto its top. This, in turn, led to some of the most memorable moments of the Attitude Era and of later years, which are captured in this anthology of the Hell In A Cell match.
The first Cell bout between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker at In Your House: Badd Blood in 1997 is a true classic. Held at a time when the WWF was still marketing towards a younger audience, this war which led to Shawn being busted wide open was a huge step towards the group going TV-14. The match is a barnburner, but perhaps the most memorable moment is the arrival of Kane, months in the making, as he confronts and Tombstones Taker for HBK to win.
Two short Raw matches (Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kane and Mankind, and Kane vs. Mankind) are divided by the most famous Cell match of them all, The Undertaker vs. Mankind at King Of The Ring 1998. You know what happens: Taker throws Mankind off and slams him through the Cell roof, and later drills him twice onto thumb tacks before Tombstoning him for the win. An astonishing battle which will never be forgotten, or topped, and for which Mick Foley will always be remembered.
Taker’s poor HIAC match against Big Boss Man at WrestleMania XV isn’t here (some would be happy with that), so next up is Triple H vs. Cactus Jack at No Way Out 2000, a terrific brawl that ends Mick Foley’s full-time career and elevates HHH as an all-time great villain. Disc one ends with a brilliantly chaotic six-man from Armageddon 2000 as Kurt Angle somehow successfully defends the WWF Title against Stone Cold, HHH, Undertaker, The Rock and Rikishi.
For unknown reasons, the Cell didn’t return until Judgment Day 2002 when Triple H fights Chris Jericho. This hard-fought clash begins the process of eradicating the career-threatening (and at times life-threatening) bump off the roof in Cell matches; the following bout between Brock Lesnar and Undertaker at No Mercy 2002 is gripping enough that it need not leave the cage, and sees Taker lose an obscene amount of blood. Kevin Nash vs. HHH at Bad Blood 2003 is okay but nothing special; The Game’s 47-minute showdown with HBK at Bad Blood 2004 definitely doesn’t disappoint and, to me, this culmination of an epic two-year rivalry is one of the most underrated supercard matches in WWE history.
Disc 3 covers 2005-2007. Triple H vs. Batista at Vengeance 2005 is a barbaric fight that was much better than expected, whilst the enjoyable Randy Orton-Undertaker fight from Armageddon that year is notable for being the last match in the ‘old’ Cell (and because Cowboy Bob Orton, Randy’s dad and then-manager, bleeds on Taker before it was discovered behind the scenes that Bob had hepatitis, which led to one angry Undertaker, and played a part in Bob leaving WWE in early 2006). It is a bigger Cell for the DX vs. McMahons and Big Show grudge match at Unforgiven 2006 which is as good as can be expected, and we finish with a great Batista-Undertaker main event from Survivor Series 2007, which ends one classic feud and begins another, as Edge returns to deny Taker the victory in villainous fashion. This rivalry also ended in the Cell at SummerSlam 2008, which unfortunately was too late to make this DVD.
This was released at a time when the Hell In A Cell match still had a very high reputation with fans. Due to the PG rating and a stipulation-based PPV which meant multiple HIAC matches on one night, some with little reason to exist, the format no longer has the same appeal. It could change in future, and the two Cell bouts at the 2014 show were good, but as things stand the best Cell match of the PG era was Undertaker vs. Triple H at WrestleMania XXVIII, a brutal-by-current-standards match which ended a major grudge and which didn’t have another HIAC clash to be alongside. Coincidence?
That aside, the anthology DVD of Hell In A Cell (hosted by Foley, incidentally) is a terrific one. At least half of the matches are great and most of the others are good or better. It does get a bit repetitive, and it is rather violent, but when it comes to a wrestling DVD which delivers hard-hitting combat on a big stage to settle huge rivalries and deliver great matches and unforgettable moments, there aren’t many you will find which are as good as Hell In A Cell.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding