Editor’s Note: I’m going to break tradition and offer the editor’s note at the front of this article. Top 10 lists are controversial and in this case somewhat predictable, but I wouldn’t deign to call it definitive. Let’s call this a jumping off point.
10) Six-way HIAC – “Armageddon” 2000
This marked the first time a Hell in a Cell had more than two official contestants. And look at the lineup: Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, Triple H and Rikishi. That’s like The Attitude Era’s version of Michael Jordan and The Dream Team, except in this scenario, the team maimed one another.
9) Degeneration X vs Legacy – “Hell in a Cell” 2009
Tough choice, but it stood out on the level of creativity and great storytelling. When Triple H was locked outside the cage, trying to claw his way back in, it generated a great swell of emotion. With Shawn Michaels trapped inside against Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, how could he survive. Finally, Triple H seemingly walked off but returned with a pair of bolt cutters. To add insult to injury, or rather injury to injury, DX did the same to Rhodes and DiBiase. Great storytelling forced this on the list.
8) Degeneration X vs The McMahons and Big Show – “Unforgiven” 2006
Another tough choice, but this Hell in a Cell also earned a spot on the list because of its creativity.
7) Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose – “Hell in a Cell” 2014
The only tough thing about adding this to my list was wondering if I should place it higher. This match had everything—a perfectly manufactured feud, unique use of the Cell and objects within and a compelling story told within the match itself. The feud and match story exist as distinct entities. A storyline makes fans want to see the match, or buy the PPV/Network, but each match—what takes place between the bells—should have its own narrative that encapsulates the build-up. This did just that.
6) Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker – “No Mercy” 2002
This was the first installment of Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell. Quite simply, it served as a great prelude to the brutality we expect from Lesnar and the resilience we expect from The Dead Man on HIAC on October 25.
5) Undertaker vs Edge – “SummerSlam” 2008
This match was innovative on so many levels. To this day, without watching the match, I can remember the face on Edge as he awaited the Undertaker. Edge was not only ready, but salivating for the cage door to shut. Throughout the match, both dished out and equal level of brutality and created a memorable match.
4) Triple H vs Undertaker (with Shawn Michaels as guest referee) – “Wrestlemania 28” 2012
Some may disagree, but I thought that Triple H and The Undertaker told the best match story out of all the Hell in a Cell matches during their contest at Wrestlemania 28. Given the build-up, the history, the declaration of the end of that era, the match told the story that kept fans hooked for so many years. It was brutal. Think of the number of chair shots Triple H delivered to Taker. Think of the moment when The Dead Man put his foot down on the sledgehammer, than put his hammers down on Triple H. Think of the last moment of defiance where The Game spit, cursed and told Undertaker to suck it. Finally, think of the swelling that immediately showed on their bodies during and after the match, when three icons stood together in a moment of solidarity.
3) Triple H vs. Cactus Jack – “No Way Out” 2000
Triple H versus Cactus Jack could stand out as arguably the most brutal of all the matches. While Triple H didn’t throw Mick Foley from the top of the Cell, he did just everything else.
2) Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – “Badd Blood” 1997
The first Hell in a Cell ever witnessed. How does it not make the list? Looking beyond the matches historic influence on the future of the WWE, the match still stands the test of time against any other on this list. Shawn’s profuse bleeds, Taker spiking HBK against the outside of the Cell like a lawn dart, and let’s not forget the debut of Kane all make this a match I still watch to this day.
1) Undertaker vs Mankind – “King of the Ring” 1998
When the words “Hell in a Cell” come up, fans instinctually think of The Undertaker throwing Mankind off the top of the Cell whether consciously or subconsciously. Mankind’s refusal to quit, even when Terry Funk helped medics drag Foley away will stand out as one of the most genuine moments of fortitude in WWE history. And then, Mankind went through the Cell again, smiling with a bloody toothless grin. Snippets from this match will appear in every promo video for a Hell in a Cell for the duration in time. By that virtue, I consider this the best Hell in a Cell match in WWE history.