This foundation for this match all began at SummerSlam that year. The Undertaker defended his WWF Title against Bret Hart, with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. At the time, The Undertaker had no problem with Shawn. Bret, on the other hand, couldn’t stand him. Towards the end of the match, Bret tried to use a chair on ‘Taker, but Shawn prevented him from doing so. Bret spit in the face of HBK, causing Shawn to retaliate, swinging the steel chair full force towards Bret’s head! But Bret moved, and down when The Undertaker. The Hitman took advantage and made the cover, and Shawn was forced to make the count. The Undertaker had lost the title thanks to Shawn Michaels, and you know the Dead Man wasn’t going to let it slide.
The very next night on Raw, The Undertaker tried to confront Shawn, but he got the hell out of there before anything could happen. Shawn running from The Undertaker here is just the start of things! The very next week, a match between Shawn and Undertaker is announced for Ground Zero! Later that night, Shawn faces off against Mankind, and DX begins to from. The Undertaker comes out to confront Shawn again, but is distracted by Paul Bearer and talk of his brother Kane.
Things really heat up the next week on Raw, as The Undertaker teams with Mankind to face Triple H and Shawn Michaels! Shawn does a great job of constantly escaping The Undertaker, before ending the show with 2 brutal chair shots to the head of the Dead Man, causing him to BLEED! The Undertaker sits right back up though, as Shawn once again runs away.
The following week on Raw, The Undertaker comes out to talk about the chair shots last week. ‘Taker tells us that after he got busted open last week, he took the blood that flowed from his head, and he signed Shawn Michaels’ death warrant with it!!!
Less than a week later, on a special Friday Night Raw, just 2 days before Ground Zero, The Undertaker faced off against Triple H, a huge brawl erupts, a sign of things to come, with The Undertaker going crazy and Chokeslamming everyone in sight, before slowly stalking Shawn Michaels!
Ground Zero’s main event saw The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels battle in a vicious war. They brawled before the match started, and even took out referees! They eventually settled down a bit, and the match could officially start. Back and forth action for a while, before again erupting into a massive brawl! Shawn realised he couldn’t keep the Dead Man down, so he tried to run again. The locker rooms emptied, as everyone did their best to keep these men apart, which is when we saw The Undertaker fly over the ropes like a cruiserweight and land on half the WWF roster to get to Shawn!!!
Raw the next night is where the first ever Hell in a Cell match is announced, with The Undertaker getting a second chance to face Shawn Michaels, this time with seemingly no escape for Shawn!
Over the next couple of weeks, they build to the match with promos, and then a beat down on The Undertaker, when Triple H, Chyna and Rick Rude attack him from behind after Shawn baits him out.
A week later, we see a re-match between Undertaker and Triple H! DX (not yet named), again beat down The Undertaker. This time they seem to have him down and out, and put the Dead Man in a body bag! What follows is one of my favourite Undertaker moments; he SITS UP while still in the body bag! He rips open the body bag and fights back against DX, just less than a week before Hell in a Cell!!!
WOW. Looking back on their feud like this made me realise just how awesome it was. I always remembered their matches being great, but the two months they use to build this match, including a PPV main event, is fantastic. Some great promos and segments between the two, but what I find to be the main thing that will force me to consider this one of the top feuds ever, is how they are simultaneously building TWO OTHER FEUDS AT THE SAME TIME! Yep, even with this rivalry getting as heated as it can get, they are also building towards The Undertaker Vs Kane, and Shawn Michaels Vs Bret Hart! Not only that, but they do it in a way that doesn’t in any way overshadow the current feud, but at the same time makes you want to see the other feuds as well.
Here we go! The first ever Hell in a Cell match. The Undertaker, fighting for revenge. Shawn Michaels, fighting to survive. Also, something that is often forgotten about this match, the #1 contendership for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series is on the line too!
Before the match starts, we see referee Earl Hebner padlock the cell door shut, as Shawn pleads with him to let him out. No chance Shawn. You danced with the devil, and now you are about to get burnt!
With the door locked, the match can begin. HBK circles the ring, as The Undertaker slowly stalks his prey. After everything Shawn has done to him over the last couple of months, The Undertaker wants to put Shawn through a lot of pain, and is going to take his time doing it. He sees no need to rush, no need to run after Shawn, because unlike Ground Zero, he has nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no one to save him.
After playing a bit of cat and mouse, The Undertaker catches up to Shawn in the ring, and here we go! Nothing fancy, just ‘Taker grabbing Shawn by the back of his head, and ramming him into numerous turnbuckles. Shawn sells them like he just hit concrete, which some people would state he is overselling, but personally I loved it, and felt it made The Undertaker seem like a vicious powerful monster, which WWF were really turning him into at the time.
Shawn takes a beating for a couple of minutes, with ‘Taker working over the arm, hitting Old School, and even going for a cover at one point. Was The Undertaker trying to win? No, I don’t think he was. He gave Shawn a beating a month ago at Ground Zero, and Shawn never gave up, so he knew it would take more than what he had done so far to put HBK away. So why go for a cover? Because he can. He is showing Shawn that HE is in control, not Shawn. Also, kicking out of a pin attempt with a 300+ pounder on top of you wastes energy, and just helps The Undertaker more. A question some of you may be thinking is “why did Shawn kick out?”. Good question, because let’s face it, if Shawn didn’t kick out, the match would be over and he would escape the possibility of worse pain. Going back to what I said earlier, this match is for the #1 contendership. Shawn, like everyone in the WWF, wants the WWF Championship. Winning this match will place him in a title match, where he is one step closer to being champion once again. Then there is the fact Shawn is an arrogant heel, and beating The Undertaker will feed his ego, and give him bragging rights forever more.
The Undertaker decides to step things up a bit, as he grabs Shawn by the throat, seemingly going for a Chokeslam! Shawn senses this, and desperately fights his way out, sending ‘Taker into the corner. He mounts him, and begins to punch ‘Taker in the head. The Undertaker throws Shawn off, and he flies half way across the ring, again perhaps overselling, but IMO putting The Undertaker over even more. Shawn is a resilient man though, and he quickly gets to his feet and charges over into the corner to mount the Dead Man once again.
Every time Shawn attempts any offense, The Undertaker just shrugs it off and continues his epic assault on the “Sexy Boy”. The fight goes to the outside, and things are about to get brutal. ‘Taker imposes his will on Shawn, using his size and power along with the deadly cell walls to inflict more pain and damage. A couple of spots I always enjoy are when The Undertaker picks up Shawn, then smashes him back first into the ring post, turns around and smashes him back first into the corner of the cell, turns around again and smashes him in the ring post once again, then turns around one last time to send him back first into the corner of the cell. The other is when ‘Taker goes for a powerbomb, but Shawn seemingly reverses it, punching The Undertaker repeatedly in the face, only for The Undertaker to turn around and repeatedly smash Shawn into the corner of the cell again! When Shawn drops to the floor, you can see the marks on his back left by the cell, showing you that he really did hit the cell, and he hit it hard.
The underlying story of this match continues, with Shawn using the cell to attempt an escape from the pain and destruction The Undertaker has on his mind. He tries his best to climb up the cell wall to get away, but The Undertaker is tall enough to reach up and drag Shawn back down, back to hell.
Again the cell comes into play in this match, this time providing Shawn with an opening he so desperately needed. ‘Taker whips Shawn into one of the cell walls, then comes running at him, only to smash face first into the cell himself! I’m unsure if it was Shawn being able to dodge the attack, of if the sheer force of The Undertaker’s Irish Whip caused Michaels to bounce off and dodge the attack, but either way it created an opening, and HBK took it!
Just as Shawn appears to have the advantage, The Undertaker fights back. But as quickly as he re-gained control, he loses it! Shawn knocks The Undertaker off the apron, and sends him into the cell, then follows it up with a suicide dive, again driving The Undertaker into the cell! He isn’t giving ‘Taker time to recover, as he climbs the cell once again, this time to drop an elbow! Shawn is looking strong in this match now. He has used his speed, quickness and high flying ability to gain control, and is now using dirty tactics to keep that control. One of my all time favourite spots (not just from this match, but in general) right here, as Shawn hits a Piledriver to The Undertaker, ON THE STEEL STEPS! It makes one hell of a sound, and just looks incredible.
But even after all of that, The Undertaker crawls back into the ring. Again, this is putting over The Undertaker as an unstoppable monster, while at the same time, showing how resilient and CREDIBLE Shawn Michaels is when he is in the ring with the bigger, stronger opponent. Shawn doesn’t like the fact The Undertaker is still coming after him, so he pulls out a steel chair! This epic feud all began with a steel chair shot, and Shawn hopes to end it with one. I say one, but Shawn hits ‘Taker twice for good measure, and makes the cover! 1…2… NO! The Undertaker is not going out like that again. He still needs to extract his revenge on Shawn, and a steel chair isn’t going to do it this time.
The match starts to change from this moment on, as The Undertaker back body drops Shawn over the ropes, and onto a camera man. Shawn begins to beat the hell out of the camera man, laying him out on the floor. Why did he do it? I believe because he knew it would force the referee to open the door for EMT’s to attend to the guy, and the open door would allow Shawn to escape.
Until then though, Shawn must keep The Undertaker at bay. HUGE elbow drop from the top, followed by Sweet Chin Music! While all of this is happening, the door has been opened too! This is the part where I now feel the door being opened was a contingency plan, IF his superkick was not enough to put down The Undertaker. After all, what would be better than pinning The Undertaker in this match, instead of running away?
Of course, things don’t quite work out for HBK, as The Undertaker sits right up from Sweet Chin Music! Shawn is shocked, and makes a run for the door before it’s closed again! The Undertaker follows him out and catches him, sending him into the cell wall on numerous occasions, and busting him open too!
Shawn is lucky once again to find a small opening, but what is he going to do with it now? Inside the cell, he was unable to put the Dead Man away with his finisher. Outside of the cell, he was still unable to get away from the monstrous beast. The only thing left, if for him to CLIMB to the top of the cell! Unfortunately for Shawn, The Undertaker, even at 330lbs, near 7 feet tall, is able to follow him up there too!
Both men are now on top of the cell, and Shawn attempts a Piledriver up there, but instead gets a back body drop onto the steel! If that wasn’t bad enough, The Undertaker lifts him over his head, and slams him from over 7 feet in the air to the steel! Right hand now by The Undertaker, and Shawn nearly falls off the edge! He holds on, while The Undertaker has something sick on his mind. He stomps on one hand, he stomps on the other hand, and…
Shawn Michaels has nothing to hold on to, and falls back from halfway up the cell, through the announcer’s table! It crashes under the weight, and Shawn is a bloody mess on the concrete floor! It’s not over yet though, as The Undertaker climbs down, and slams him onto the floor!
While the majority of this match has been about The Undertaker being an unstoppable, almost un-human DESTRUCTION MACHINE, it’s also all about Shawn showing off just how damn resilient he is. After everything The Undertaker has done to him, he is STILL able to get up, and following the story of the match, does his best to get away from The Undertaker.
The Dead Man catches up to him once again, and throws him back into the cell, and the referee padlocks it shut one more time! Shawn is bleeding even more it seems, as it is flowing from the head of the Heart Break Kid.
The Undertaker has complete control now. He senses the time is right to put away the man who cost him the title, and starts it all off with a Chokeslam from the ropes! WOW! That isn’t enough though, as ‘Taker goes to the outside, and brings in a steel chair! As I’ve said before, this feud started with a chair shot, and The Undertaker wants it to end the same way. SICK chair shot to the bloodied head of Shawn Michaels, and payback is a BITCH! Undertaker signals that the end is here, but the lights go out, and we hear the eerie music of the man we discover to be… KANE!
Kane RIPS open the cell door, takes out the referee, and then stands face to face with his brother The Undertaker. He raises his arms, then brings them down to release fire from all 4 corners, just like The Undertaker has been known to do! The Undertaker is distracted, allowing Kane to hit a Tombstone!!!
Paul Bearer wakes the referee up, Shawn raises his head from the pool of blood he was lying in, and covers the Dead Man! A slow count, but The Undertaker is OUT of it. Shawn Michaels has WON!
Holy Shit! Every time I watch this match, I love it more and more. I love everything about it. From the way they build off the Ground Zero match with Shawn trying his best to simply get away, to the epic debut of Kane, which gives Shawn the big win, making him more credible going into the Survivor Series to fight for the title, while at the same time keeping The Undertaker credible from this loss, and further building The Undertaker/Kane feud that had been slowly boiling for months now.
People have been talking about Hell in a Cell matches for years, comparing them, ranking them, praising them and dissing them. I’ve seen people make excellent points as to why another cell match is more brutal, or why another cell match has more action, or why another cell match has better storytelling ect ect. That’s all good, people have different opinions, and that’s what makes us individuals. However, I do disagree with their opinions. I strongly believe that no other Hell in a Cell match has better storytelling, action, or even brutality. Sure, it might not be as straight up brutal as Brock Lesnar/The Undertaker, but it doesn’t have to be IMO. The fact that it’s built around one man just destroying the other makes it brutal to me. Then the blade job from Shawn, the fall from the cell, and the puddle of blood in the ring where Shawn is makes it just as brutal to me. It is only one of two cell matches that combines those three factors into the match (the second being The Undertaker Vs Edge, SummerSlam 2008), instead of just using two of the three, or in some cases, one.
This was the first ever Hell in a Cell match. I strongly believe that is has never been matched, and probably never will. It set the standard, and is the measuring stick not only for Hell in a Cell matches, but every other gimmick match too IMO. It shows perfectly how to combine storytelling, action and brutality into a single match, as well as how you put over both men involved, and even put over a completely new wrestler that has never been seen before the match (Kane). This was the first ever Hell in a Cell match, and I strongly believe it is the GREATEST MATCH OF ALL TIME.