Hell in a Cell is one of the most popular match types to be introduced to WWE. Using a modified, bigger cage with a ceiling, the Cell typically represents the end of a rivalry too hot to settle in a regular match.
Originally standing at 16 feet high in its original design, and then at 20 feet during its later redesign, it’s consistently been one of the biggest structures to ever surround a ring. This makes it even more shocking that the Cell became famous for people flung off the top of it, or pushed through the ceiling onto the ring below.
The Undertaker and Triple H are the wrestlers most famous for Hell in a Cell matches, having both won six apiece and appearing in even more. It lends credence to the structure itself that the two that consider it their match specialty are also considered to be two of the toughest characters in the business over the last few years.
Since 2009 the structure has been given its own PPV, meaning all big summer feuds now have a final destination before the run-up for WrestleMania starts, and also gives fans a tantalizing look at the 20 feet high cage of steel every year. Over the years there’s been some great match-ups in the Cell, but there’s also been some pretty bad ones. With the next PPV occurring later this month on October 25th, it felt like an apt time to reflect on the past Cell matches, ranking every single one of them. So, starting with the match I felt was utter garbage and ending with the match I name my favorite, here is my list, ranking all 30 Hell in a Cell matches. Will the matches at this year's event crack the top five?
30. The Undertaker & Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mankind & Kane - Raw, 1998
Dear God, this match was a mess. When the bell rings, The Undertaker is missing, leaving Stone Cold to fight Kane and Mankind on the outside of the Cell. The Undertaker pops up from underneath the ring and attacks Paul. Both sets of fights are full of completely generic spots that don’t utilize the Cell to its fullest potential. By the end of the match (if you can even call it that), I was left wondering whether the Cell was needed at all, other than to stop Kane from saving Paul Bearer.
29. John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Jack Swagger - Raw SuperShow, 2011
It feels unfair to judge this match compared to the others, as it was a dark match that took place after an episode of Raw 'Supershow'. While the bizarre sight of seeing a Cell used in an untelevised match is a decent draw, the match itself leaves a lot to be desired. A few minutes of heels beating on the two faces (Punk and Cena) before every superstars hits their finisher and Cena gets the pin. Terrible match, but somewhat worth watching for the spectacle.
28. The Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man - WrestleMania XV
This match is unspectacular in most regards, and the only thing memorable was what happened after the match and not in a good way.
The Undertakers trademark sit-up being interrupted with a kick is quite fun, as was Big Boss Man handcuffing The Undertaker to the cell war.
However, it’s the infamous post-match sequence that people will remember. After The Undertaker gets a victory, The Brood descent to the top of the cell from the rafters and fixes a noose to the cell roof. They drop it down, where Undertaker hangs Big Boss Man and raises the cage.
Yeah, in 1999, they made it look like The Undertaker killed a man.
27. CM Punk vs. Ryback - Hell in a Cell, 2012
The strange thing about this one is that it was the only Hell in a Cell match on the Hell in a Cell PPV, rather than the usual two or three. Not only that, it feels like a wasted opportunity here. Ryback as a performer was still very green at this point, and the cell is rarely used throughout. In fact, it feels like the cell is only there to keep with the PPV, rather than to actually be used. It also felt like a shame to end Ryback’s then undefeated streak on a finish that involved the referee low-blowing him to let Punk pick up the win.
26. The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - Armageddon, 2005
When he first arrived on the scene, Randy Orton was calling himself the “Legend Killer”, as he had a good record of defeating older superstars. A long rivalry with The Undertaker was taken to a boiling point in the Cell, as Orton felt he was close to defeating another legend of the business.
Unfortunately, what happened was an extremely generic Cell match, where Undertaker dominated for the majority of the match. When Randy Orton managed to squeeze a finisher in, there was no referee to count it. Other than a brief table spot and a cameo appearance by Bob Orton, there’s nothing special to this match.
25. CM Punk vs. Ryback & Paul Heyman - Hell in a Cell, 2013
A year after their last cell match, Punk and Ryback faced each other again. The match was billed as a handicap match, but Heyman spent the entire time on top of the Cell watching what was, ultimately, a one on one. While it was slightly better than their last match-up in the cell, there was still a spark missing to make it great. Perhaps Ryback was still too green, or more likely it was because he had injured CM Punk previously meaning Punk would have taken less chances with him. For whatever reason though, this one turned out “sort of okay”.
24. Randy Orton vs. Sheamus - Hell in a Cell, 2010
It’s been five years since these two met in a cell, a match designed to end feuds, and they’re still sporadically going at it. This match, like most of theirs, is fine. There’s not a huge amount that’s truly bad, except maybe the back-breaker on the steps (Sheamus dumps Orton on his knee, how do the steps help?), but it doesn’t stand out from the pack either. Like most of their matches on PPVs, it’s simply a decent filler match to pad out the booking. Except this time it was in a Cell for the WWE Championship.
23. The Undertaker vs. Batista - Survivor Series, 2007
As a match, this one starts out fairly average but ramps to be quite interesting. Batista and Undertaker were ending a huge rivalry, and Batista’s win meant he had defeated both Undertaker and Triple H in what was considered their specialist matches. By the end of the match, we see a determined Batista, refusing to stay down after taking multiple finishers onto the steel steps. A perfect ending would have been to see him eventually win clean, not have Edge pop up from under the ring to knock The Undertaker out.
22. Batista vs. Triple H - Vengeance, 2005
Triple H is always great to watch in a Cell match, and taking his bitter rival of the time Batista into it was a good move. However, although the point of the Cell is to inflict a massive amount of damage on an opponent, I feel that this match could have used some more wrestling, as there’s an over-reliance on weapons throughout. While the weapon spots are good, it feels a waste to have two of the biggest stars in the company at that time share a ring and not have them wrestle. Despite that grievance, there’s some excellent sledgehammer usage in here.
21. Mankind vs. Kane - Raw, 1998
At around eight minutes, this is one of the shortest Cell matches in history. Not only that, it seems to be trying to emulate the success the Mankind/Undertaker Cell match had a few months previously, going through some of the same motions.
With no proper build-up to each bit, and the fact it had been seen before only a few months previously, none of these moments felt very powerful. Rather than those, my favorite part of the match was when Kane clears the top rope in a single bound to cross body Mankind on the outside of the ring.
20. Randy Orton vs. Mark Henry - Hell in a Cell, 2011
There’s nothing more satisfying than a long-time soldier to the WWE being given a championship run, and Mark Henry’s time with the World Championship certainly gave me a nice warm fuzzy feeling. The man once known as Sexual Chocolate gave his first PPV defense against Orton, a somewhat veteran of Hell in a Cells at this point, and looked powerful throughout. A nice finish to it as well, as Orton lines up a punt kick only for Henry to counter it into the World’s Strongest Slam for the victory. Not a great Cell match by any means, but satisfying.
19. Chris Jericho vs. Triple H - Judgement Day, 2002
This one is mostly famous for ending the career of referee Tim White. The referee is knocked off the ring apron meaning he wasn’t there to count a pin for Chris Jericho, who beats the man into bleeding. Triple H and Jericho slug it out while White is carried away and a replacement referee is found. From there on, there are some good spots, with Jericho being put through a table and using a 2x4 covered in barbed wire. The ending is particularly nice, as Triple H pedigrees Jericho on top of the cell where he gets a pin-fall victory.
18. The Undertaker vs. Kane - Hell in a Cell, 2010
I always feel uneasy about Undertaker and Kane facing off. The original idea behind Kane was that he was The Undertaker’s younger demon brother, and it’s always made Kane feel like the “lesser” of the two because of it. That is a shame, because I’ve often found Kane to be the better performer at times.
The match here was slow, and lacked a pace I feel Kane could have still brought. Unfortunately what we have is a dream booking from the late 90s that just doesn’t quite live up the expectation, even with the addition of Paul Bearer. By this point the rivalry just felt like a rehash and a Cell match should have taken place a good decade before.
17. Triple H vs. Kevin Nash - Bad Blood, 2003
For my money, Kevin Nash is one of the best in the history of the business for seeming “strong”. This match opens with a completely dominating display of strength, as Nash and Triple H both work to make every standard move seem destructive when done by the bigger guy. From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense when Triple H resorts to weapons – it’s the only way to defeat the giant in front of him.
Also in this match is Mick Foley as the guest referee, sporting a white shirt with spray-painted black stripes. The finish is great and bloody, as expected when Triple H and Mick Foley share a cell.
10 John Cena vs. Randy Orton - Hell in a Cell, 2009
Between Cena and Sheamus, Orton has a history of rivalries lasting way too long. This match was in the middle of the two of them hot-potatoing the WWE Championship between each other, and the lack of stakes due to that made the whole thing seem trite. Despite those grievances, it’s hard to deny that these two are the top guys in the business, and they can go when they need to. It’s got an interesting finish and both guys put in a solid effort, but the atmosphere and hype around the match were the real let down.
15. D-Generation X vs. Legacy - Hell in a Cell, 2009
New superstars bring innovation to the product, and this is shown in a dramatic way during this Hell in a Cell match-up. After a brief scuffle outside, DiBiase and Rhodes lock Triple H out of the cell and proceed to team up against Shawn Michaels, giving them complete dominance throughout. It’s only until very late in the match that Triple H finds a way back in to even the odds and allowing D-Generation X to pick up the victory. The only real downside to this match was the sheer length – if it had been half the time, it would have been a near-perfect showing of storytelling in wrestling.
9 The Undertaker vs. CM Punk - Hell in a Cell, 2009
This one opened the PPV, was for the World Heavyweight Championship, and ended in roughly 10 minutes. Although Punk and Undertaker managed to squeeze a great match within that short time-frame, it does seem to completely end out of nowhere, completely halting the momentum Punk had attained over the previous months. If these two were allowed to craft a longer match higher up the card that made Punk still look like a threat, I would have had a stronger reaction to it. But as it was, it left me feeling deflated, despite how good it was.
13. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton - Hell in a Cell, 2013
Daniel Bryan was in a weird position at this point. The crowd were fully behind him and were eager for him to win the title, but it seemed like the WWE were still hesitant about it. So while Daniel Bryan was knocking it out of the park with excellent performances that consistently entertained, he never really got any major wins. This was one such match, as him and Orton put on a pretty compelling fight, before Orton gets the predictably inevitable win that included a heel turn from special referee Shawn Michaels.
8 John Cena vs. CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio - Hell in a Cell, 2011
With the established Cena, the white hot Punk and the still fairly-new main eventer Del Rio all being put in a cell, there was no way this wasn’t going to be explosive. All three competitors honestly brought their A-Game to this one, and even Cena’s ability to kick out of literally everything was less of an issue due to the presence of another man breaking up the pinfall for him. A truly solid match that shows the best that 2011 had to offer. If it wasn’t for the poor booking and story surrounding it, I’d have placed this much higher.
11. The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar - No Mercy, 2002
Their current rivalry that started when Lesnar ended the streak is heading for a Hell in a Cell match soon, though it would be the second time the wrestlers have met in one. In 2002, for the WWE Championship, The Undertaker suffered one of the worst head wounds I’ve ever seen someone take in a Cell match. This encounter gets very bloody, and I’m surprised The Undertaker even had the strength to finish it.
It’s a great spectacle match, but not for the light hearted. Lesnar gets a pin-fall victory after an F-5, and in very symbolic fashion, stands on top of the cell after the match, having conquered the WWE's top dog.
10. The Undertaker vs. Edge - SummerSlam, 2008
An extremely cocky Edge takes on The Undertaker and puts on an excellent display. As far as Cell matches go, I think this one looks to be the hardest for The Undertaker, as he really struggles to get on top of the R-Rated Superstar. When Edge introduces tables, ladders and chairs into the mix, he’s completely within his element, and consistently looks the stronger competitor.
It’s almost a shame, but at the same time cathartic, when Undertaker ends the match by repeating all the moves Edge had previously done to him before tombstoning him for the victory.
7 Cactus Jack vs. Triple H - No Way Out, 2000
While the match is exciting and dangerous looking throughout, it’s the ending that really sticks out as a classic moment.
Cactus is going to piledrive Triple H onto a burning wood stick on top of the cage, when Triple H lifts him and flips him over, sending him through the cage roof and onto the ring, which collapses in on itself. You can tell in Triple H’s reaction that this wasn’t supposed to happen, and there’s a genuine concern for Mick Foley’s health. Thankfully, he seems mostly okay, and Triple H gets a pinfall victory after carefully making his way down.
6 Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H - Bad Blood, 2004
At nearly 50 minutes long, this is the longest Hell in a Cell match on record. It justifies its length by bringing one of the best rivalries in the history of WWE to a boiling point, with two great competitors putting on some of the best spots of their careers.
There’s a satisfying emphasis on strength and size versus quickness and counters, meaning the two distinctions between the wrestlers are clear throughout, leading to a satisfying ending where Triple H picks up a victory. Despite the match being surprisingly entertaining for its length, it’s still way too long, and could have been higher on this list if it was tighter.
5 John Cena vs. Randy Orton - Hell in a Cell, 2014
If their first Hell in a Cell match-up was a disappointment, this one more than makes up for it. Billed as the final chapter of their incredibly long rivalry, we got a lot of call-backs and showings of how they know each other throughout. There’s nothing more satisfying than when two competitors who have fought so many times before start countering each others signature moves with ease, and Randy Orton has quickly become a master of it thanks to Cena and Sheamus.
Although Randy Orton would have been the stronger winner, it took an AA off the top rope through a table for Cena to finally get the win.
4 Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins - Hell in a Cell, 2014
Leave it to Dean “Unstable” Ambrose to bring a classic Cell feeling to a match type that was frequently becoming stale. In what felt like a homage to Mick Foley, Ambrose starts the match by climbing the Cell, demanding Seth to fight him up there. From there, we get both men being put through the announce table before finally going into the ring, where all manner of weapons are used on each other, while they both flourished showing their individual strengths as performers.
Honestly, if it didn’t end with a ghost showing up to distract Ambrose, this could have easily made the Top 3.
3 Kurt Angle vs. The Rock vs. The Undertaker vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. Rikishi - Armageddon, 2000
With so many wrestlers involved, this could have so easily become a confusing calamity, not dissimilar to the dark match on the Raw Supershow in 2011. However, thanks to some excellent pacing and storytelling, this match elevates to being exciting and never settles for anything less than amazing.
From a gauntlet of finishers, to Vince trying to tear the cell down, to a visceral brawl taking place at the Titantron’s set, this match fully encapsulates how to structure a match with so many wrestlers. Even Angle’s win took advantage of the number of wrestlers in the match, ensuring the match’s place as a Hell in a Cell classic
2 The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels - Badd Blood: In Your House, 1997
With almost two decades of Hell in a Cell matches, you’d have thought the very first one would have been topped more times than it has been. But Shawn and The Undertaker completely brought the house down with the introduction to the cell. From diving elbow drops from climbing the interior of the cell wall, to using the cell as a weapon, to climbing to the top of the structure; This match was full of spots that would go on to become the standard for these matches. On top of that, it ends with the introduction of The Big Red Machine Kane. Great stuff.
3. D-Generation X vs. Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and The Big Show - Unforgiven, 2006
It may be a bit controversial to put a match involving the McMahon’s ahead of some of the classic encounters inside the Cell. But I honestly feel like this is one of the best Cell matches in history. There’s a great theme throughout that DX could defeat the McMahons easily, and anytime it’s them alone in the ring they wipe the floor with the chairman and his son. But when it comes to The Big Show, they need to team up, leaving them open to attacks from the McMahons.
It creates a wonderful tension throughout, fully sold by the facial expressions and movements of everyone in the ring. It’s pure wrestling poetry, despite the participants.
2. The Undertaker vs. Mankind - King of the Ring, 1998
When you think of the Cell, you probably think of this match. It was here that Mick Foley put his own body on the line to elevate himself to main event status. Seeing the things this man puts himself through to entertain the crowd is scary, and you can’t help but appreciate the dedication.
The highlight of the match is easily when Mankind gets thrown off the top of the structure into the announce table, but honestly, any moment of this match could be put forward as a classic wrestling moment.
1 The Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVIII
It just makes sense that this is the best one. Undertaker and Triple H are considered to be masters of the Cell, and they both put their experience to use here. But more than that, the inclusion of Shawn Michaels as the referee led to some amazing moments. His confliction between his respect for The Undertaker and friendship with Triple H make it a hard match for him to call, and you can see it destroying him to watch these two decimate each other.
When the match finally ends, you can tell both men gave it their all, and that this truly was an end of an era.