Perhaps one of professional wrestling’s most celebrated stipulation matches is the showdown that gets booked to take place inside the confines of the steel cage. The setting for the match itself -- locking the competitors in to ensure no outside interference, and also ensuring no count outs or disqualifications -- means for the fans that the battle will play out until a winner is ultimately crowned. The elevated suspense with the dangers that occur when flesh meets steel come into play, and the heart-stopping anticipation as the wrestlers battle to scale and escape the cage contribute to the excitement as well.
But in the spirit of one-upmanship, one thing that we have come to know for sure about a cage match is that we can never fully anticipate what might happen. Perhaps, as Roddy Piper declared in the 1980s, just when we think we have all the answers, someone changes the questions. From the increased risks taken by the wrestlers involved in the match to the unpredictability of the action itself, cage matches seem to spawn the incredible moments that will be remembered for decades.
Among all that we’ve ever seen, here are 15 of the craziest moments ever to occur in a cage match.
15 Superfly Splash From The Top Of The Cage
Despite all that we have seen in the past generation and are sure to see in the years to come, the showdown between “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and Don Muraco in the cage on October 17, 1983 is a timeless piece of wrestling lore that has forever been imprinted in our memories. Even Mick Foley, who also makes an appearance on this list, points to that match that he attended as a fan as forever influencing his own career. The image of Snuka, perched high atop the cage, throwing his arms into the air and crashing down from the top of the steel structure onto Muraco with his signature Superfly Splash was a moment that raised the bar forever. Sure, we had been familiar with the blood, guts and gore of cage matches, but Snuka took the drama of the steel cage to a whole new level, quite literally, and we appreciated it.
14 The Ladies Get Locked Up
In the history of cage matches, whether in singles or tag team action, one thing that has been almost a certainty is that the clashes that occurred between those steel bars would be between men. The cage match hasn’t been a territory for female wrestlers in particular as the stipulations that were more likely to lead to blood and brutality aren’t common for the members of the fairer sex. However, that changed on a national level on November 24, 2003 when the Raw Roulette wheel determined the stipulations of the matches to occur that night and pitted Lita against Victoria in one of the few ladies cage matches of which we are aware of in the WWE. In fact, short of Sherri Martel’s involvement in cage matches between Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior in 1991, which often saw her scale the cage or end up engrossed in the action herself, Victoria and Lita hold a unique place in wrestling history because of this.
13 Tower Of Doom Match
There was something about heights in Jim Crockett promotions, the precursor to WCW, that seemed to factor into some of the most unusual stipulation matches. That was the case with the scaffold match between the Midnight Express and the Road Warriors and factored in again on July 10, 1988, when the “Tower of Doom” match was introduced at the Great American Bash. The showdown was a five-on-five tag team match that started with two wrestlers battling it out in a secondary cage atop the main enclosure for two minutes before trap doors opened to allow other members of the teams to join the action.
This wasn’t revisited by WCW for several years until Vince Russo decided it required a revival in 2000. However the re-introduction of this classic match did not serve the intent of the concept to its fullest potential. While the Tower of Doom didn’t really take off, the War Games cage showdowns were immensely popular.
12 Inter-Gender Cage Match To The Extreme
As identified earlier in this list, seeing women doing battle inside wrestling’s steel cage has been an unusual occurrence, so an inter-gender match enclosed in steel is equally rare. It occurred in Extreme Championship Wrestling on the company’s Heatwave pay-per-view on July 15, 1995 and featured second generation wrestler Luna Vachon against the homegrown Stevie Richards. Luna had earned her reputation in the ring after a couple of runs in the WWE and was recognized as a competitor that was possibly tougher than many of her male colleagues. Luna’s matches with Sherri Martel and her feud with Sable (both in and out of the ring) cemented her reputation as a no-nonsense competitor. However, while the match itself is worthy of mention, what is remembered most from the bout is the aftermath, which saw Tommy Dreamer get involved, handcuffing Raven to the cage and delivering a horrific chair shot to the sullen superstar, an action that was later immortalized as “the chair shot heard around the world.”
11 Samoa Joe Runs The Gauntlet
The gauntlet match was described by one wrestling news site as “basically the TNA version of the Royal Rumble,” and perhaps the comparison holds true in that the WWE’s January Royal Rumble is one of the main focal points to set the stage for the road to WrestleMania for the top feuds in the company at that time. However, a cage match is supposed to be a final resolution in and of itself. When TNA ran the 20-man cage gauntlet match on March 26, 2009, it was a great platform for an emerging star to breakout, which was tremendous for a rising performer such as Samoa Joe. However, the holes in the premise started to show in that when the match came down to the final two competitors, each of the remaining men was guaranteed a spot as a team captain for the company’s next pay-per-view. At that point, a victory for either was inconsequential. Still the action that took place throughout the contest make it worthy of placement on this list.
10 Arn Anderson Finds Himself In A Sticky Situation
Launched in 1987, War Games “The Match Beyond” was a showdown between ten of the company’s top stars and was such a hit as a headline attraction for the Great American Bash that it became a series of cage matches around the country for the NWA. Invariably featuring the Four Horsemen in various configurations against their top rivals, the two-ring cage match captivated audiences with the added unpredictability of who would start the match, which team would win the coin toss for a member advantage throughout the match and what climactic conclusion may result.
However in War Games 1992, an unusual thing happened. In a match with such amped-up drama for the violence and brutality, Arn Anderson interjected a bit of comedy, finding himself upended between the ropes of both rings and getting his head stuck in the gap between the two structures. He required assistance to extract himself and continue on with the match.
At the first Halloween Havoc pay-per-view in 1989, the Thunderdome cage match was a concept like no other. This was intended to be a final showdown between Ric Flair and Sting and their antagonists Terry Funk and the Great Muta. For this match, there would be no escaping the cage, as the top of the cage was to be electrified to prevent escape. Instead, the only way that the match would be settled is when the corner man for one team or the other elected to throw in the towel.
The closing moments of the match defy words, as Muta and Sting battle up the cage walls for no apparent reason, while Flair and Funk battle it out in the ring. Even the conclusion of the match comes about quite abruptly in a manner that takes away from the definitive conclusion of the match. This stipulation, not surprisingly, would be a one-off.
8 Vince Puts His Own Neck On The Line
Vince McMahon takes a lot of criticism from the media and even people outside the wrestling business who point a scornful finger and accuse him of creating a poor working environment for his wrestlers. However, even Vince’s staunchest critics had to sit back and take note of the fact that the Chairman of the Board was willing to do himself in order to sell tickets and give fans their money’s worth. At the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view, Vince would enter the ring as a competitor against Steve Austin inside the cage.
The first highlight of the match was a fall by the 54-year-old McMahon from the top of the cage and through a ringside announce table. However the biggest shocker came with the surprise debut of Paul Wight, aka The Big Show, who tore through the canvas to interject himself into the match, throwing Austin with such force through the cage that a panel swung free, dropping Austin to the floor, inadvertently giving him the victory.
7 Mark Henry – World’s Strongest Man
The Big Show hasn’t been the only wrestler to show his dominance by destroying cages. During the biggest push of his career as the World’s Strongest Man, former Olympian Mark Henry stunned audiences to silence by taking physicality to a whole new level inside the cage with the Big Show. In a move which rivaled Big Show’s own WWE debut, Henry first demonstrated his strength by dismantling the door from the cage and bringing it into the ring as a weapon. Henry then used that door as a shield to thrust Big Show through the cage wall, leaving him in a collapsed heap in the debris of the shattered cage. But the action spilling beyond the cage isn’t limited only to Big Show and Mark Henry in the WWE. There are still more shocking cage moments yet to come on the list that have whipped fans into an even greater frenzy.
6 The “Cage of Death”
For Combat Zone Wrestling, which is known for pushing the envelope to the limit (and maybe beyond), what started as an attraction in 1999 to amp up the violence of their show has since become one of the most highly anticipated events of their annual schedule. The Cage of Death card features a cage match main event, sometimes contested under conventional War Games rules, but the stakes are raised with the addition of even more potential peril. Electrified cage walls, tables, light tubes, barbed wire, baseball bats, glass, thumb tacks and other weapons have been featured. Not surprisingly, there aren’t many wrestlers among the survivors of this carnage that would be familiar to the mainstream wrestling audience. However, recent Cruiserweight Classic competitor Drew Gulak is among the alumni of this house of horrors.
5 The King Of The Road Match
While not a conventional cage match by any stretch of the imagination, the King of the Road match that took place on the first WCW Uncensored pay-per-view on March 19, 1995 is one that maybe all parties involved wish they could forget. Pitting the Blacktop Bully (Barry Darsow) against Dustin Rhodes, the match played out in a caged trailer while driving down the highway. Let’s forget that the premise of the match itself was entirely ridiculous – there was no consequence for the creators of the match. The controversy instead occurred more from how the match played out, with both wrestlers being disciplined for bleeding in the unorthodox match, which was strictly forbidden. In the fallout from the match, Rhodes would leave WCW, arriving in the WWE later that year as the even more controversial Goldust. This was one special stipulation match that has not been repeated, and it has barely even been discussed.
4 “That's Gotta Be Kane!”
The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels have engaged in some memorable battles to be sure, including a few occasions at WrestleMania. In fact, there is a good argument to be made that it was partially as a result of Michaels’ matches with The Undertaker that he earned the distinction as Mr. WrestleMania. Their Hell in a Cell match was no exception, with the Heartbreak Kid sacrificing his long-term well-being by allowing himself to be flung from pillar to post and beyond in a showcase performance that would ensure the success of the WWE’s latest stipulation match. However, what people may remember most from the match is the long anticipated debut of The Undertaker’s estranged brother, Kane. In the closing moments of the showdown, the eerie strains of an unheard entrance theme hit and fans got the first look at the formidable monster who would bear the nickname, “The Big Red Machine.” Kane ripped the cage door from its hinges and entered the ring to manhandle The Undertaker as fans had never seen before.
3 Abdullah Gets Electrocuted
If the “Tower of Doom” and “Thunderdome” were busts, surely the Dusty Rhodes creation of the “Chamber of Horrors” cage match would be a stipulation that would be a success. Dusty later described waking up in a cold sweat, the vision for the match coming to him in his sleep. The premise of the match was that the conclusion of the five-on-five tag team cage match would come when one of the teams was able to successfully subdue their opponent in an electric chair and flip the switch, essentially frying him alive before a capacity crowd.
If public execution isn’t enough to make your stomach turn, problems with the props also contributed to a nonsensical ending as the switch that was to activate the electric charge actually fell to the “ON” position during the action. Cactus Jack had to climb the cage and flip the switch to “OFF,” then back to “ON,” all in clear view of the cameras to set off the special effects. Adding to the ridiculousness of the stipulation, this 1991 match was not Abdullah the Butcher’s final appearance – he continued to wrestle for more than a decade after being “fried” on pay-per-view.
2 Rising From The Grave
The Undertaker makes his second appearance on this list for his surprise appearance in the closing moments of a WWE World title showdown between Bret Hart and Diesel. After a titanic struggle between the two multi-time champions, Diesel had the cage door opened and was starting to make his way to what seemed to be an inevitable escape. However, in shocking WWE fashion, from out of nowhere, a hand appeared from within the canvas itself and The Undertaker appeared amid a cloud of billowing smoke from beneath the ring. As he clawed at Diesel and pulled him to his symbolic grave, the uncommon look of terror on the seven footer’s face truly punctuated the insanity of the situation. However, this wouldn’t be the last time that the “Dead Man” would factor into one of the craziest cage match moments that wrestling has ever seen. Can you guess which incident reached number one?
1 Mick Foley Plummets From Hell In The Cell
The image of Mick Foley careening from the top of the 16-foot Hell in a Cell through the announcement table below is an image that we are re-acquainted with regularly and it may rate as the top "OMG" moment in WWE history for years to come. How Mick Foley has survived the physical abuse from this match alone is a mystery. While fans discuss Foley’s descent from the cage, then later through the cage, we almost forget about the ominous and stoic figure that contributed to those insane moments as well. There were moments in the match where the image of The Undertaker’s towering frame in the background of the shot have us wondering what he must have been thinking as this carnage unfolded directly before him. The insanity of that match as a whole has ensured that whenever a Hell in the Cell stipulation is announced, fans will be tuned in to see what could possibly top Foley-Undertaker. Perhaps only death could eclipse that craziness.