The Steel Cage is one of wrestling's oldest gimmick matches. The appeal is simple. Four steel walls keep all of the competitors inside, and all of the other wrestlers and managers out. Cage matches are a great response to matches ending in DQ because of interference, as it usually produces a decisive victor whether matches end in pinfall, submission, or escape.
The classic steel cage has spawned more imitators than almost any other idea in pro wrestling. But none are as good as the original. So, needless to say, this list will be leaving out the Elimination Chamber, War Games, Triple Cage, Hell in a Cell, Thundercage, Kennel from Hell, Punjabi Prison, and yes, Tower of Doom matches. That still leaves a lot of great cage matches. The steel cage has decided almost every major title - NWA, WCW, WWE, IC, US, WWE Tag Team, just to name a few. The visual design of the steel cage has also evolved - going blue in the WWE, adding a door, all the way to the current design that lowers from the ceiling.
In honor of the WWE Extreme Rules 2015 main event pitting Seth Rollins and Randy Orton in a steel cage for the WWE Title, this list will look back at our favorite cage matches.
These great matches span 30 years and three different national wrestling companies. Some of the matches contest world titles, WrestleMania main event spots, and tag titles. The ones that don't involve titles can still settle a rivalry. If you so choose, most of these are available on the WWE Network for you to enjoy.
15 No Mercy 2000: Chris Jericho vs. X-Pac
This cage match had no title in the balance, wasn't a main event, and was somewhat buried in the midcard during Y2J's first year in the WWE. That all being said, it still delivered a very entertaining match between two of the WWE's best light heavyweight wrestlers.
The finish uses the escape option to its fullest. Jericho locked in a great Walls of Jericho on top of the cage, just above the door at the bottom, but got thrown back in the ring. When X-Pac tried to climb out, Jericho opened the door and dropkicked the cage to crotch X-Pac on the edge of the open door. It's a pretty fun spot and an inventive finish for Y2J to pick up the win.
14 Survivor Series 2001 - WWE/WCW Tag Team Title Unification: The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz
This match is a footnote compared to the epic TLC matches with Edge and Christian, but it still ranks as a great steel cage match due to the simple, effective storyline. The veteran Dudley Boyz were able to outsmart the younger Hardys, leading to a huge spot finish. D-Von dodged Jeff's cage-top Swanton through a table, leading to the pinfall loss. Jeff could have escaped the cage to win, but the Dudleyz knew he couldn't resist the huge spot. The Hardy Boyz were the kings of the ladder match, but the Dudleys were able to win this cage match by using that against them.
13 IYH Breakdown 1998 - #1 Contender Match: The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock vs. Mankind
This match was a hidden gem in the Attitude Era, as all three of these guys had fought in the past and would continue fighting in the future. The clash in styles saw Mankind's hardcore brawling, Shamrock's MMA background, and The Rock's classic blue-chipper grappling all colliding in the steel cage.
Mankind did his best Superfly Snuka off the steel cage and would also take out Shamrock with his Double Arm DDT on a steel chair. However, The Rock ended up winning by stealing a pinfall while Mankind was on the verge of escape. Their rivalry would keep going later that year when The Rock became the Corporate Champion.
12 Rebellion 2001 - WWE Intercontinental Title: Edge vs. Christian
It was a shame to see the Edge and Christian split somewhat lost in the shuffle of the Invasion storyline. This underrated cage match between the brothers (they were still considered brothers at the time) got stuck on the UK Rebellion PPV, but still managed to steal the show. It stands out for having the old school colored bar style cage instead of the sturdier version that lowers from above.
The clever finish had echoes of another brother vs brother cage match (see: #1), with Edge outsmarting Christian and tying his legs together through the cage to retain his Intercontinental title across the pond.
11 Extreme Rules 2011 - WWE Heavyweight Title: John Cena vs. John Morrison vs. The Miz
After The Miz won the WWE Title in one of the worst WrestleMania main events in history, there was a lot of pressure on the WWE. This match was the main event of a great card returning WWE to form.
John Cena ended Miz's brief and misguided WWE Title run in this entertaining match. The triple threat rules added to the drama, making the odds impossible for The Miz to overcome. Morrison's Starship Pain from the top of the cage was a highlight, but after a R-Truth run in, Cena would get his title back with a top-rope AA to The Miz.
10 Unforgiven 2005: Matt Hardy vs. Edge
Matt Hardy and Edge would end their long in-ring and out-of-ring rivalry with this great cage match. This match all centered around Lita being caught between the two former tag team rivals.
Hardy would get his revenge on his former girlfriend with a twist of fate when she tried to intervene, and then on Edge as he would be left a bloody mess after several cage and chair shots. The ending saw Hardy on the verge of escape, but he couldn't resist a leg drop from the top of the cage and the more definitive 1-2-3 pinfall.
9 Halloween Havoc 1994 - WCW World Title Retirement Match (Special Referee: Mr. T): Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair
Getting Mr. T, Hulk Hogan, and Ric Flair in the same steel cage is good enough for me. However, this also happens to be a pretty solid match that lived up to the hype, as Hogan and Flair were icons that were still young enough to put on a good match.
The ending was typically overbooked and silly with Sherri, Hart, Sting, A Masked Man, and Mr. T figuring into the decision. But it couldn't overshadow this titanic matchup. Hogan would win and seemingly end Flair's WCW career (he'd be back in 6 months), keeping the World Title and putting on one of this best matches in the process.
8 8. SmackDown! - World Heavyweight Championship: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
As of this writing, this is the rare retirement match that actually stuck. Technically, it was a "Loser Leaves WWE" match. But however you slice it, Jeff Hardy left the WWE after this epic cage match. It was a little bit of an odd blowoff happening just days after a big TLC match at SummerSlam, but it was the final match in this rivalry nonetheless. Hardy could never put Punk away, even with a Swanton Bomb from the top of the steel cage. In the end, Punk won by throwing Jeff from the top of the cage into the ring, while the champ fell to the outside.
7 SummerSlam 1990 - WWE World Title: The Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude
From the 1990 era of the WWE comes a classic title match with two larger than life characters entering the steel cage. Rude and Warrior both traded cage shots and were bloody within minutes. Rude's sneering bad guy took it to Warrior until his second flying punch from the top of the cage was reversed. From then on, it was Warrior's special brand of fan-fueled mania taking over. He shook off Rude's offense and then battered his manager, Bobby The Brain Heenan, for good measure. After a Gorilla Press Slam left Rude dazed, it was easy for the champ to escape and retain.
6 St. Valentine's Day Massacre 1999: Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon
The match shouldn't have been so good, considering McMahon isn't exactly an elite wrestler. However, it had a really fun opening sequence with Vince being able to avoid the Texas Rattlesnake and the cage. When the match did eventually kick off, it became interesting as a main event spot at WrestleMania was hanging in the balance.
The ending, which included the shocking debut of The Giant (who came to be known as the The Big Show in WWE) was a clever twist on the "escape" part of winning a cage match. Austin was thrown by Show hard enough to break the cage and go tumbling outside. But his feet hit the floor and he won the match after Vince's cheating backfired on him.
5 Starrcade 1985 - NWA US Title: Magnum TA vs Tully Blanchard
What's better than a cage match? An I Quit cage match. It's uncomfortable to watch when a legend screams like an animal into the mic when asked if they quit, but there was no other way to end this legendary feud.
The ending got even more violent. A wooden chair somehow got in the ring and both wrestlers threatened stabbing the broken leg through the other's eye. When the two struggled with the sharp point inches from their eyes, it looked more like an action movie than a wrestling match. It was quite a relief when Tully finally quit and Magnum took the sharpened stake away from his head. What a match.
4 Starrcade 1983 - NWA World Heavyweight Title: Ric Flair v Harley Race
Flair and Race are two of the best wrestlers of all time and they were facing off for the biggest title in the world, at the biggest show in the world at that time. So, it's no surprise this 30 year old match has stood the test of time.
It's fun to see Flair before he was "The Nature Boy." He's the underdog face in this match, finally getting his shot at the heel champion that's been ducking him for months. It was a genuinely exciting moment when Flair breaks through with the upset win and the locker room empties to celebrate and carry him around the ring.
3 Unforgiven 2000 - WWE World Tag Team Titles: The Hardy Boyz vs. Christian & Edge
This match was very clever when it came to using the cage and the escape stipulations. Because both teammates have to touch outside to win, the heel champs were able to isolate and attempt to pin one of the Hardys while the other was on the outside. Eventually ladders got involved (naturally), and the Hardys were able to reverse the dynamic and win the titles with a conchairto on Edge. There's also a great standout spot with Lita hitting a cage-assisted hurricanrana off a ladder.
These two teams get rightful praise for their ladder matches, but this cage match from the same time period is really exceptional and proves these two teams are more than high-flying daredevils.
2 Extreme Rules 2013: Brock Lesnar vs Triple H
Before Brock Lesnar squashed John Cena at SummerSlam and before he ended The Undertaker's streak at Wrestlemania, he had to go through The Game. This was the last of three great matches that saw Triple H losing to the part-time monster to start his dominant run. Brock Lesnar wasn't at this year's PPV, but two years ago, his cage match was the main event and stole the show.
1 SummerSlam 1994 - WWE World Heavyweight Title: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
This brother vs brother match that headlined SummerSlam isn't just one of the best Cage matches of all time, nor onlu one of the best World Title matches of all time - it's one of the best matches of all time, period.
Owen Hart would never win the WWE title before his untimely death and he never came closer than this war with his brother. It's jarring to see Bret Hart, the excellence of execution, in such a brawl, but Bret proved that he can excel in any style of match. Owen and Bret went full throttle in the cage for 30 minutes and the ending, with Owen being trapped, would be often imitated, but never duplicated.