Hell in a Cell matches used to be special. Shortly after the now-iconic structure was introduced to the WWE, it became the quintessential feud-ender. Rivalries built up over months or even years culminated inside Hell in a Cell (HIAC).
The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had an iconic match inside HIAC some 20 years ago. Of course, ‘Taker and Mankind topped that the next year with an unforgettable, death-defying performance that perhaps best personifies HIAC. Triple H’s wars inside the structure opposite the likes of Michaels and Cactus Jack won’t soon be forgotten either.
Of course, even in the glory days of the ’90s there were some duds. The WWE trotted the match out on Raw a few times as a ratings grab, but those matches fell well short of the epics fans have come to expect inside HIAC. And, of course, one can’t soon forget the ill-advised decision to have the Undertaker hang the Big Boss Man from the cell.
But, for the most part, the first 15 or so HIAC matches served to punctuate the biggest feuds. Now, these feuds may not have been started with HIAC in mind, but as the rivalries intensified it became the only logical place to end them. At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, that’s no longer the case.
At this month’s HIAC pay-per-view, the WWE will put on three(!) matches inside of the cell. Prior to 2009, there’d never been three such matches in the same calendar year. Let alone on the same card. Of the three matches, only one really feels befitting of the HIAC stipulation.
It’s not Roman Reigns and Rusev. They’ve had a solid program, but nothing outstanding. Attacks here, insults there, just cookie-cutter stuff in today’s WWE. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the showdown between the two bruisers should be a good one. But, again, the HIAC begs for more intensity. We want to feel hatred between the competitors inside the cell.
You’re not getting that with Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins either. The two are feuding, plainly and simply, over the WWE Universal Championship. Really, Owens still feels like a stand-in for Rollins’ eventual showdown with Triple H. Again, this match should be great. But that alone doesn’t make the feud befitting of the cell.
Really, of the three HIAC matches, the only one that seems worthy of the designation is Sasha Banks’ Women’s Championship defense against Charlotte. The two have history. They have an animosity that seemingly can’t end in a typical wrestling match. Not to mention that they have a fanbase that makes spectators want to see and be a part of the first ever women’s HIAC match.
Now, this is hardly a new development. Ever since the WWE introduced the HIAC pay-per-view there’s been matches that didn’t seem worthy of the stipulation. There’s been exceptions, like Undertaker and Brock Lesnar last year and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose the year before. But too often, it’s something like Randy Orton and John Cena randomly having their 10,000th match against one another inside of HIAC.
There may not be an easy fix. At least not as long as the WWE plans on HIAC being a yearly event. The WWE can try to build long, intense feuds befitting the structure leading into October, but it’s how the fans take to those programs that determines how good a fit they are.
So, with that said, if HIAC is an event that the WWE plans on continuing, and there’s been no signs of it stopping, then it’s fine if it insert its best, current feud in the structure. The problems really arise when it forces two or even three such matches on one card. Not only is it overkill, but it lessens interest in HIAC matches that truly deserve the stipulation.
Come on, WWE. Don’t let Hell in a Cell become the “No Disqualification match” of the 2010s.