Long before the PG era and the concept was turned into its own event, the Hell in a Cell match was arguably the most brutal that WWE had to offer.
Wrestling fans would generally see long-term feuds between their favorite stars escalate to a point where the only way to end things properly would be inside of the Cell. Those feuds generally involved The Undertaker, but soon evolved to include the likes of Triple H, Randy Orton, and a multitude of other WWE legends.
From 1997 through 2005, WWE held just 13 matches inside the steel structure, with a majority taking place in the month of June.
Fast forward to the end of 2020, and that total number increased to a whopping 45. The match turned into a full-on pay-per-view event in 2009, and was moved to the familiar month of June for WWE’s 2021 schedule.
While the novelty has certainly worn off as the match has evolved and WWE’s audience has changed, there’s still quite the history for wrestling fans from a litany of eras to reminisce about.
To point you in the right direction as you look for the best of the best, here are the top Hell in a Cell matches in WWE history.
6. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, No Mercy 2002
It was a toss-up for the sixth spot on this list between the No Way Out 2000 battle between Cactus Jack and Triple H and the No Mercy 2002 clash between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. In the end, the latter won out.
The feud between Lesnar and ‘Taker in 2002 (and their subsequent matches in 2003) helped solidify Lesnar as a superstar in WWE, and it made sense to stick the two inside such a chaotic structure to top off their rivalry.
The storytelling was great as each performer built off the presence of a cast on The Undertaker’s hand, the barbarity was evident by the blood pouring down each wrestler’s face, and the final image of Lesnar hoisting the WWE Championship atop the cage is an iconic moment in his career.
It’s always tough to figure out what match, moment, or game should start a Pick-Six. In this case, this war seems like a great way to set the tone for the rest of the list.
5. Batista vs. Triple H, Vengeance 2005
There are two common threads that will show up in each of the six matches on this list, which make loads of sense when looking at the match’s overall participation numbers: The Undertaker, and “The Game” Triple H.
While the match is often associated with the former, the latter truly made a case for the match to be his throughout his illustrious in-ring career.
“The Deadman” competed in 14 Hell in a Cell matches, which is a formidable feat to top. But, Triple H found himself in nine of his own, and actually has a better winning percentage in the match.
Unfortunately for the “King of Kings,” he came out on the losing end of a physical Hell in a Cell battle with Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship in 2005.
The long, heated rivalry between the two former Evolution members culminated at Vengeance in June of that year, and ultimately served as Triple H’s last chance at his old title before Batista would leave for SmackDown a short time later.
The match was an all-around showcase of what the concept brings to the table, with a solid mix of in-ring ability and out-of-the-ring physicality to give the fans what they wanted.
Batista came out on top, but it hammered down Triple H’s ability to use the match in his arsenal for future feuds down the line.
4. Six-Man Hell in a Cell Match for the WWE Championship, Armageddon 2000
This one admittedly might not have a perfect case for the No. 4 spot from a match quality perspective, but the star power in this six-man match pushed it ahead of the two other battles behind it on the list.
If you were a WWE (well, WWF) fan in the early 2000s, you know all of the wrestling in this massive match.
You had the household names like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock. You had the match’s familiar faces in The Undertaker and Triple H. You had the sizable opponent in Rikishi, and, last but not least, the WWE champion Kurt Angle.
This one was chaotic and all over the place, with the action spilling all over the arena throughout the match’s 32 minutes. The animosity was there on so many different levels, and the madness encapsulated everything going through WWE’s top feuds that winter.
The Undertaker pushing Rikishi off the top of the Cell onto the bed of a massive truck stands out as the image of the match, but the overall talent of this war makes it unforgettable for anyone that was lucky enough to be a fan throughout the “Attitude Era.”
3. Mankind vs. The Undertaker, King of the Ring 1998
If we were looking at the most *memorable* Hell in a Cell matches of all time, then this match would easily take the cake.
Mankind and The Undertaker are responsible for one of the most iconic moments in WWE history, which took place at King of the Ring in 1998.
As the match got going, the two made their way to the top of the steel monstrosity, and fans began to wonder how they would find their respective ways back down to the ground. Unfortunately for Mankind, that return to the floor wasn’t too graceful.
The Undertaker tossed the hardcore legend off the top of the cage and through a table ringside, leading to one of announcer Jim Ross’ greatest calls of all time.
“Good God almighty, that killed him!” Ross yelled. “As God as my witness, he is broken in half!”
The 17-minute co-main event supplanted everything else the company had planned for that night in Pittsburgh, and is the perfect example of the brutality the Hell in a Cell match creates. If the actual in-ring competition was a little better, this one would have a better case for the top two spots on this list.
2. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, Badd Blood: In Your House 1997
When wrestling fans think about matches between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, most will immediately point to their masterpiece at WrestleMania 25, or their subsequent showstopper a year later at WrestleMania 26.
But, longtime fans know the duo actually competed in the first-ever Hell in a Cell match at Badd Blood: In Your House in 1997.
The match is more known for the debut of Kane, billed as the Undertaker’s brother, and how his entrance into WWE paved the way for Michaels to escape the match with the WWE Championship. But, as easy as it was to be blinded by the finish, the 30-minute match delivered in so many other ways.
The match was rated five stars by longtime wrestling reviewer Dave Meltzer, which is a feat that WWE matches rarely accomplish anymore. It was the perfect main event for the night, and served as an incredible way to kick off the concept’s illustrious history.
Had the next match on this list not taken place almost 15 years later, this would be the clear-cut choice for the top spot on this countdown.
1. Triple H vs. The Undertaker, WrestleMania 28
Arguably the last great Hell in a Cell match, Triple H and The Undertaker put on a clinic when the two ended their rivalry (and an era) at WrestleMania 28 in 2012.
It’s one of the longer Hell in a Cell matches in the concept’s history, but didn’t run too long. It had the star power of “The Game” and “The Deadman,” the match’s two pioneers, and was still able to add an extra wrinkle with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee.
It was physical. It was personal. It was the perfect way to cast doubt on The Undertaker’s ability to keep his infamous WrestleMania streak alive, and provided one of the best false finishes in the streak’s history when a superkick from Michaels transitioned into a Pedigree from Triple H.
Seeing the structure put to use at one of the biggest WrestleMania events of all time, let alone in an outdoor venue, was a nice touch, and the overall quality of the match proved that it was the right call.
It was voted the match of the year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated and WWE itself, and was arguably the “Last Dance” of each wrestler’s illustrious careers.
It’s widely considered one of the better matches in WWE history, and is well-deserving of the title of “Best Hell in a Cell Match of All Time.”