SC Remembers: The OG Hell in a Cell
This weekend the WWE will put on their annual Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View, coincidentally just a few weeks ago it was the 23rd anniversary of the first ever Hell in a Cell, so what a great time to take a trip back in time. It was the summer of 1997, Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker, and not only did the match raise the bar, it also ended in shocking fashion.
For the most part, Michaels' and Taker's paths didn’t cross throughout the year, however, after HBK cost Undertaker the belt against Bret Hart at Summerslam that would all change. On Raw the following night, Michaels attacked Taker with a chair, and would assault the Deadman every chance he got with the help of DX, setting up a big feud between these two legends.
The two would meet at In Your House: Ground Zero, but the match mainly consisted of Michaels and Taker brawling with DX coming in and attacking the Phenom. With the interference, the match ultimately ended in a no contest and the feud would march on towards Bad Blood in the first ever Hell in a Cell match.
It was around this point in the story a bombshell was dropped on the WWE landscape as Paul Bearer, who managed Undertaker for most of his career up until 1997, revealed that Taker’s brother was alive and coming for revenge. Bearer also exposed Taker as the man who murdered his parents in a fire, and that his sibling was horrendously scarred because of the incident.
Before we get to the match itself, It should be noted that Brian Pillman, former tag team partner and stablemate of both Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart, passed away just hours before Bad Blood went live. A sad way to cater in a new era.
The Cell itself was a marvel and was obviously mentioned throughout the course of the PPV, and as the main event neared the tension heightened. As HBK made his way to the ring accompanied by HHH and Chyna, the Cell started to lower, as did the lights. The Undertaker was ready to make his entrance. The brash, flamboyant, high-flying Michaels would be trapped in a cage with the phenom himself, a truly terrifying thought.
As the door closed and was chained shut, the Undertaker started to stalk HBK. It was clear and obvious the Deadman was in his comfort zone in this house of horrors. Brutalizing HBK on the outside of the ring, Taker took full advantage of his surroundings using the cage, ring posts, and ring apron as weapons. The first portion of the match was a one-sided beatdown.
As some time passes, the Undertaker whipped HBK into the cage, but this time Michaels would answer with a perfectly timed counter, catching the Deadman off guard. Now on the attack, HBK would perform a daring dive from the ring crashing into the Undertaker, certainly this moment would have been the highlight of the match if it wasn't for what was to come.
Continuing his assault, Michaels got a little too cocky. Wrapping the Undertaker in the ropes, HBK went to perform a running strike only to be tossed over the rope and onto the camera man. This led to Michaels terrorizing this poor man's soul to the point he needed medical attention. As the door opened HBK bolted towards the exit, but the Undertaker was there to meet him. This is where all Hell broke loose.
After a few blows from Taker, Michaels was left in a bloody mess, and out of sheer desperation he started to climb towards the top of the Cell. The Undertaker was happy to oblige. Regaining control of the match, Taker grated HBK's face across the cold Cell steel leaking blood onto an onlooking camera, one of the all-time great visuals ever. As if things couldn't get crazier, Michaels was thrusted off the side of the Cell and onto the announce tables.
Bloody, beaten, and with the end in sight, Michaels had no hope as Taker was putting the finishing touches on the match. But then, out of nowhere, the lights cut, the iconic organs played and Kane appeared like the devil himself. McMahon shrieked "That's gotta be Kane, that's gotta be Kane" as Taker's little brother had come to exact to revenge as Paul Bearer had promised!
Slowly walking towards the ring like the monster he is, Kane proceeded to rip off the Cell door in an act of pure rage so he could come face to face to his estranged kinmate. Eye to eye, Kane's cold blank stare met Taker's terrified face. The mysterious man then raised his arms and summoned the flames of hell, shocking the crowd.
Still in a state of shock himself, the Undertaker was caught off guard as Kane struck him in the stomach and then proceeded to apply the Tombstone on the man in which who invented it. As a lifeless Undertaker laid in the middle of the ring a bloody HBK dragged himself across the big man's body. 1, 2, 3. Michaels not only survived, but thanks to Kane he won!
The first Hell in a Cell match was amazing! Not only did the match live up to the hype, but it also gave us arguably the greatest intro to a character ever. It also helped paved the way for the attitude era. It's the reason why we have this awesome structure and so many great (and violent) moments, this is truly one of the greatest matches in WWE history.