Hell in a Cell originated in 1997 as a way to settle the bad blood between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Michaels had cost The Undertaker a WWE title match at SummerSlam that year as the special guest referee and their rivalry had taken unprecedented heights. Despite Bret Hart being the WWF Champion, the focus was on the two men who would eventually battle it out to become the #1 contender.
It’s perhaps apt that the first Hell in a Cell took place in a PPV named Badd Blood and to date, it’s considered to be one of the greatest Cell matches ever. For the next few years, the Cell stipulation would feature the biggest names go at it in many classic wars. It eventually became the most exciting stipulation match in WWE and it was rare to even see a remotely average match.
Yet, in 2019, WWE’s advertising of it is entirely different. They realized a decade ago that it was probably more marketable to have Hell in a Cell as a PPV, where matches are built around that stipulation, rather than using it only when absolutely necessary. In the older days, fans would always be in for a treat when they heard the announcement of a Hell in a Cell match.
But the decision to market Hell in a Cell as a PPV has perhaps been the most detrimental thing they could do to the stipulation. The reality is that Hell in a Cell stipulations should only be brought out when necessary for a feud. Circumstances where interferences shouldn’t happen, a feud should blow-off and only when the rivalry reaches its peak. When it comes to a point that all the bad blood must be settled in the most brutal way possible.
This is what kept the stipulation special. Had WWE had a “Hell in a Cell” PPV going for so long, it would never have the specialty that it still does today. Not that all Hell in a Cell matches have been bad since 2009, but it’s clear that the novelty of it has long worn-off. For some odd reason, they’ve even found ways to end Cell matches with dusty finishes.
2018 and 2019 were prime examples of this. They had stellar main events headlined for a World title between superstars who were hot and had momentum going. It was all well and good until they decided that they didn’t know how to protect both superstars, thus causing a No Contest.
The question comes as to why a match is booked when the bookers have no idea how to protect either superstar. With a Hell in a Cell PPV present, they simply have to build their feuds around the stipulation rather than using it as a prop to further a storyline or simply end it. Hopefully, WWE learns from this and replaces the PPV, giving the stipulation to matches that really need it. We can still have a couple of Hell in a Cell matches in a year without them having to be on the same night.
This should be a part of the new direction they’re taking and it should hopefully eliminate any stipulation PPV minus Money in the Bank. At this point, it seems like the only acceptable PPV to have a stipulation built around it, though many fans would probably prefer if WWE returned to the old tradition of having the ladder matches at WrestleMania.
It would be an easy way to get superstars on the card and add to a whole new level of excitement. Either way, the Hell in a Cell match needs to be rethought and restructured and the company needs to reassess how they go about using the stipulation. Until that happens, we will never see a match inside the Cell that matches Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker in the first-ever Cell match.