Hell in a Cell — featuring the giant, five-ton cage that was built by mystic metalworkers and encloses the ring and the ringside floor — has a place in the history of WWE gimmick matches behind only the Royal Rumble. But for all the thrills the Rumble gins up with the constant anticipation of the next entrant, Hell in a Cell, with its guarantee of gruesome high spots, evokes something more primal, emotional, and chillingly physical. More than a carnival of forced anticipation, it can be the pinnacle of pro wrestling — wrathful combat distilled and amplified. The format was created by legendary manager and backstage operator Jim Cornette, inspired by his old-school experience with the NWA’s War Games and Memphis grudge matches.
So it’s a shame — and not much of a surprise — that the modern WWE has allowed Hell in a Cell to fall into dreary near-oblivion. Give Vince McMahon and WWE a simple, good idea, and watch them exploit it into gaudy obsolescence.