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Satan’s Playground: The Hell In A Cell Match of Today Needs to be Refocused

PWP’s Zak Fellows thinks that the focus of the Hell In A Cell match needs to be refocused. 

Do not let the negative sound of the title of this article mistake you into believing otherwise,but to this day I maintain a general interest in the Hell in a Cell concept. The climax of one of my first wrestling feuds, Randy Orton vs. Undertaker of 2005, was settled in the Cell and some of the more shocking moments, or OMG! Moments if you like, in WWE history have occurred in the Cell and it still to this day remains a cornerstone of WWE’s gimmick matches. They sell a PPV/Special event under that moniker for a good reason in the same mold as the Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank.

So, why a refocus you may ask?

Hell in a Cell was originated in 1997 and continues to this day as it proceeded to be held from the Attitude Era, to the intermediate era to now. Generally speaking, the popular opinion of more recent Hell in a Cell, since WWE turned PG anyway, have been lukewarm: the matches are passable but they have yet to reach a standard of remembrance that it’s earlier incarnations have reached. People remember Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels and Brock Lesnar more than they remember him vs. CM Punk or Kane. You may have heard some of these criticisms before. About how the recent Cell matches have been bad because they have no meaning, aren’t able to be overtly violent, aren’t anything special etc. (feel free to enter your own complaints in the comments if you like).

I do not necessarily care about maintaining an imaginary legacy at the expense of good content and the same mind-set enables me to believe that there is no set method of making a match enjoyable. With that said, I do believe that in this day and age the reliance of the more violent and blood filled occurrences of the Cell in order to artificially hype up a Hell in a Cell is antiquated and does cast a huge shadow over whatever WWE will attempt to do with the match in mind. Hence why refocusing on what the Cell means in this current era, in terms of match structure, will allow it to be presented in a new light.

This is achieved by remembering a major factor into the booking of any match of intended importance: the story. Having a backstory before, during and after is not always of the utmost importance, I mean Money in the Bank is a spot fest match at this point, but some of the most beloved matches in wrestling history gimmick or not have some form of narrative to it. Yes, fans will naturally remembered the visceral moments of a match before they remember the story but some of the greatest Hell in a Cell’s have really good stories that help set up the match, made the match importance through influence and act as the lasting impression of a feud.

Simple stories that use the Cell as a means to further or end it. Undertaker/Shawn Michaels was the story of a heel ganging up on the babyface and now being trapped to get a beating that he had coming, Triple H/Cactus Jack was lineage vs heart at its core with title vs career being reflective of the concept. While I do not believe entirely that the Hell in a Cell concept has been diluted through overuse I do agree that, for the most part as time and matches have passed, it has been used in stories that don’t really enable it to be used in an appropriate theatrical setting. As was mentioned the spots, violence and blood is a major selling point, a selling point that is used to hype up matches that don’t/can’t reach a similar wavelength.

Good storytelling can negate a gimmick match’s supposed dilution while mediocre or bad storytelling can accentuate perceived problems that continue to this day with specific fans.

I maintain that refocusing on what the Hell in a Cell can be used for in this era is essential to maintain, and potentially reinvent, itself to make the selling point more appropriate. The question that, I assume, is being sparked is how:

Well, to use a more recent example of Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins I believe that emphasizing elements that existed in that match would be a good first step. The match from last year that acted as an initial end of feud for the two has elements of storytelling that are both simple as well as ripe for selling points:

  • Heated Babyface and Heel feud built up for months that doesn’t involve a prize like a title (does not mean a title CAN’T be involved though)
  • Heel is attempting to save their skin denying the audience a chance to see them get their comeuppance on a weekly basis
  • Finally trapped inside the Cell for a beating he deserves as babyface beats him up
  • Heel starts to fight for survival ultimately gaining the upper hand until they lose or win by the skin of their teeth

Emphasizing the survival and endurance of a heel while also building a babyface to be the one that an audience would want to see best the heel helps the Cell match by making it a setting for a storyline to play out as a finale. And yes Ambrose/Rollins did take a lot of notes from Taker/Michaels I only just noticed that myself.

Of course this Sunday the two Hell in a Cell matches do appear to be appropriate for occurrence (Wyatt/Reigns and Taker/Lesnar) so WWE is definitely in the right mind frame in that regard. Again, I do believe that focusing all the attention to hype up Hell in a Cell, year after year, being ‘cherished memories’ really does shoot whatever the next Cell match is trying to do. So refocusing the selling point for the future matches on what the current era can potentially produce, through storytelling and match structure, can help make them stand out more on their own without having to compare them to the past.

Emphasis the no escape, the endurance test and the monster movie confined aspects with some restraint and blood will no longer be necessary…contrary to popular belief wrestling fans are not blood thirsty maniacs.

[Zak Fellows hopes you are not blood thirsty maniacs]

Some of the best matches in wrestling history have no blood shot, so no… it ain’t necessary.

About Zak Fellows

I started watching wrestling in 2005, mesmerised by a certain slow walking phenom. 10 years later and still going strong: Not only as a fan among a very eclectic community but also as a senior writer for this very website. Combining knowledge, opinion, a disdain for the typical wrestling fan on the internet and a sarcastic wit, if you agree with me than hooray and whoopee. If you don't...then don't be a little drama queen about it because god forbid people think differently.