Hell in a Cell is a match that was forever made because of the first two iconic matches using the gimmick but in a weird way, it was also somewhat damaged because it got off to such a legendary start. 99% of WWE fans would agree that Shawn Michaels-Undertaker and Undertaker-Mankind are the top two Hell in a Cell matches of all time (OK, if we’re splitting hairs, a Undertaker & Steve Austin Vs Mankind & Kane match from RAW a few weeks before King of the Ring ’98 was technically 2nd HIAC but whatever).
There have now been 32 Hell in a Cell matches (32! Christ, I am getting old) and a decent portion of the WWE Universe still only thinks the first two matter. I think it can hurt to get off to too good of a start (ask Tom Magee). Don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily think it would have been better for HIAC to start off with a mediocre template and work out its kinks as it goes along (like Royal Rumble or Elimination Chamber did). It’s awesome to have a match that’s instantly a classic (Money in the Bank is another gimmick match I’d put in that category) but starting with matches like HBK-Taker and Taker-Mankind set up a template that was impossible to live up to.
There have been some very, very good Hell in a Cell matches in the past 15 years. Some that I would personally consider to be classics and near equals of first two (Brock Lesnar Vs Undertaker at No Mercy ’02—and maybe their rematch in a few years. Undertaker Vs Triple H at WrestleMania XXVIII) but when it comes to discussing any Hell in a Cell match besides the first two, the response is usually “Yeah but it’s not as good as Undertaker Vs HBK and/or Undertaker Vs Mankind”.
In December 2005, The Undertaker would return to the Cell to face off first time HIAC participant Randy Orton to culminate their feud. The Undertaker Vs Randy Orton was a feud that, on paper, could have and should have been a classic. It’s one of those storylines that sets up itself. Orton, the ruthless, cold blooded Legend Killer, tries to take out THE Legend in WWE, The Undertaker. However, outside of a solid initial buildup, the feud kind of devolved into standard “heel is frightened of the Undertaker’s mystical powers” B.S. and Orton was going too over the top as a manical heel. However, a year and a half earlier, Orton had produced a classic hardcore brawl with Undertaker’s rival Mick Foley so the expectation for him to do the same with Taker in the Devil’s Playground was probably relatively high.
December 18th, 2005
Live from the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island
Announcers: Michael Cole & Tazz
Speaking of Orton going too over the top. Show opens with a clip of the classically bad angle where Orton attempted to murder The Undertaker and in the process, destroyed the late Eddie Guerrero’s low rider. Don’t worry, folks. Exploitation of Eddie’s death is only gonna get worse the next few months.
99% of the hype on this show goes towards the main event. Most brand exclusive PPVs, at this stage of the game, had kind of lame cards but the undercard for this one especially feels weak. There’s nothing here outside of maybe the last two matches that would feel out of place on a standard episode of Smackdown.
We’re live in Providence, Rhode Island at the illustrious Dunkin Donuts Center. Interestingly, that the first WWE pay per view of 2005 took place on an island and so did the last! HAH!
JBL, the Wrestling God, enters to start the show. It doesn’t matter if he’s main eventing or closing because he’ll steal the show no matter where he is on the card. It’s the biggest star in the smallest state. He cuts ass on Matt Hardy in hilarious fashion. Matt Hardy’s catchphrase is “Never say die” but after a year where his girlfriend left him, he got fired, and had to whine on the internet to get his job back, JBL said the catch phrase should be “I wish I were dead”.
JBL (with Jillian Hall) Vs Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy jumps JBL after said comments. This is a clash of two guys who had really fallen down the card in the Fall of 2005. Hardy’s been spinning his wheels since moving to Smackdown! and JBL wasn’t doing that much better. Even the setup for this match seems lame. JBL was complaining about not having a match for the PPV and Hardy was announced his opponent on Smackdown two days before.
This match is definitely not what I expected and very much a letdown considering both of these guys are talented workers. Early in the match, JBL chokes Matt Hardy with the ring ropes for a really long time (a spot that wouldn’t happen a few years after this) and basically, just squashes him. Matt Hardy doesn’t get much more offense than I imagine a job guy like Funaki or Scotty 2 Hotty would. JBL finishes him with a Clothesline from Hell. *1/2 Cole is APPALLED! Wrestling Gods shouldn’t have to CHOKE PEOPLE! Tazz compares JBL to George Hamilton and rightly, gets called out for the dated reference.
This match might make sense if Hardy eventually got revenge on JBL but as far as I know, this was pretty much the beginning and end of their storyline. It’s funny. Six months earlier, you’d probably think that 2005 would be the year that Matt Hardy either ended or launched into the stratosphere, because of the controversy with Edge & Lita and his subsequent firing (and eventually, rehiring). Instead, he ended 2005 in the same spot pretty much that he was at the end of 2004; midcard baby face just trying to look to pick up whatever scraps were leftover at the dinner table.
We go back to Smackdown! where Melina offered to bone Batista in order to get him to agree to forfeit him & Rey Mysterio’s match against MNM. Batista agrees to dick down Melina but he didn’t agree to forfeit with her. In fact, he’s so energized by the boning that him & Rey win the Tag Team Titles.
The Mexicools says they’ll actually forfeit their match up next with MNM if they get the chance to Eiffel Tower Melina. Melina is disgusted and walks away. Glad to enjoy the progressive sexual politics of circa ’05 WWE these last two segments.
The Mexicools Vs MNM (with Melina)
Speaking of WWE being progressive, here comes the Mexicools on their riding lawnmowers. I know WWE’s stance was The Mexicools were totally not offensive because they were supposed to be making fun of negative stereotypes of Mexican-Americans. But I don’t see how a relatively straight faced portrayal of an idiot bigot’s Mexican stereotypes qualifies as “satire”.
This was originally supposed to be a Tag Team Titles match but that got changed because MNM dropped the belts two days before. I can barely remember anything from this match even though I watched it last night. All four of these guys are solid workers but it seems like in this era, WWE demanded these guys to do anything they could to avoid having exciting matches. MNM wins with the Snapshot. **
Kristal interviews Booker T & Sharmell about Match 4 in Booker T’s Best of 7 series against Chris Benoit for the vacant US Title. Sharmell has a broom because Booker might get the sweep tonight and because Kristal might need a ride home!
Match Four of a Best of Seven Series for the WWE United States Title: Booker T (with Sharmell) Vs Chris Benoit (Booker T leads series 3-0)
Benoit’s got spooky eyes in this match. Not that I’m ever really comfortable watching a Benoit match but Benoit matches after Eddie Guerrero died are especially disconcerting. Also I hate how Cole uses these matches to bury Booker & Benoit’s WCW Best of 7 series. “They had a Best of 7 before but it meant nothing compared to this!” I’m not sure how burying a classic series helps the current series. “Remember those matches you liked seven years ago? They sucked compared to THIS!” At the very least, it sets an impossibly high standard. These ’05 matches are good. Really good even but burying the originals kind of just draws an unfair comparison. WWE would have been better off not mentioning the ’98 series at all.
The way that Benoit no sells a Sharmell broom shoot and tells her to come hither is super creepy. Watching it ten years later, it seems obvious dude was a brain damaged psychopath but I don’t know. I guess I got another year and a half where I subject myself to rewatching Benoit matches. All of this aside, this is a very solid match between two veterans with a ton of chemistry & past history. Benoit manages to avoid the sweep by defeating Booker T with the Crippler Crossface. ***1/2. Booker leads the series 3-1
MNM is in the WWE.com Instant Access booth. Joey Mercury & Melina have flip phones. 2005! Joey Mercury probably still has that flip phone.
We see a Hell in a Cell Flashback to Rikishi falling off the cell onto a pile of sawdust.
MAC MILLITANT hits and it’s time for an unadvertised Teddy Long promo! He’s with UPN Executive Palmer Cannon. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it (I probably have a billion times) but Palmer Cannon’s wife worked with my dad. Anyway, I’m assuming this is Palmer Cannon’s last pay per view appearance so if I haven’t mentioned it before and don’t mention it now, I never will.
Teddy kisses up to the fans. In 2005, Smackdown was able to prevail over RAW and able to prove that they were the #1 brand in WWE. Palmer Cannon intros Big Vito Claus and his Elf Nunzio, in honor of it being Christmas a week after this show. The FBI hands out coal to the fan. Michael Cole GETS some COAL! Tazz gets a candy cane cause he’s true to the crew. Michael Cole yells out “Who writes this crap?” which is jarring not because it’s undeserved but because it’s ’05 Cole saying it.
Palmer Cannon’s real surprise though is…THE BOOGEYMAN! Boogeyman’s made a list, he’s checking it twice, Big Vito & Nunzio are NOT VERY NICE! Nunzio gets clotheslined out of the ring. Big Vito “pisses his pants” then gets beat down by Boogeyman and then gets worms shoved in his mouth. Still not as embarrassing as being a member of WCW’s roster in 2000.
Another Undertaker/Randy Orton video package which gives us a chance to see Randy Orton needlessly destroying Eddie Guerrero’s lowrider again!
Hell in a Cell montage includes a surprising amount of WrestleMania XV footage. It’s funny that while the first two PPV Hell in a Cell matches are near universally considered the best HIAC, the third HIAC on a PPV is universally considered the worst.
Kristal talks to a gloating Randy Orton & Papa Bob Orton Jr.
Handicap Match: William Regal & Paul Burchill Vs Bobby Lashley
Regal deserves better than this. At least, I think he gets to wear one of his old WCW Blue Blood robes for this. Lashley really hasn’t aged much in the past ten years, outside of him growing and/or shaving his eyebrows. Lashley wins with a Dominator on Paul Burchill. * Lashley points to celebrate the easy victory.
Josh Matthews is on location at The Friendly Tap in Cumberland, Rhode Island, the bar owned by former WWE referee Tim White. Matthews attempts to interview Tim White while Tim White sips Bud Light and a shot of, what I assume to be, Dr. Mcgillicuddy’s mentholmint liquor (NEW ENGLAND MAN). Hell in a Cell ruined Tim White’s life. It ended his career, his wife left him, and now he’s got irritable bowel syndrome. Tim White pulls out a shotgun and offs himself, much to Josh’s horror. This awkwardly segues to…
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match: Juventud Guerrera (c) Vs Kid Kash
Juventud Guerrera riding in on a lawnmower. He’s defending the WWE Cruiserweight Title against Kid Kash. Kash has been on Velocity for months but has recently built up enough of a winning streak to challenge for the title. He comes out to a “Bawitaba”knockoff but isn’t playing up the Kid Rock gimmick outside of theme and naturally looking vaguely like Kid Rock. Tazz waxes poetic about Juvy’s great hair. This is like the MNM/Mexicools match where the guys are obviously going at quarter pace to fit the “WWE style”.
Juvy notoriously detested working the style and would be released a few weeks after this show for doing too many high spots. Of all of the WCW guys who got a run in WWE, I think Juvy, to me, was one of the more surprising ones. He was (and probably still is) a complete headcase who worked a style that WWE didn’t really care. I don’t think anybody was surprised he only lasted around six months in the company. Kid Kash was (and probably still is) an underrated heel and it’s kind of too bad WWE couldn’t find much to do with him. Yeah, I know he got the Cruiserweight Title and feuded for the Tag Team Titles but during that era, fighting for those belts was only slightly better than doing nothing. Anyway, Kash gets the win to become Cruiserweight Champ for first time with the Dead Level brainbuster. **1/2
Lashley is in the WWE Instant Access with Steve Romero. No pointing here.
Rey Mysterio & Batista Vs The Big Show & Kane
Storyline for this match is… uh, well, people liked the RAW Vs Smackdown match at Survivor Series the previous month and WWE hates starting new storylines at the end of the year so they just kind of strung that feud along for a bit. It seems kind of weird that they’d hotshot the Tag Team Titles onto Rey & Batista two days before this show and not have either their titles or Show & Kane’s titles on the line at this show.
Maybe they were trying to set up a tag team partners who don’t get along angle with Rey & Batista but Batista got injured a few weeks after this show and was out for six months. I had low expectations for this match even though I like some of the guys in this match. Batista Vs big hosses almost always seemed to guarantee matches that were mediocre, at best. Matches where Rey fights a guy 2 or 3 times his size are similarly dodgy. However, a quick, ten minute tag team match kind of allowed all of these guys to get their high spots in without really overstaying its welcome.
At the time, it seemed like this Big Show & Kane tag team was just something for them to do while they wound down their career. Now, ten years later, with both guys still on WWE’s roster, it’s obvious that it was just a way for them to recharge their batteries while still providing some starpower in an era when WWE needed. Smart of WWE…even though it produced some tired storylines/matches. Although this is kind of fun! Like I said, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Kane & Big Show win after Kane chokeslams Mysterio. It’s kind of an upset but RAW probably needed to get a win back. ***
We look back at Hell in a Cell I
Hell in a Cell: Randy Orton (with Bob Orton) Vs The Undertaker
The Cell is significantly smaller than usual. In fact, I don’t know if it’s as big as some of the standard cages that WWE uses. And it’s only about half of the size of the Super Cell that would debut at Unforgiven 2006 (my recap of that coming September 2016!). I’m fairly certain small cell is because they’re in a relatively small arena (I think the Dunks only fits about 10,000 people).
This is Randy Orton’s HIAC debut. For someone who has probably been in Hell in a Cell more times than anyone except Undertaker and Triple H, Orton hasn’t had any classic moments in the match. Can you believe Orton’s been in SIX Hell in a Cell matches? And how many clips of them make it to the yearly montage of classic HIAC moments? Any?
Anyway, this is a very solid Hell in a Cell but lacks of a defining moment to make it a classic or even on the second tier of near great editions of Hell in a Cell. This is not even the best Hell in a Cell of the year as I liked Triple H-Batista better than this. Kind of a pastiche of more memorable Hell in a Cells. Part Undertaker-Shawn Michaels (Undertaker finally has pussy heel trapped in the Cell), part Undertaker-Brock Lesnar (two big bruiser heels beat the hell out of each other, leaving a bunch of innocent victims in the wake). Probably the most memorable aspect of this match is almost everybody gets busted open. Not just Orton but Papa Bob Orton wears the crimson mask after getting his face slammed into the cage and Nick Patrick bleeds after getting accidentally knocked over. There’s an awkward as hell Chokeslam getting reversed to an RKO spot that might’ve been cool if it worked but definitely did not. Just a “What the hell is that?” moment. Orton does get an “RKO OUT OF NOWHERE” early in the match and reverses the Tombstone with a Tombstone which makes Cole freak out like he’s never seen it before even though I’m 99.9% certain it had perhaps multiple times (having a brainfart but they HAD to do it at Kane-Taker match before this). Anyway, The Undertaker manages to fight off both Ortons (Papa Bob snuck in after Nick Patrick got carried out of the ring), gets his urn back, and beats Orton with the Tombstone. ***1/2 Show closes with Undertaker celebrating with his urn on the top of the cell.
I thought WWE kind of muffed the Orton-Undertaker feud. Orton should have won either this match or the WrestleMania 21 match to cement his reputation as a Legend Killer. Having Undertaker win those two matches really didn’t do much of anything. Sure, it didn’t hurt Orton, at least in the long term but beating Orton didn’t really do anything to add to Undertaker’s legacy. Winning this feud would have been huge for Orton would have been monumental. I know WWE would probably argue “Yeah but Undertaker and Orton split the series!” Yeah, but one of the matches Orton was a handicap match and one was a cheap victory. Not really passing the torch.
As for the rest of the pay per view. Eh. With these December pay per views, WWE usually goes through the motions and this one was no exception. WWE kicks into high gear (like it’s 1994 house show tour!) after the New Year starts. Looking forward to looking back at WWE in 2006, the year where I started semi-following WWE again.
Next On Ten Years After…We head to the bingo halls, rec centers, and college gyms of the Northeastern United States and look at the Year in Review for 2005 for Ring of Honor Wrestling. CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries, Samoa Joe, and more. Yeah, these guys’ careers would go nowhere!