The Devils Playground, Satins Structure, 2 tons of steel was once a match every fan loved to see. It signified the ultimate end to an intense feud between superstars. We have witnessed men thrown 16 feet off the top, barbed wire baseball bats and pints of blood lost. Ever since WWE downgraded to a TV-PG rating Hell In A Cell along with other gimmicks haven’t been the same. Is the PG rating to blame?
The moment Undertaker and Shawn Michaels step foot into a structure called Hell In A Cell, fans knew they were in for a classic concept that would eventually turn its self into a PPV. 9 months later, Hell In A Cell become famous for Mankind being thrown off the top of the structure by the Undertaker. This would set a benchmark, that would NEVER be reached again. Hell In A Cell was known as the match were the winner always loses, the winner was a survivor and quite simply this is no longer the case. In the words of Jim Ross this is what Hell In A Cell was about.
“It is a perverse, vile, diabolical structure, custom-built for injury” – Jim Ross talking about Hell In A Cell
“The pain these two men will put themselves through is inhuman” – Jim Ross – King Of the Ring 98
No doubt without the incredible calls from JR during the legendary King Of The Ring Hell In A Cell match those moments could have been a memory, his words made it legendary. We have seen 28 Hell In A Cell matches, but since 2009 have we really looked forward to a Hell In A Cell match? Why is that? What has changed other than the easy blame of the PG era. The quality of matches have varied, there have been some mediocre matches, some good and only really 2 great Hell In A Cell matches. So lets look back at every Hell In A Cell match since the PG era kicked off shortly before Summerslam 2008 based upon match ratings as given by Dave Meltzer from the Wrestling News Observer courtesy of Profightdb.com
|Opponents||Event||Rating (Out of 5)|
|Undertaker vs. Edge||SummerSlam 2008||4.5|
|Undertaker vs. CM Punk||Hell in a Cell 2009||2.5|
|Randy Orton vs. John Cena||Hell in a Cell 2009||3.5|
|D-Generation X vs. Legacy||Hell in a Cell 2009||3.75|
|Kane vs. Undertaker||Hell in a Cell 2010||0.5|
|Sheamus vs. Randy Orton||Hell in a Cell 2010||3.25|
|Mark Henry vs. Randy Orton||Hell in a Cell 2011||2.5|
|Alberto Del Rio vs. John Cena vs. CM Punk||Hell in a Cell 2011||3.75|
|Undertaker vs. Triple H||WrestleMania XXVIII||4.75|
|CM Punk vs. Ryback||Hell in a Cell 2012||1.5|
|CM Punk vs Ryback & Paul Heyman||Hell in a Cell 2013||2.25|
|Randy Orton vs Daniel Bryan||Hell In A Cell 2013||3.5|
|Randy Orton vs John Cena||Hell In A Cell 2014||3.75|
|Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins||Hell In A Cell 2014||4|
The average rating in the PG era is 3.1, whilst for the previous matches the average was 3.75, without Undertaker vs Edge & Triple H that average drops to 2.9 (The 3.75 does include a big ZERO for Wrestlemania XV).
The biggest issue around the lack of big feel about Hell In A Cell is the PG rating, it’s an easy excuse to blame for poor matches but it has hindered several gimmick matches that have required a new way of thinking of delivering something new. Between 2002 and 2007, WWE went through the ruthless aggression era, brutality was king. Blood was over used, heavy chair shots, and weapons used to the max. With the loss of Eddie Guerrero and the tragic circumstances involving Chris Benoit, WWE needed to tone down its product, to protect its talent and to reach out for new marketing and advertisement deals. After Benoit’s incident WWE needed to react to its very poor image, a year later weeks before Undertaker and Edge clashed inside Hell In A Cell the rating become TV-PG. During A Talk Is Jericho Podcast with Edge, the Rated R Superstar revealed he hated the idea of going to PG right before Hell In A Cell against the Undertaker. Their match at Summerslam was fantastic, the visual ending of Undertaker sending Edge straight to hell was beautiful. With the change in TV rating, Hell In A Cell would change.
Heavy violence that we expected from Hell In A Cell was no more, the next HIAC match with Undertaker and CM Punk sucked in comparison of what we had seen before. It felt the pure essence of what made HIAC had gone, the blood, sweat and pure unpredictable nature was no more. From a wrestlers point of view, with evidence of concussions, they can no longer put their bodies through the pain they once went through, it would be unethical for WWE to do that. From a fan we lost the spectacle, that made HIAC great, the same way Last Man Standing matches are ending with Bray Wyatt being locked in a locker. It is no longer the same that we appreciated for years.