COMMENTARY | Oct. 5 marked the 16-year anniversary of one of the most innovative and greatest matches in WWE (WWF at the time) history. Although neither was champion at the time, "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were the main event at the Badd Blood pay per view in the first ever Hell in a Cell match. Held at the Kiel Center in St. Louis, in 1997, Michaels and The Undertaker set the standard for what would become one of the company's trademark matches.
The premise of the match was simple, instead of using a traditional cage that allowed for the wrestlers to escape, a top was put on the cage and it surrounded the ring. Designed as a way to keep Michaels' Degeneration-X stable mates Triple H and Chyna from interfering in the match, the actual cell was a sight never before seen in the WWF.
There is a rule of thumb in wrestling that most cage matches are boring and can only be exciting if someone bleeds. In this case, the match was an incredible contest that was only enhanced once Michaels was busted open.
For months prior to the match, fans were clamoring to see Michaels get the snot kicked out of him as his obnoxious character had cost The Undertaker the WWF Championship at SummerSlam just two months earlier. Seeking revenge, this match was to be HBK's punishment for crossing Taker.
In his career, HBK had many matches that were worthy of match-of-the-year consideration, but his performance in the cell may be his best ever. Michaels' effort throughout the entire match is a prime example of why many feel HBK is the greatest in-ring performer in WWE history. Matched up with a bigger, stronger man and faced with nowhere to run, HBK took the fight to Taker while making sure to not let the big man get him in his grips.
To his credit, Taker stays right with Michaels throughout the match and doesn't let the faster Michaels dictate the pace. It's not until Michaels is launched over the top rope and onto a camera man that he is able to escape the cage and get away from The Undertaker by exiting through the cage door.
Most fans remember Mankind being thrown of the top of the cell in June 1998, but many forget that Michaels took a decent fall from the top of the cell in this match as well.
Towards the end of the match, HBK is on the receiving end of one the most brutal chair shots in history and appears to be out for good. That is until The Undertaker's brother Kane made his debut by attacking Taker and helping Michaels get the win.
Regardless of how the match ended, this match is one of the greatest because of how well the two men worked together to keep fans guessing on how it would end. Michaels ends up taking a beating in the match, pleasing the fans, but he also scores the victory, keeping him the most hated man in the company at that time.
Not only would this match serve as a partial ending to the feud between Michaels and Taker, but it also introduced Kane and set up the infamous Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart match at Survivor Series 1997 in Montreal the next month.
These two men would go on to have a few other classic matches more than a decade later, but it was one of their first, that was the greatest.
If there are other matches you think should be included as one of the WWE's greatest matches, leave a suggestion in the comments and maybe it'll be selected.
Matt Durr is a reporter from Michigan who has watched professional wrestling since he was 3 years old. Not just a WWE fan, Matt enjoys Ring of Honor and Japanese wrestling. He has covered University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletics for Annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @mdurr84.
- Sports & Recreation
- Shawn Michaels
- The Undertaker