WWE.com interview (5/28/04)
Hell in a Cell survivors
Conducted by Aaron Williams

The upcoming Hell in a Cell between Shawn Michaels and Triple H is sure to set new standards in brutality and courage. What's it like to set foot and battle within this most dangerous of devices? Here's a look back at the Hell in a Cell and all the pain and the suffering it causes.

Jim Ross calls it the "most demonic structure ever to encircle a ring." Undertaker promises that if you step inside it with him, "he'll make you famous;" and at the very mention of its name, Kane claims that he can already feel the pain.

There is no such thing as an easy match in World Wrestling Entertainment, and every single time Superstars step into the ring, they put their bodies at risk. But, certain matches exact a heavier toll than others. For instance, a Cage Match, WWE Ironman Match and Last Man Standing Match all test a Superstar's toughness, determination and will in ways that an ordinary match cannot. However, ask any Superstar who has participated in one, and he will tell you that there isn't anything quite like the Hell in a Cell.

There have been 10 Hell in a Cell matches since the first one was held nearly seven years ago. Despite having occurred only 10 times, its impact upon World Wrestling Entertainment and its fans has been profound. After all, perhaps more than anything else, the images from these matches have come to define what WWE is all about: Shawn Michaels, bloodied and beaten, yet somehow able to roll over on Undertaker and get the three count after Kane made his unexpected debut at Badd Blood in October 1997; Mick Foley being tossed of the top of the cell by Undertaker not once but twice at King of the Ring in June 1998; Triple H defeating Cactus Jack at No Way Out in February 2000, thereby forcing Mick Foley to retire; Kurt Angle retaining the WWE Championship in a six-man Hell in a Cell, which once again featured the Undertaker throwing a man (Rikishi) off the top of the cell; Triple H hitting the Pedigree on Chris Jericho on top of the cell at the 2002 Judgment Day; and most recently Triple H using a sledgehammer to defeat Kevin Nash at last year's Bad Blood.

It all started back in October 1997 with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. The two had engaged in a series of matches, but every time it appeared that the two would finally get it on mano a mano either one of Michaels' cronies would interfere, or Michaels would run off. So, in order to ensure that they would be able to settle their differences once and for all, the Hell in a Cell was devised. As it turned out, even the cell was not enough to keep Kane from interfering in the match and attacking Undertaker. But in what surely must be classified as one of the most brutal and toughest matches in WWE history, the cell had made its mark as the toughest forum in which to test one's mettle.

"I was surprised at how tough Shawn Michaels was," recalls Undertaker. "He received one of the worst beatings of anyone I've ever seen. Hell in a Cell is geared for straight brutality and there is nothing orthodox about it. It's two or however many people are involved in it, and only one man leaves."

The match between Michaels and Undertaker received rave reviews, and eight and half months later, when Undertaker and Mick Foley were set to square off in the second Hell in a Cell, expectations were running high. In his book "Have a Nice Day!", Foley states that he was worried that this match could not possibly live up to the previous cell encounter between Undertaker and Michaels. He wanted to do something special, something the fans would appreciate. During a conversation with Terry Funk, he mentioned that he wanted to start the match on top of the cage. Certainly, the spectacle of these two warriors battling it out on top of the cell in front of a sold-out crowd in Pittsburgh would be something to behold. Still, no one could have foreseen what was to happen that evening.

Once the combatants made their way to the top of the cage, Foley unleashed a series of chair shots to the Undertaker and then proceeded to attempt to suplex him onto the chair. Somehow, the Deadman was able to shrug off the chair shots, and when Foley began to attempt to suplex him, he grabbed Foley, led him towards the edge of the cell and sent him hurtling 20 feet through the air and through the Spanish announce table. As Foley lay prone surrounded by what was once an announce table, Jim Ross could only yell, "With God as my witness, he's been broken in half!"

In a testament to his toughness and ability to withstand pain, Foley would somehow recover enough to continue on with the match. With the two once again battling it out on top of the cell, Undertaker managed to throw Foley through the cell and onto the ring, which Foley has described as even more painful than his first career-threatening fall. Later, Foley cover the ring with thousands of tacks, and by the end of the match, his body ? as well as Undertaker's ? were covered in them.

"In 25 years in the business," J.R. told the audience, "I have never witnessed anything even closely resembling this. These two gave you everything in their bodies ... This has been, perhaps, the most ungodly match that I think we will ever see."

This match cemented Undertaker and Foley's place in WWE history. It was unique in many respects, and the spectacle of the two fighting on top of the cell ushered in a new era. As Undertaker recalls, fighting on top of the cell is both exhilarating and dangerous.

"You're definitely the center of attention when you are on top of the cell, and it's a lot better to be standing on top looking down than to be on the bottom looking up, because that means you've probably been thrown off, or through it," he said. "I've been very fortunate in that I've been the thrower rather than the throwee. But, it's a tremendous rush because usually as soon as you put your hands on the cell and you begin your way up, the rumble in the arena grows. And the closer you get to the top, the louder it gets. When you finally get to the top, the fans are at a fever pitch because they know that something big is going to happen. And that's where I coined the phrase, 'I'll make you famous.'"

Kane, who had teamed with Mankind in a Hell in a Cell match against Undertaker and Steve Austin two weeks prior to King of the Ring, echoes Undertaker's views on the danger of being on top of the cell.

"As high as it looks on television, or when you're staring up at it, or when you are in the arena looking down on it, when you are up on top of it looking straight down, you realize how high above the ring you really are," he said. "And if you start thinking about what can happen when you are battling up there, the results are not going to be very good."

On August 24, 1998, Kane and Mankind would once again enter the cell, and although this match would not receive the accolades that the Undertaker-Mankind match did, the two brutalized each other. Six months later, Undertaker introduced Big Boss Man to the pleasures of the cell at WrestleMania XV, and one year after that, Triple H established himself as one of the toughest Superstars in WWE history by defeating Cactus Jack in an exceptionally brutal retirement cell match at No Way Out.

While the first six Hell in a Cells involved either two or four Superstars, the seventh, at Armageddon 2000, involved six - Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, The Rock, Rikishi, Triple H and Undertaker. This match turned out to be one for the ages, as all six competitors gave everything they had with Angle's championship at stake. Angle ended up winning, but not before Rikishi was tossed off the top of the cell by Undertaker and every Superstar had suffered more than a little pain.

Angle, who's no stranger to competition, had this to say about the match and competing inside the cell: "It's very overwhelming and intimidating. I was closed in the cage with five other guys, and it's very brutal. Anything goes. You're climbing cages, you're getting banged off the cell, you're getting thrown out of the ring. It can be a very frightening thing. I was climbing to the top of the cell, and I was so tired, I could hardly make it without falling off, and then I got up there and got whacked in the head with a chair. You know, in that aspect it can be pretty frightening."

As harrowing an experience as a Hell in a Cell can be, the moments before the match can be just as nerve-wracking for participants. "There something that overcomes you," says Undertaker. "You know that if you've been put in a Hell in a Cell match, you've been put there for a reason. It's kind of a deal where there is no other way to settle an issue than to go to the cell. The history of the cell goes through your mind.

"When I was preparing for my match with Mankind, I kept remembering the match I had with Shawn Michaels -- the brutality and the beating. All these things rush through your mind because you don't want those things to happen to you. You have to realize that you have to lay it all on the line and also know that you have to protect your backside at the same time."

Kane, too, experienced a different kind of feeling before his Hell in a Cell matches. "This is not to say that other matches aren't, but this kind of match is so dangerous that it could be it at any moment when you are out there. It is brutal and violent and you are definitely aware of the danger."

Angle, too had a different feeling, but nothing could have prepared him for the actual experience.

"I wasn't used to anything like that," he said. "Now, I'm used to combat, and I'm used to very physically grueling matches, but nothing to the extent that if I leave my feet I could end up 20 feet below. That is something that completely boggles your mind, and you don't know how dangerous it is until you are in there doing it. I don't think anyone can understand how terrifying it really is until you experience it. To be blunt, I won't be upset if I never have to be in another Hell in a Cell match again. I'm glad that it worked out for me. It's amazing how much we do for the fans, and I hope they appreciate what we do and the risks we take for them."

As far as the action inside in the cell, it too is different from an ordinary match and even a Cage Match. For Kane, the cell provides a more intimate atmosphere with his opponent, as strange as that may seem. For Undertaker, the cell becomes an adrenaline inducing structure because only the strong survive and it brings out the best or worst, depending on how you view things, in him. And as far as Angle is concerned, the ever-present danger forces one to be on one's toes at all times because anything can happen.

The Hell in a Cell has truly made its mark and has become special to fans and WWE Superstars alike. It is the ultimate test for the toughest of the tough and will forever be linked to the careers of Foley, Triple H and Undertaker. Undertaker has been in more of these matches than anyone else (six) and feels a special bond with the match.

"I think you pretty much have to link us (Hell in a Cell and Undertaker) together," he said. "I've been in more of these matches than anyone else, and I've been involved in most of the most memorable moments. The Hell in a Cell pretty much sums up what the Undertaker is all about when he is in the ring, and that's sheer brutality."

To date, 13 WWE Superstars have set foot inside the cell. In the future, we may see more, and they'll certainly prepare themselves as best they can. But as each cell survivor will tell you, there probably is no real way to prepare for this type of match. For their own well being, the best thing they can probably do is heed Kane's advice.

"I think the best advice I can give is to give unto others before they can give unto you," he said. "That's the best advice for the Hell in a Cell. Take care of business as quickly as you can."

On June 13, Shawn Michaels and Triple H will take care of business once and for all.

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