WWE Payback: Three Stages of Hell Match Good, Lumberjack Match Bad

Adrian FylonenkoFeatured ColumnistMay 29, 2013


Last week on Monday Night Raw, John Cena made a bold decision and challenged Ryback to a “Three Stages of Hell” match at the upcoming WWE pay-per-view, Payback.

While the second and third stages have the potential to be exciting and unpredictable, the first doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yes, I’m talking about the Lumberjack match.

“Three Stages of Hell” has a history of being violent and barbaric, but it’s a safe assumption that a Lumberjack match doesn’t have fans waiting anxiously in anticipation.

As of right now, Cena and Ryback will start off with a Lumberjack match followed by a Tables match and if necessary, the third stage will require one of those Superstars to throw their opponent into an ambulance and shut the doors.

But let’s be logical: every single wrestling fan knows that the main event of Payback will come down to an Ambulance match.

Out of the “Three Stages of Hell” matches, all three of them have required all three stages. It just wouldn’t be good booking if the WWE allowed a Superstar to win this kind of match 2-0.

The very first “Three Stages of Hell” match took place at the 2001 No Way Out PPV and showcased Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H. The two WWE legends were in the middle of a heated rivalry that was highlighted with gallons of blood. The three stages featured a traditional singles match followed by a street fight and ended inside an unforgiving steel cage.

While a traditional singles match may not be ‘hardcore,’ it symbolizes who the best pure wrestler is out of two men. A Lumberjack match will not determine if John Cena or Ryback is the better wrestler, considering most of these matches end with every single Superstar inside the ring after some sort of altercation. Look for Ryback to somehow rile up the Superstars on the outside of the ring sometime during the match.

At No Way Out, after Steve Austin picked up the first fall, he and Triple H immediately engaged in a street fight. With a street fight, virtually anything is possible and Triple H took advantage of the stipulation and was able to get the second pinfall.

As the steel cage was lowering, both Superstars were determined to win the very first “Three Stages of Hell” match in WWE history. Bloodied and worn down, Austin, with a barbed-wire-wrapped 2x4 and Triple H, with his famous sledgehammer, smacked each other in the head at the same time.

As they fell to the mat, Triple H landed on top of Austin and the ref counted to three. It was a perfect way to end the epic match since it looked like Triple H had no idea what happened. Both men left No Way Out 2001 still looking strong.

The second “Three Stages of Hell” match took place at the 2002 Armageddon PPV. The WWE Universe witnessed Triple H put the World Heavyweight Title on the line against his longtime friend and bitter rival Shawn Michaels. The three stages featured a street fight followed by a Steel Cage match and ended with a Ladder match. 

All three of those gimmick matches had fans on the edge of their seats in excitement. Triple H picked up the first fall while while Shawn Michaels won the second. In the end, Triple H got the final win in the Ladder match. Once again, both Superstars were busted open early on and were fatigued beyond belief. The match lasted just under 40 minutes.

The third “Three Stages of Hell” match took place at The Bash 2009 PPV. In his third ‘stages’ match, Triple H went one-on-one with the Apex Predator Randy Orton, who was defending the WWE Championship. The three stages consisted of a traditional singles match followed by a Falls Count Anywhere match and ended with the ever popular Stretcher match.

Orton won the first fall due to Triple H being disqualified after using a steel chair. Triple H mounted a comeback and won the second stage, which again was a Falls Count Anywhere match. Just as Triple H looked like he was going to go 3-0 in “Three Stages of Hell” matches, Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase, who were members of Legacy, distracted The Game, which allowed Orton to reign victorious in the Stretcher match and retain the WWE Title.

On June 16 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, John Cena will defend the WWE Championship in the fourth-ever “Three Stages of Hell” match. A tables and ambulance match fits the “Three Stages of Hell” criteria, but a Lumberjack match does not. As in the past, a traditional singles match is a good way to start this type of match and would have been a better choice than a Lumberjack match.

Hell, anything would be better than a Lumberjack match. A ladder, steel cage or Falls Count Anywhere match is exceptionally more exciting.

Nonetheless, I expect John Cena and Ryback to steal the show at the first-ever WWE Payback PPV. Hopefully the Lumberjack stipulation will take nothing away from the match itself and both Cena and Ryback can deliver an instant classic.


How do you feel about the Lumberjack match? If you had the choice to pick the three stages in a "Three Stages of Hell" match, which would you pick? Vote in the poll and leave a comment below.

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