Far more than earning a winning record at Hell in a Cell is at stake for Randy Orton.
When he faces Daniel Bryan in what will be his fifth time to enter the cell, he has a chance to make up for a number of mediocre bouts and remind fans what Hell in a Cell is intended for.
When fans think of the greatest matches that have occurred in "Satan's Structure," a number of names come to mind before Orton's. Undertaker, Mick Foley and Triple H have left a bigger mark on the match's history.
In four tries, Orton has composed just one Hell in a Cell masterpiece, and from that point on, he has neared greatness on occasion, but has stopped just short of it.
Looking back on his Hell in a Cell resume, it's clear that Orton gave maximum effort at every turn. He was clearly willing to put his body at risk, suffering a number of painful moves and weaponry.
Combine that with his superb in-ring ability and it would seem a guarantee that more classics would be born inside the enclosed steel cage.
Why hasn't Orton been able to recapture the magic of his clash with Undertaker in 2005? Why has each outing inside the cell resulted in a lower star rating than the previous one?
Orton's history inside the Hell in a Cell is a microcosm of the history of the structure itself.
|Opponent||Event||Result||Dave Meltzer Rating|
|Undertaker||Armageddon 2005||Undertaker wins by pinfall.||3.75 (out of 5)|
|John Cena||Hell in a Cell 2009||Orton wins by pinfall.||3.5|
|Sheamus||Hell in a Cell 2010||Orton wins by pinfall.||3.25|
|Mark Henry||Hell in a Cell 2011||Henry wins by pinfall.||2.5|
It's no coincidence that the highest-rated match here preceded the PG Era. While WWE has given fans a surplus of entertaining matches post-2008, much of the viciousness and elevated violence expected inside the Hell in a Cell has been wiped away by WWE's PG rating.
Dec. 18, 2005
Undertaker and Orton had the freedom of barbarity on their side at Armageddon 2005.
Of Orton's four Hell in a Cell bouts, this was the most intense. It felt more like we were watching two caged animals fighting in a maddened state than two wrestlers competing.
Orton's forehead bore the stain of his own blood. Undertaker grated Orton's head against the cell's wall and Orton's father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton reached through the cage to grab at Undertaker, only to find himself blinded by blood.
Maybe even more important than the crimson paint of the two artists was the scheduling of the match.
Hell in a Cell was once a battleground to end a long rivalry. It was a means to bottle up two foes' hatred one last time as their feud culminated in violent, decisive fashion.
In the case of Orton and Undertaker, their rivalry began eight months before they collided in the cage.
Orton failed to end Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania. It took months to build to the moment where Undertaker tombstoned both Orton and his father in the Hell in a Cell. "The Viper" and The Undertaker battled at that year's SummerSlam and No Mercy, as well as locking horns post-match at Survivor Series.
There was a sense of completion and resolution when this match ended, which helped make it feel more special.
By 2009, Hell in a Cell was also a pay-per-view and the event forced the hands of the creative team, to rush rivals into a structure not fitting for their story.
Oct. 4, 2009
In 2005, there were two Hell in a Cell matches, six months apart. 2009 featured three Hell in a Cell matches in a single night.
While Undertaker and Orton had about eight months to churn up the animosity between rivals, Cena and Orton went into their 2009 match with a rivalry that spanned about three months.
Orton won the WWE Championship from Cena at Night of Champions in 2009. The two fought at Breaking Point and SummerSlam, leading to their Hell in a Cell clash.
The WWE title offered high stakes, and the rivalry had gone one for a decent amount of time up to that point and Orton was on fire that night.
Delighting in his violence, Orton embodied this predatory gimmick in his body language throughout the match.
He choked Cena in the ropes, stomped on him with a grin across his face and finished him off with the move he saves for special occasions, the punt. He and Cena put on a great performance, but aside from a few forced collisions with the cage walls, this didn't feel like a Hell in a Cell match.
Aside from the setting, this was no different from a No Disqualification match. Orton vs. Undertaker tore at the audience's gut. It was so vicious that looking away was not an option.
As good as Cena vs. Orton was four years later, the expectations that accompany the Hell in a Cell didn't match up with what happened in the ring. That felt even more true when Orton entered the cell the very next year.
Oct. 3, 2010
Orton's match against Sheamus seemed more about the ring steps than the cage that towered over the men inside it.
The Hell in a Cell became almost a subtle backdrop to the reined-in violence the audience witnessed. Sheamus suplexed Orton onto the steel ring steps, Orton power-slammed Sheamus onto them late and the match ended with an RKO that saw Sheamus' face greet the steps with an unwilling kiss.
The cell was hardly at play. Sheamus rubbed Orton's head against the cage, but not nearly as barbarically as Undertaker had half-a-decade earlier.
It was a good match, one that was the best of the night. Everything that makes the Hell in a Cell unique was absent from this showdown, though.
Call it "Hell in a Cell light."
There was minimal violence outside the standard kicks and slams of a wrestling match. The feud was nowhere near as volatile as one would expect for this kind of match either.
Sheamus and Orton had been feuding since that year's SummerSlam, but compared to Orton's biggest rivalries, this lacked animosity. The pay-pay-view schedule diverted Sheamus and Orton's feud into the Hell in a Cell far too early.
Oct. 2, 2011
If any rivalry of 2011 deserved and demanded a Hell in a Cell match, it was Orton vs. Christian. Spit, low blows and bent steel chairs were the hallmarks of that feud; Orton and Henry in comparison, hardly knew each other.
Henry beat Orton for the world title at Night of Champions, less than a month before this rematch inside the steel.
Orton did his best to make this a heart-pounding experience. He hung onto the cage and kicked at Henry below him. He took Henry's best blows, including a slam on the outside of the ring. It was a well-worked brawl that included Henry kicking out of the RKO and Orton missing a punt attempt.
It lacked fire, though.
Both men were not only handicapped by the PG-Era limits of violence, but by a violent climax appearing too early in the story. The result was an uninspired, forgettable match that ranks nowhere near where Orton vs. Undertaker does on the all-time list.
Oct. 27, 2013
Orton and Bryan won't get the benefit of a time machine, taking themselves back to a time where blood, barbed wire, fire and thumbtacks were all available options to tell a story.
They do, though, benefit from their battle coming at a perfect time in their rivalry.
Orton has been Bryan's tormentor over the past few months, swooping in on him when he's down to sneak in a final blow. He has stolen away Bryan WWE's title via the Money in the Bank contract and threatened Bryan's fiancee.
This is a feud that goes back to the tail end of Team Hell No, when Bryan was on a mission to prove that he was not the team's weak link.
The hatred has increased over time and it now drips from every pore on both men's body. Orton faces a man who he has excellent chemistry with and who has developed a reputation for churning out great matches.
Win or lose, Orton can force his way into the discussion of Hell in a Cell's greatest bouts.
There is a natural climax awaiting these two foes, an explosive rivalry reaching the end of its wick just as it's time to enter "Satan's Structure." Orton looks to affect us against Bryan in the same unsettling way he did against Undertaker, without a drop of blood to aid him.