WWE Hell in a Cell 2011: The 5 Greatest Cage Beatdowns in Wrestling History
Last night at Hell in a Cell, the show closed with the latest twist on a classic wrestling angle: Heels ambushing fan favorites in a cage and keeping any help away. This time, it was the recently "fired" Miz and R-Truth attacking John Cena, CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio, referees and camera operators to declare war on WWE.
It's so simple, but it always works. Nothing gets fans riled up like their heroes trapped in a cage with their friends and colleagues unable to save them.
It always gets heat. Sometimes it leads to near or actual riots.
What happened last night was a well executed example of one of wrestling's great angles. Let's take a look at the five greatest implementations of this concept from the past.
No. 5: The Marietta Massacre
In WCW in 1989, the Road Warriors had been feuding with the Fabulous Freebirds (made up of Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Jimmy Garvin at this point in history), and it led up to a cage match in Marietta, Ga. Airing on the Power Hour on July 14, Gordy and Garvin were in the ring with Hayes at ringside.
As the Road Warriors went in for the kill, Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) and his Samoan Swat Team showed up at ringside. Along with Hayes, they grabbed outside referee Tommy Young, stole the key, entered the cage and locked it.
They then proceeded to beat down the Road Warriors like no men ever had before. Animal was handcuffed to the ropes as Hawk was ambushed by all of the heels.
If Animal made a move, he'd get nailed. Hawk was bloodied. When the heels were satisfied with the damage, they left.
Since The Midnight Express also had issues with the Freebirds and the Samoans, and Steve "Dr. Death" Williams had been Gordy's rival for years, we had a nice round number of two teams of five, and there was only one way to settle it:
Two rings. One cage. Submit or surrender. Wargames.
No. 4: Family Feud
In 1994, Owen Hart turned on his older brother Bret to prove himself, as he felt Bret was too selfish wanted him stuck in his shadow. They had a great feud with two very memorable pay-per view matches: Owen's shocking upset win in a technical classic at Wrestlemania X, and their cage match for Bret's WWF Championship at Summerslam.
The cage match is considered by many to be the best WWF escape rules cage match ever, full of great wrestling and dramatic near-escapes. The finish was very clever: Both brothers were climbing out the same side, Bret hit Owen, Owen got caught in the cage and was hung upside down and Bret dropped to the floor for the win.
Meanwhile, much of the Hart family was at ringside, including Bret and Owen's brothers in law Davey Boy Smith and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. As Bret's victory was announced by Howard Finkel, Neidhart hopped into the aisle, put the sneakiest possible look on his face and clotheslined both Davey and his wife Diana (Bret and Owen's sister) over the guardrail.
Owen and the Anvil grabbed Bret, threw him in the cage and locked it with a lock and chain that the latter had brought with him. They proceeded to beat up Bret as the other Hart brothers as well as Davey scaled the cage, only to be knocked down.
Eventually, Davey got the better of Owen and knocked him into the ring. Owen and Neidhart fled to the locker room as the other brothers finally got in the cage to tend to Bret.
Being the first time that this was done in the WWF and only the second time it was done on pay-per-view (the first saw the Four Horsemen beat up Lex Luger at WCW Capital Combat '90 when they commandeered the cage raising'lowering controls), along with the family aspect, made it a wild, memorable scene.
No. 3: Ric Flair Becomes the Embodiment of Evil
While he was a heel when traveling the country as NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Ric Flair was a beloved fan favorite in his home promotion of Jim Crockett Promotions in the Carolinas and Virginia during the first half of the '80s. In 1985, Crockett bought the TBS wrestling time slot from WWE and expanded Georgia, Ohio and Michigan, the areas that had been covered by Georgia Championship Wrestling.
At first, the two areas didn't share all of the same talent. In addition, Flair wasn't quite as virtuous on TBS. He wasn't a villain, but he wasn't as much of a fan favorite as he was in the Carolinas, either.
Still, he was essentially a good guy.
His big feud that year was with "The Russian Nightmare" Nikita Koloff. It led to a cage match at the Omni in Atlanta. Flair won, but was ambushed by Nikita and his uncle Ivan after the match.
Dusty Rhodes made the save and cleared the ring. As he went over to explain to Flair that he had come to help him, Flair's "cousins" Arn and Ole Anderson entered the cage and attacked Dusty. Flair proceeded to lock the cage and beat the hell out of Dusty.
Not only did they beat him up, but they were prepared to maim him. The Andersons held out Dusty's leg and Flair came off the top rope with a kneedrop to the ankle. That wasn't enough, so he put Dusty in the figure four leglock for a few minutes.
Eventually, Dusty's friends got in the cage and immediately tried to tend to him, but the Andersons and Flair attacked them as Dusty lied helpless in the middle of the ring. Eventually, they left the cage.
Dusty's friends sat at his side as he cried in pain. The ring crew had to remove one side of the cage and the ropes so he could be stretchered out.
Brilliance, but Dusty should've known better...
No. 2: "Where in the World Did Rich Come From? the Gate Is Still Locked!"
The winner of feud of the year in 1987's Wrestling Observer Newsletter year end awards was Jerry Lawler vs Austin Idol and Tommy Rich in the Memphis-based CWA territory. Boy, did they deserve it.
After disputes over who should be the No. 1 contender to Nick Bockwinkel, Idol and Rich joined forces to take down Lawler. It was a wild feud, one of the greatest in wrestling history.
Over the course of a few months:
- Idol ambushed Lawler before his shot at Bockwinkel. Lawler gutted it out and went to a one hour draw.
- Idol and Rich put Lawler on the shelf by dragging him crotch first into the ringpost (so he could take time off for a real life vasectomy reversal!).
- Lawler recruited former enemy Bam Bam Bigelow as his tag team partner, leading to a two ring "Double Jeopardy Match" that saw Idol using a board with a nail in it as a weapon and a Texas Death Match that Lawler and Bigelow won in the first fall by posting Rich crotch-first.
- Lawler joining forces with Bockwinkel after a decade of title challenges to try to fight off Rich and Idol.
- Rich and Idol joining forces with new manager Paul E. "Dangerly."
- Lawler defeating Idol for the Southern Heavyweight Title in a chain match in seconds by ambushing him with a small chain around his fist after strapping his side of the big chain to to the top rope, trapping Idol.
The last one set Idol off. He wanted a big all or nothing match with Lawler. In a match that was masterfully built up on television two days beforehand with a ton of interviews, the stipulations were settled on as follows:
- Lawler's title on the line.
- Hair vs hair, a type of match Lawler had never lost.
- It would take place in a cage.
- If Idol lost, he'd refund all of the fans' ticket money. Idol paid into an escrow account to satisfy the promoters.
Lawler and Idol had an incredible match, the best of Idol's career. It took place in what was essentially Hell in a Cell without the roof (the first time such a cage was used in Memphis...hmm...).
Lawler had the match won, but the referee had been knocked down and couldn't count. Suddenly, Tommy Rich materialized in the ring and ambushed him. He had been hiding under the ring all day.
Idol and Rich hit Lawler with two piledrivers, posted him again, woke the referee up and Idol got the pin. He won the title and Lawler's hair; plus, he kept his money.
The fans crowded the cage as Idol, Rich, and Dangerly helped the barber shave Lawler's head. Some fans tried to scale the cage to get into the ring and attack the heels, who were staying inside for their own protection as it was clear that the situation was getting tense.
Of course, they still riled up the fans by grabbing the house microphone and proclaiming themselves the new kings of Memphis.
Eventually, police showed up at the cage door and escorted the heels to the back as they ran to avoid the wrath of the fans. Backstage, they cut a great promo about what they had just done.
The whole match and angle must be seen to be believed, so seek it out (in multiple parts) on YouTube. This shorter version is great, but the whole thing is amazing.
No. 1: Ole Anderson Waits for His Spot
In 1980, Ole Anderson had been a fan favorite for the past year, but he had been a hated villain before that, and his most heated rival was Dusty Rhodes. They came to a detente and got along as best they could.
Eventually, Dusty got into a feud with The Assassins, and he was having trouble. He went to Anderson and asked if they could team up. Anderson agreed, and the match was set: Ole and Dusty would take on The Assassins in a cage match.
Each team got to pick a special referee: The Assassins picked Ole's former partner Ivan Koloff, and Ole picked his brother, Gene Anderson.
Late in the match, Koloff got involved in the action and started helping The Assassins triple team Dusty. He was able to break out of the pack with a series of his patented "bionic elbows" and tagged in Ole.
Can you see where this is going?
Ole comes in a house of fire...and attacks Dusty. Gene, Koloff and The Assassins join in. It's five on one in the cage.
Soon, the locker room empties to try to get into the cage, but The Assassins fight them off. Ole and Gene's do-gooder brother Lars eventually gets the door open and enters the cage to try to pull Dusty to safety, but he gets beat down for his troubles.
Finally, the wrestlers at ringside pull Dusty out the door, with the heels putting the boots to him the whole time. It goes without saying that the fans in attendance are going nuts throughout.
The following Saturday on Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS, Ole Anderson cut one of the greatest promos in wrestling history.
He explained how he had been plotting for a year to get Dusty into a situation where he could be ambushed so badly and how it sickened him to pretend to be good guy. He also narrated the footage of everything that went down.
Words can't describe how great it is, so just watch the video.
This set the standard, and it's unlikely that it will ever be topped.