Advice for WWE Creative: How to Make Hell in a Cell Matter Again
Hell in a Cell 2021 is coming this Sunday, but it doesn't feel like the WWE Universe is on fire for the pay-per-view, does it? In fact, you could say things are lukewarm at best right now.
That's not just due to the match card, though; it's also down to the Hell in a Cell gimmick as a whole. It's been far too many years since the steel structure felt like it was a big deal.
Instead of the brutal match that ended blood feuds once and for all, it's been watered down to become just another generic gimmick that fans have seen many times before.
However, HIAC is not beyond saving. Let's take a look at how WWE can fix the problem and make this event a major attraction once again.
Addressing the Problems
Since the first step toward a solution is always to examine what's broken, what went wrong with Hell in a Cell in the first place? How did WWE Creative drop the ball with arguably its most exciting stipulation?
If you were around to see its debut, you were likely mesmerized by it. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had an amazing match that culminated with Kane's first appearance—one of the greatest debuts in wrestling—to set the bar. Then, The Phenom tossed Mankind off the top of the cage and into legendary territory.
These days, it's just another cage. The mystique is gone.
So, how does WWE Creative get that aura back? Let's have a look.
Stop the Annual Pay-Per-View
It used to be that when a Superstar issued the challenge for a Hell in a Cell match, it would elicit goosebumps for fans. Over the past decade, though, we keep hearing first about it coming up by the commentary team.
Michael Cole or someone else at the announce table will tell us the PPV is coming our way, but it's done with as much intensity as a promotion for a candy bar.
Making HIAC a recurring show has been the biggest killer of the gimmick.
To date, there have been 45 Hell in a Cell matches. By the end of Sunday, there will have been more in the past five years than the first 10.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. If WWE wants fans to care about Hell in a Cell again, it needs to be dropped from the schedule for a while.
Feuds Drive Hell in a Cell, Not the Other Way Around
Hell in a Cell was created purely so The Undertaker could stop Shawn Michaels from having outside interference while allowing for a greater flexibility of punishment than a normal cage match.
Their feud had progressed to a point where nothing else could hold them and their animosity.
The same went for Mick Foley's program with The Deadman. They had battled in a Boiler Room Brawl, a Buried Alive match and more. This was a blood feud like had never been seen before.
These days, one of the problems with HIAC is that the storylines rarely have any of that vigor. Roman Reigns could have fought Jey Uso in a regular "I Quit" match last year without the cage around it. Randy Orton and Drew McIntyre also met inside the structure, but nobody will remember that as an epic rivalry.
Hell in a Cell should be reserved for serious feuds that have earned it, just the same as how kicking out of someone's finisher at WrestleMania means more if it hasn't been done in every other match and PPV leading up to that point.
Quality over quantity. The storyline alone should be the reason why Hell in a Cell is brought back.
Bring Back a Sense of Finality
When feuds are worthy of the Hell in a Cell stipulation, WWE Creative has to follow suit with living up to its previous history. If this is the match that ends a rivalry, it needs to end the rivalry.
HIAC has to become the final stop in a feud, as it was for Undertaker's feuds with Edge and Triple H. Restoring that perception means fans know they're in for the last big effort to end things with a bang.
WWE Creative and the wrestlers should only end intense rivalries with an enthralling match inside the structure.
Unleash Hell, Not Heck
Hell in a Cell used to be described as a "career-ender."
WWE still tries to market it as such, but they are empty words. There hasn't been a truly brutal Hell in a Cell match for years.
Naturally, nobody should take the same risks Mick Foley did at King of the Ring in 1998, but HIAC earned its reputation by being a bloody and brutal contest. If it's just going to be a regular cage match with only red chain-link fencing around the apron making it different, how is it any more exciting?
Hell in a Cell has lost its edge and until it finds it again, it'll just be a Street Fight that just happens to have a cage obstructing the audience's view.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.