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In its short history, the WWE Hell in a Cell pay-per-view has seen its share of championship matches that compelled fans to slide to the front of their chairs with wide eyes.
The event kicked off in 2009, celebrating the Hell in a Cell match with two titles bouts inside that steel enclosure. Memorable battles for the WWE Championship, the United States title and the tag team belts have since followed.
Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins composed one of the PPV’s best title bouts to date. The Shield, Daniel Bryan and others made their mark on the event as well.
This time around, The New Day vs. The Usos will clash over the SmackDown Tag Team Championships inside The Devil’s Playground. That contest promises to be a stunner. The two teams have been tremendous against each other.
But will they outdo Owens vs. Rollins or Bryan’s best Hell in a Cell performances? We only have to wait until Oct. 8 to find out.
Until then, let’s dive into the Hell in a Cell PPV’s best championship matches with a look at action, stories, big moments, chemistry and build.
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- John Cena vs. Randy Orton: 2009 (WWE Championship)
- CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio: 2011 (WWE Championship)
Cena and Orton’s long rivalry brought them into The Devil’s Playground in 2009.
As usual, they had good chemistry. They engaged with back-and-forth offense. Orton, in the midst of his unhinged predator phase, excelled here.
But even with the chair shots involved, this WWE Championship contest was not nearly as brutal as one would expect for a Hell in a Cell match. It disappointed from that standpoint.
Punk, Cena and Del Rio met in the steel structure two years later with the same prize on the line.
The rivals bent steel chairs and smashed each other against the Hell in a Cell. Near-falls aplenty amped up the bout. Ricardo Rodriguez arming Del Rio with a steel pipe and an attack from The Awesome Truth after the bell made for two memorable moments.
Still, the Hell in a Cell PPV has seen more dramatic and electric fare in and out of the steel.
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During Bryan’s long battle with The Authority, he and Orton clashed over the vacant WWE Championship, a title Triple H unjustly stripped from the bearded babyface.
The ending punched Bryan’s fans in the stomach, but there was plenty of compelling theater that led up to that moment.
Shawn Michaels served as the guest referee. His history with Bryan and long relationship with Triple H added suspense to the story, as everyone knew The Heartbreak Kid would figure into the outcome.
The intensity between the foes, Bryan’s fire and good use of the Hell in a Cell surroundings made for an entertaining showdown. Orton nailing his enemy with a superplex on to a pile of chairs was a sight to behold.
The chaotic climax saw Triple H take a knee to the face and the hero fail again. That made Bryan’s WrestleMania XXX title win six months later that much more momentous but undercut the power of this bout.
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In one of WWE’s best narratives in years, Cody Rhodes and Goldust joined forces to fight for their family’s honor and to keep their jobs. After winning the Tag Team Championships on Raw, the brothers looked to fend off The Shield and The Usos at the Hell in a Cell PPV.
The three-way collision had sparks to spare.
The duos all jelled. The match flowed well. And it built beautifully to a whirlwind climax.
Goldust found himself on his own as The Shield overwhelmed him in its corner and smartly knocked aside everyone else to keep the veteran in the ring. Rhodes hit a stunning superplex to the outside on to everyone. The Usos injected the action with great energy.
Even without the benefit of the Hell in a Cell environment, the tag teams managed to steal the show.
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The hatred between Owens and Rollins soaked into the mat last year.
Their Hell in a Cell match was an engaging, hard-hitting battle that often made use of its dangerous environment. The rivals smashed each other into the cell walls. Owens went crashing through a table. And there was a general nastiness to each man’s offense that played up their animosity.
Chris Jericho inserted himself into the fray to help his buddy, KO.
His intrusion made Owens look like even more of a heel with a loose moral code. But it also took away from the ending to a degree. The match didn’t offer the definitive, emphatic conclusion this rivalry needed.
That allows two other title bouts to move past it on this list, including one that happened later that same night.
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A severely underrated match at Hell in a Cell featured Bryan, John Morrison and The Miz looking to tear each other’s joints apart in pursuit of the United States Championship.
The submissions count anywhere bout combined the rivalry between Miz and the talent he was charged with mentoring in NXT (Bryan) with Miz and Morrison’s allies-turned-enemies story. The result was an intense showdown filled with strong technical wrestling.
The moments piled on to each other as the match went on.
Morrison leaped off a metal structure high above the entrance ramp. The Miz bent Morrison’s back against a railing in the stands. And Alex Riley made a surprise appearance as he looked to save The Miz’s hide.
It all added up to a thriller of an undercard bout, one that showed off just how great Bryan was going to be. Only a historic match brimming with emotion topped it.
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Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair dug their claws into each other in a historic main event at Hell in a Cell in 2016.
The Raw Women’s Championship match was the first time women ever headlined a WWE PPV, and they were also the first women to clash inside the Hell in a Cell. That contributed to the buzz around the bout, but it was the warriors inside the steel who made it a work of theater.
In an homage to Mankind and Undertaker’s famous 1998 Hell in a Cell match, Flair powerbombed Banks through a table. As the medical staff tried to stretcher The Boss to the back, though, she tore off her neck brace and begin to hit Flair with haymakers.
Their brawling created a crackling energy.
The Queen suplexed Banks on to a chair. The rivals left a table splintered in their wake.
But beyond the action, the champion and challenger’s emotions made this match special. The fire from Banks and Flair made the women’s title feel like a matter of life and death. They poured themselves into this match.
The table’s failure to break at the end actually played up the danger of the match, as Banks hung atop the wood like some bug smashed against a wall.
Banks and Flair killed it that night. They were clearly not intent on being the first; they made sure they were the best.