WWE Hell in a Cell: Where savagery meets serenity
"The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire." - Chinese Proverb
There's no stronger steel and hotter flame in the WWE than the Hell in the Cell. Even in its current watered-down version, the grandiose metal cage provides the opportunity for superstars to enter and leave as changed individuals.
More importantly, whether in kayfabe or reality the competitors will form a blood bond unexplainable, that defies the very notion of a heated rivalry and begrudging respect. WWE likes to play up the idea that the cell is only used when two or more competitors have hatred between them such, that it can only be contained in the fiery depths of this demonic structure.
This is true even when the Hell in a Cell has become an insipid annual fixture, forcing storied rivalries into culmination (then unfortunately beyond it, for no rhyme or reason).
A cell is also a place where regardless of circumstance or events, the competitors naturally form a bond of respect. Sometimes, sometimes not.
But why is this?
Because whether each one wants to admit it or not, to go through such a horrifying event and make it out the other end takes some form of courage, strength and pretty much every other virtue/emotion including of course hate.
Hell in a Cell is a powerful ritual in and out of the ring, on televised TV and backstage where the cameras are off. Just look at WrestleMania 28's Hell in a Cell End of Era (not really) match or last year's exhilarating tag team bout between The New Day and The Usos.
In the former case, two men and a friend went into a long drawn saga four years in the making and tore the house down, thus resulting in a final salvo (until next month) for both men and a respectful acknowledgment of what they had done for the business.
The latter meanwhile got together two of this generation's greatest tag teams in the WWE PPV bout of the year. Usos and New Day provided a vicious exclamation to their heated rivalry, bringing out the best in both teams. Yet at the end of it, they managed to find space in their hearts to acknowledge each member of the opposite team as a respected warrior.
Yet rivalries persist and even when the individuals or teams can't get along with one another after the event, they can definitely come to terms with respect out of the camera glare or at least find it from within the WWE Universe.
For all the talk of Batista main eventing WrestleMania 21, he was a truly made man only after the night of Vengeance 2005, facing off against his diabolical former faction leader HHH, a man no stranger to the cell and in fact unbeaten in it (at that point in time).
Batista blistered through for a third victory over his mentor, in a hellacious (pun intended) title match. Since then neither one has had a one on one contest, especially proving that HHH knew to keep his distance as a sign of respect for the man he once saw only as a stooge.
Or think of the first Women's Hell in a Cell match. Sure Sasha Banks and Charlotte's rivalry got unnecessarily stretched out after what should have been a feud-ending match. Yet the two women celebrated as revolutionaries before and proved it after as fans gave a thumbs up to their main event contest.
Shane McMahon known for his death-defying stunts returned in 2016, a half a decade later and a half a decade older. Even then he didn't hesitate once to leap off the 20-foot high cage to near death to take out The Undertaker. The outcome? Deadman declares Shane McMahon one hell of a fighter.
Shane would pull off the same feat a year later against Kevin Owens. Even though that didn't really put their differences aside. An apathetic fan base towards Shane McMahon and his increasing screen time in the WWE had to salvage a modicum of that respect for him.
Not to mention a hearty Sami Zayn coming to forever rival Owens' aid, a touch of acknowledgment that the man would go to fight for his beliefs regardless of their issues.
When we come to older matches in the Hell in a Cell structure, one can't help but think of Mick Foley. His involvement as guest referee in this Sunday's Hell in a Cell main event is a sign of his connection to the stipulation much like HHH and Undertaker.
The man took two falls from the cell to the floor and a drop down from the cage into the ring, to pull off a horrifying but stunning show against The Undertaker. The long-lasting imagery would become the catalyst for Foley's rise through the ranks.
In similar fashion, the maniacal Foley would put over HHH in the very same structure years later, on the road to WrestleMania. Their battles especially the furious Cell match are what it took to put over the Game as the biggest heel in the business and since then there's no looking back.
As a tool to bring finality to a rivalry, Hell in a Cell is perfection. It puts two competitors or more in a brutal structure and makes them feel pain unheard of. They come out completely changed but whether they admit it publicly or privately, or whether the fans are privy to it, these individuals find unbelievable respect.
While just starting out, both the Braun Stroman-Roman Reigns and Jeff Hardy-Randy Orton feuds have a lot of savage history to unpack in the cell. There's doubt whether any of them will really bring a finality to their rivalries or even make them find begrudging acknowledgment of one another.
Yet one can expect the newfound savagery of Orton to find takers, for Jeff's inevitable death-defying stunt in his first Hell in a Cell match to wow fans over, and for Braun Strowman's madness to bring loud cheers. As for Roman Reigns? Poor guy will never catch a break.
Either way, it will be a fiery event to behold this Sunday.