In Your House 18: Badd Blood

Hell in a Cell

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

The fans in St. Louis hate Shawn Michaels, but fully expect Undertaker to eat him alive here. Michaels had recently gone full-on heel with the formation of DX alongside Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Chyna and Rick Rude, so he could now be as obnoxious on screen as he was in real life at the time, without having to worry about getting cheered. For the first five or ten minutes solid, the crowd gets exactly what they want, with Undertaker methodically and deliberately (though not slowly) picking him apart with immense focus. Michaels demonstrates some of the selling abilities that have resulted in him being regarded as one of the greatest performers of all time, as he flings himself all over the ring and then on the outside. Shawn takes some meaty bumps considering how early into the match it is, including a number of shots into the cage and a couple of thudding ones on the outside. After the plethora of heel victories this evening, this is exactly the tonic that the crowd needed to wash down the bitter taste. The feeling of this being something special becomes more palpable as we get deeper into the contest, and further intensifies when they start upping the ante with the bumps. It is not all one way traffic anymore, with Michaels desperately turning to the ring steps, which he smashes over Taker’s back, before drilling him with a piledriver on the stairs. Michaels’ only hope against Taker is to use weaponry, and he adds a chair to his arsenal next, cracking Taker over the back with it. It is the only way he can realistically compete with the Dead Man and it is a wonderfully told story. A couple of charges from Shawn end badly, the first seeing him eat a boot and the second results in him being backdropped over the ropes and into an unfortunate cameraman. Michaels plays off the perception (and reality) that he sometimes loses his cool in matches, and in a nod to the internet he beats the shit out of the cameraman in a similar fashion to when he stomped Vader and told him to “move” at SummerSlam ’96. The cameraman needs medical attention so the door is opened, just as Michaels hits Sweet Chin Music and Taker sits right back up in a brilliantly timed spot. Clearly thinking “fuck this”, Shawn bails out of the door, but Taker follows and slingshots Shawn into the cage, busting him wide open. This is Shawn’s famous mid-air bladejob, which may be the finest I have ever seen. It takes some balls to do it while flying through the air, that’s for sure. Shawn juices a gusher and the intensity grows as Taker sends him into the cage some more. Desperate, Shawn goes low and seeks solace on top of the cage. Shawn was known for making poor choices, and this is another one of them. Taker follows him up and bounces him around some more, as the cage buckles under their collective weight. Shawn bleeds onto the camera from on top of the cage as the gore factor increases, and then he takes the bump of the match as Taker stamps on his hands while he is dangling off the side of the Cell, which sends Shawn crashing through the announce table. “Incoming!” yelps Lawler as he takes the bump, in a much replayed call. When Lawler puts over spots in the match, he is a much better announcer than when he is excitedly squealing “puppies” or making schoolyard level jokes. Michaels is a beaten and bloody mess as Taker throws him into the French announce desk, and he looks like he has had front row seats to a massacre. Taker has this wrapped up, even more so when he returns to the ring and delivers a Super Chokeslam and belts Shawn with a vicious chair shot to the head, in retribution for Michaels costing him the WWF Championship at SummerSlam in the exact same way. Taker signals for the Tombstone, but the lights go out and the creepy strains of Kane’s music hit, and he marches down the aisle and rips off the door of the Cell. The crowd react big for the first appearance of Taker’s storyline younger sibling, and go nuts when he takes out the referee and hits the Tombstone on his “brother”. With his last bit of energy in the world, Michaels drapes a hand over Taker and the ref revives to count the three and end one of the all-time great matches in WWF history. Without question it is the best cage match of all time, including all future Hell in a Cell matches and definitely the blue bar cage affairs. For me, this is how a cage match should be; two guys who hate each other beating the hell out of one another, with plenty of blood and violence along the way. Taker absolutely played his part, but the match belongs to Shawn Michaels, who put on an unmatchable display of bumping, selling and timing. If ever any proof was needed that he is the greatest in-ring performer of all time, this was it.

Final Rating: *****

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