The match that inspired Hell in a Cell: Tommy Rich, Buzz Sawyer and The Last Battle of Atlanta

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October 26, 2014

The Last Battle of Atlanta has become ingrained in wrestling history as an all-out war. Those who were lucky enough to witness Rich and Sawyer’s final battle wax poetic about the sheer brutality that the two combatants dealt to each other that night. Unfortunately, there is no way of proving their tales true. Very little, if any, video footage of The Last Battle of Atlanta exists. No one knows what happened to it. There are rumors that a Georgia Championship Wrestling official may have erased the footage by mistake. Every now and then, rumors pop up online of a mysterious tape trader who got hold of the footage, but nothing ever comes of it. All we have that confirms the match took place are a few photographs. Otherwise, one of the most brutal bouts in wrestling history is lost in time. Still, the influence of The Last Battle of Atlanta can be felt today in one of WWE’s trademark matches.

STRIKER: The match is steeped in lore, because really, very limited footage exists. No one knows who to blame for that.

ELLERING: There wasn’t a camera at ringside, but they always had one going. They’d tape matches and play parts of them the next week on television. Whether they ran out of tape or something else happened, I don’t know.

STRIKER: In this day and age, you can Google and YouTube or go to for every match that’s ever happened. One of the few that you can’t is The Last Battle of Atlanta.

ELLERING: I think The Last Battle of Atlanta should be remembered in the context of time. It opened doors for everything that transpired through the rest of the 1980s.

STRIKER: From a historical point of view, the concept of Hell in a Cell probably wouldn’t have been imagined had it not been for the structure that was in The Last Battle of Atlanta.

MICHAELS (from “WWE From the Vault: Shawn Michaels”): Undertaker and I had done a Lumberjack Match the month before [the first Hell in a Cell Match]. The next logical step is a cage. I can remember saying, “We’ve done cage matches.” We had that big blue steel cage that was brutal. It hurt so bad. It was tight up against the ring. I remembered years ago, Buzz Sawyer and Tommy Rich in The Omni, they had a top on the cage. I remember suggesting that. I had no idea the cage itself would turn into what it turned into.

RICH: It gives me goosebumps now. I was lucky to get in wrestling. For guys today, 30 years later to remember that, that’s a blessing.

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