At Hell's gate
This Sunday at Unforgiven, D-Generation X will encounter the McMahons and ECW World Champion Big Show in one of the most feared structures in all of sports-entertainment: Hell in a Cell.
Notorious for shortening careers, the Hell in a Cell Match has delivered some of the most atrocious images in WWE history. It was in the very first match of its kind in 1997 when Shawn Michaels waged war with Undertaker in the dreaded Cell. Since then, both HBK and fellow degenerate Triple H have competed in a combined seven Hell in a Cell matches.
WWE.com spoke to several Superstars and others who have first-hand experience with the deadly apparatus, and they offered insight on the potential outcome of Sunday's assuredly violent contest.
One individual with ample Hell in a Cell familiarity -- including one Cell encounter with Triple H -- is Mick Foley. A veritable Hardcore Legend, Foley has experienced pain in all of its many forms and considers the Hell in a Cell Match one of the vilest structures he's ever endured.
"The Hell in a Cell Match at Unforgiven has the potential to be among the best Hell in a Cell Matches ever," Foley said. "And I think the deal breaker there -- or the intangible -- is Shane McMahon. Shane is absolutely fearless and I think in the back of his mind, he'd like to live up to the legacy of Hell in a Cell. There's no telling what he might do."
An innovator of hardcore, Foley believes DX may be in for a long night in front of a sold-out Toronto crowd when they are faced with both a size and number disadvantage.
"There's no substitute for experience and Triple H has been very successful in the Cell, but I'm looking to see Big Show put on a great display of strength, utilizing the Cell in ways that other people have not yet done."
Kane, who held the World Tag Team Championship with Big Show in 2005, also believes the massive Extremist may be the most formidable, truly unstoppable force in the match this Sunday.
"You have to use the Cell to your advantage," said the Big Red Machine. "You're in an enclosed area…no one can get in or out of the Cell, and depending on your point of view, that's either a good thing or a really bad thing. Sunday's match is to [Big Show's] advantage because the Cell somewhat negates people's quickness and their ability to stay away from him. You have to bring the match to [the ECW World Champion], and being as big and as dominant as he's been lately, that's really not good for DX."
A monster capable of unspeakable evil, Kane has competed in the Cell before as well and is privy to the horrors that exist within its walls.
"Hell in a Cell doesn't have any forgiveness," stated a grave Kane, "that's part of the mystique about the match. The physical scars, they heal…but the mental scars sometimes don't."
One-half of DX, the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, told WWE.com that he is not intimidated by ECW World Champion Big Show.
"Obviously, I'd prefer not to get tossed around by Big Show too much," said Michaels, "but that's definitely not going to happen on Sunday. There haven't been many beatings that I haven't been able to take. Come Sunday, I'm just going to go out there and do what I always do. After Unforgiven, I'll be back from the beating like I always am."
As documented, Michaels is no stranger to the Hell in a Cell. Not only was he one of the first of two men to step through the Cell's doors, but HBK has also faced Triple H in an unforgettable 50-minute Hell in a Cell Match at Bad Blood 2004.
"The Cell definitely shortens careers," he admitted, "but every match you have is one step closer to the end anyway. I've been in just about every type of match there is, so either I'm ready after 21 years of experience in this line of work, or I'm not."
Unlike Foley and Kane, others believe that DX's Hell in a Cell experience may be the only element in their favor going into Unforgiven. Among them is former WWE Superstar Chris Jericho, who collided with The Game in a Hell in a Cell Match at Judgment Day in 2002.
"Only the biggest of the big get in the Hell in a Cell," explained Y2J. "As it is, there are enough risks involved in an ordinary match, but in the clutches of the Cell, the risks multiply. It's not your garden variety hip-toss, arm-drag type of match; it's the most brutal situation ever created in the world of sports-entertainment," he said, "the epitome of a dangerous match."
Though he agreed that the Extreme giant will play a large role in Sunday's match, Jericho believes the Chairman and his son don't stand a chance in hell against DX.
"You don't know what it's like until you've been there. There's nothing DX hasn't experienced in the Cell; Shawn Michaels practically invented Hell in a Cell and I think the McMahons are in way over their heads. As for the size and numbers advantage, none of it matters a good rat's ass especially with the level of animosity involved."
Another participant in Jericho's Hell in a Cell match in 2002 is former WWE official Tim White. During the caged melee between Y2J and the Cerebral Assassin, White's career as a referee was brought to an end when he was inadvertently slammed into the Cell and sent violently to the floor.
"I wish I never entered the Cell that night," White declared. "Those are really dangerous matches for everyone involved. I was lucky to pull my arm out or I would've broken my neck. I lost the use of my right arm for the most part and finished my career as referee and the pain was unbelievable. I enjoyed refereeing for many years and I miss it very badly, but I don't miss the pain that goes along with being in matches like the Hell in a Cell."
That fateful night in 2002 was White's second time officiating a Hell in a Cell Match. His first time within its confines was for the legendary match between Mankind and Undertaker, in which Mankind was tossed from the very top of the Cell onto the announce table.
"There's just no way out of the Hell in a Cell," offered White. "There's going to be one winner but everyone's going to get hurt and no one gets out until it's done. In this match, there's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, no one to save you," he added, "It's the most brutal match WWE has."
Given his experience, White provided a unique perspective -- one that comes from someone who has stood in the dead center of the steel entrapment.
"It's obvious the McMahons are at tremendous risk this Sunday. I know the McMahons are the fiercest competitors in the world, but they're at disadvantage [at Unforgiven] because they've never been in a Hell in a Cell Match."
Having stepped into the Cell last December against Undertaker, RAW Superstar Randy Orton described both the mental and physical distress caused by a contest of this nature.
"That Hell in a Cell Match really ate me up beforehand," Orton explained, describing a Superstar's psychology heading into Hell in a Cell. "Weeks before the match, I just knew it was going to be a tough ordeal. The match itself was grueling with sharp edges and sharp corners of the Cell."
An accomplished and gifted Superstar in his own right, the Legend Killer did not speak favorably of HBK and The Game -- two of WWE's most celebrated veterans. According to Orton, the combined efforts of the Chairman, Shane McMahon and Big Show may be too much for even the DX to overcome.
"Though I don't like Triple H and Shawn Michaels particularly," said a frank Orton, "I feel sorry for what they're about to endure because the Hell in a Cell is unforgiving. If I was HBK, I'd hope Triple H hides that sledgehammer of his under the ring this Sunday in Toronto."
Who will emerge from the merciless confines of the Hell in a Cell at Unforgiven? Will DX's experience give them the edge? Will the Extreme giant and the most powerful family in sports-entertainment overwhelm HBK and The Game?
Find out live this Sunday at 8/7 CT, as RAW presents Unforgiven -- only on Pay-Per-View.