Hardcore Legend's Hell in a Cell advice: Mick Foley's words to Ryback

The Undertaker throws Mankind off the top of the Hell in a Cell: King of the Ring 1998

In one of the most legendary images in WWE history, The Undertaker throws Mankind off the top of the Hell in a Cell to the Spanish announce table below.

On Sunday, Ryback will descend into “Hell” for the first time. If this is an exaggeration, it is a small one.

Hell in a Cell will test the rising star in ways he’s yet to encounter during his brief (though undeniably impressive) career. Not only will the human wrecking ball find himself in an unfamiliar environment — not to mention one that has claimed Superstars far more storied than he — but he’ll also be facing easily his toughest, most experienced opponent yet: the WWE Champion himself, CM Punk. While Ryback has certainly made mincemeat of the champion in their brief encounters leading up to Hell in a Cell, it bears mentioning that Punk has been caught either off-guard or winded almost every time. Sunday, Ryback will see a new side to The Second City Saint, and for all his might, the chance of defeat looms higher than ever.

All this is not to say Punk has this one in the bag. But even Dante would agree: When setting foot into hell, it’s best one has a guide. So for Ryback’s maiden voyage into the place where rivalries are settled, WWE.com sought the wisdom of the Cell’s most storied veteran: Mick Foley. To the surprise of no one, The Hardcore Legend did not pull any punches when he laid out the challenges facing the ravenous newcomer when he steps into the Cell.

“Let it all hang out,” Foley told WWE.com. “If there was ever a time not to hold anything back, it is in this match.” Foley cited his own Hell in a Cell experience as an example for Ryback to play the hand that fate deals him and roll with whatever circumstances the Cell throws his way. For the uninitiated: Foley was thrown off, then through, the roof of the Cell and Tombstoned onto a mound of thumbtacks, but still brought The Phenom within a hair of defeat.

This strategy calls for a certain tenacity in the ring, however, and The Hardcore Legend made sure to highlight that Ryback has yet to face an opponent with both the physical and cerebral proficiencies commonly attributed to CM Punk. If hell is other people, then Ryback is certainly walking into the seventh circle against this particular champion.

“We haven’t seen Ryback pushed past the five-minute mark,” Foley said. “Five minutes would be a long Ryback match … [Punk] had a day off and spent it running a marathon; that is a guy who is in prime condition.” The Hardcore Legend said the idea of Punk vs. Ryback brought up memories of the famous “Rumble in the Jungle,” where Muhammad Ali used his speed and stamina (plus a healthy dose of jaw-jacking) to withstand the powerhouse assault of George Foreman en route to an upset victory over the younger, stronger champion. If Punk decides to emulate The Greatest and let Ryback punch himself out, that could lead to disaster for the No. 1 contender. “CM Punk [is] a master of mind games and it could just very well be that he would relish the opportunity to have a very tired Ryback on his hands,” Foley said.

Avoiding that outcome should be paramount in the mind of the human wrecking ball. “Hell in a Cell is a something that, optimally, a Superstar would have months to prepare for,” Foley said. “Ryback’s case is a couple of weeks, and there are a lot of question marks surrounding Ryback, whether he can ‘go the distance’ as they say. And not to use too many clichés, but it’s said that fatigue makes cowards of us all, and it would not be very becoming of Ryback to come out of this enormous match looking cowardly in the least.”

A special look at Ryback's in-ring destruction: WWE Main Event, October 24, 2012

Ryback domination is featured on WWE Main Event.

Should Ryback surmount that challenge, though, The Hardcore Legend said the ravenous newcomer’s objective should be a victory of the most decisive, indisputable fashion. Foley himself lost his most famous Cell matches (the battle with The Undertaker in 1998 and a particularly grisly collision with Triple H in 2000) despite the beatings he inflicted upon them — severe ones, by the way — but he doesn’t recommend Ryback settling for a statement loss.

“There’s a distinct size and strength advantage that Ryback possesses, so you almost look at Punk as if he’s the underdog, even though he’s the WWE Champion,” Foley said. “[But] Ryback has his work cut out for him. He has to make the statement and he has to do it in the course of a victory, and neither one of those is easy to accomplish.”

That would be because, lest the WWE Universe forget, it’s not just Ryback’s legacy that is being called into question here.

“I made it a point to talk [to CM Punk] about the great moments that define who we are as wrestlers,” Foley said, referring to his heated exchange with The Second City Saint a few weeks ago when John Cena was angling to face Punk inside the Cell. Foley memorably argued that beating Cena in the Cell would seal Punk’s status as The Best in the World. Now, he’s slightly changing his tune.

“I think a huge win over Ryback would be even bigger than a victory over John Cena, because John Cena, as great as he is, has been defeated,” Foley said. “It’s not only that Ryback hasn’t been defeated, but also that he hasn’t been touched. A win against Ryback would go a long way toward cementing Punk’s legacy.”

There is, however, one secret The Hardcore Legend will not divulge: Who he thinks will win.

“I hate to make predictions, especially in a match like this that has so many questions surrounding it,” Foley said. “I’m gonna be like everyone else in the WWE Universe: watching, waiting and anticipating.”

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