Behind the steel

Monday night on RAW, Edge will challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship inside the confines of a 15-foot high steel cage. It will be the latest brutal chapter in the ongoing war between the two Superstars, but it will be the first time they have been locked inside of a steel cage together.

The Steel Cage Match itself can be one of the most brutal specialty matches WWE has to offer, and in its near 50-year history, the WWE Championship has been defended inside the cage on many occasions. And from those Steel Cage Matches have come some of the most memorable moments in WWE history.

Take for instance the May 19, 1980, battle in Madison Square Garden. That night, champion Bob Backlund defended the gold against Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. Many will remember Snuka's breathtaking top of the cage dive onto Magnificent Muraco three years later; Mick Foley has even said in his book Have a Nice Day that it was one of the defining moments that encouraged him to get into the business. While Snuka's dive onto Muraco is well-known, it was back in 1980 that he first attempted the feat. Unfortunately for the "Superfly," Backlund moved away from his leap, causing Snuka to plunge 15 feet into the mat; that miscalculation allowed Backlund to escape the cage and retain his championship.

The Steel Cage has also seen some unexpected alliances form as well. On RAW in April 2001, The Rock challenged Stone Cold Steve Austin to a Steel Cage Match for the WWE Championship. The night before, Austin defeated The Rock for the gold at WrestleMania X-Seven, but he also did the unthinkable: he aligned himself with Mr. McMahon. Come RAW, the WWE Chairman tried to do his best to ensure that The Rock would pay at the hands of the Rattlesnake. When The Rock locked Austin in the Sharpshooter, Mr. McMahon distracted the referee so he wouldn't notice Austin tapping out. As if the WWE fans couldn't think less of Austin after aligning with McMahon, their opinion would get lower. Late in the match, Triple H unexpectedly rushed to the ring with a sledgehammer in hand. Many WWE fans thought his sledgehammer would be smashing Austin, but Triple H stunned the crowd when he turned and assaulted The Rock instead, helping Austin claim victory….and thus, the Two-Man Power Trip was formed.

SmackDown saw its first-and-only Steel Cage Match for the WWE Championship in July 2004. WWE Champion JBL and the man he beat for the gold, Eddie Guerrero, stepped into the cage and battled it out like two rabid animals, each wanting to prove that they deserved to wear WWE gold. At one point, Eddie had a chance to end the match, but -- perhaps foolishly -- he decided to add emphasis to the beating on JBL by leaping off the top of the cage and landing a Frog Splash. Latino Heat's aerial assault may have been spectacular, but he hurt himself in the process and was slow to cover. JBL would escape that predicament, but he couldn't escape later when a man dressed as El Gran Luchadore climbed into the ring and pulled Eddie from the top of the cage to inside of the ring. This allowed JBL to capitalize and climb out of the cage first to remain WWE Champion, but Eddie would later unmask his assailant to find another old rival.

Even family squabbles have been settled inside the steel. Owen Hart spent the spring and summer of 1994 chasing brother Bret and the WWE Championship, which led to their epic Steel Cage Match at SummerSlam. Brothers-in-law (and former and future partners) British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart were at ringside as the two Hart brothers threw everything they had at each other. While the match wasn't as brutal or bloody as most Steel Cage Matches, it was a 30-minute manifestation of hatred, jealousy and drama. In the end, the brothers both tried to escape at the same time; somehow, Bret managed to get Owen tangled in the cage, allowing himself the opportunity to drop to the arena floor and retain the WWE Championship.

And of course, the Steel Cage has seen Hulkamania overcome the odds as always. Weeks prior to WrestleMania 2, Hulk Hogan's ribs were injured at the hands of King Kong Bundy and the Magnificent Muraco on Saturday Night's Main Event. But somehow, when the Hulkster stepped into the cage with Bundy at WrestleMania, Hogan reached down for that something extra as Gorilla Monsoon would say, and he was able to escape the cage to win the match and retain his WWE Championship. 

In recent years, derivations of the Steel Cage Match (such as Hell in a Cell and the Elimination Chamber) have raised the bar for brutality; however, the dangers of the "old-fashioned" Steel Cage Match should never be underestimated. Edge and Cena have taken each other to the limit in the past, but the man who walks out of RAW Monday night as champion may have to exceed that limit to do so. 

Who will survive the Steel Cage Match in Topeka, Kan., and walk out as WWE Champion? Find out Monday night on RAW.  


Pay-per-view history: WrestleMania and SummerSlam

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