Evolution of destruction

This Sunday at The Great American Bash, The Great Khali will meet Undertaker in the first-ever Punjabi Prison Match in WWE. However, outside of Khali and manager Daivari, no one really knows just what a Punjabi Prison Match entails. No matter what the Punjabi Prison actually looks like, it’s sure to be the next dangerous evolution of an already dangerous structure.

In the 1980s, the Steel Cage was rarely used as a weapon. Many fans will remember the old WWE Steel Cage, a blue grid-like structure that was there solely to keep the Superstars contained inside the ring. Sure, it was always a handy addition to someone’s offense to toss their opponent into the steel, but it wasn’t a major weapon.

As the years went by, the old blue cage was replaced by the current chain-link fence style of cage. And while the difference may only seem cosmetic, anyone who assumes so would be mistaken. One needs only to ask a Superstar that has had their face raked across the steel how different it truly is. But the higher capacity for bloodshed isn’t the only difference; the current steel design is also harder to climb than the old blue cage, making escape a tougher option to utilize.

No matter which style of cage is used, there are a few different ways to utilize the structure. Many fans may remember Hulk Hogan suplexing Big Boss Man off the top of the blue cage at MSG in March 1989, or Chris Jericho dropping X-Pac crotch-first onto the door of the cage at No Mercy 2000. But as the steel cage evolved, the opportunity for punishment increased.

The next logical evolution was putting a roof on the cage. The War Games Match in WCW utilized a design like this, with an enclosed cage covering two rings. And of course, in addition to a great deal of bloodshed, the War Games cage provided fans with several memorable moments. In 1989, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams continuously military pressed Terry Gordy into the cage roof in an impressive visual; two years later, Sid Vicious slammed Brian Pillman’s head into the roof while delivering a Powerbomb (the match was subsequently stopped when Pillman was rendered unable to continue).

But when the hatred between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker reached a fever pitch in 1997, the enclosed cage evolved into an even more demonic structure: Hell in a Cell. 

When it debuted at Bad Blood, the Hell in a Cell structure was quite the visual. Standing 15-feet high and encompassing the entire ringside area, the Cell instantly became the most dangerous structure known to sports-entertainment. If you don’t believe that claim, simply find Mick Foley and ask him all about it.

At the 1998 King of the Ring pay-per-view, Foley felt the effect of the Cell not once but twice. First, Undertaker threw him off the top of the structure, and he hurtled 15 feet down through the announcers’ table. That clip may be the most viewed piece of footage in the WWE library, and it’s a surefire example of something NOT to try at home.

Later in the match, however, Foley and Undertaker were on top of the Cell again. And when the Deadman lifted Foley up for a chokeslam, he literally dropped him to the depths of Hell. Foley crashed through the cage roof, once again falling almost 15 feet before crash landing in the middle of the ring.

As if that wasn’t enough, Foley suffered the same fate two years later. In a Hell in a Cell Match against Triple H at No Way Out 2000, Foley once again was sent crashing through the announce table from the top of the Cell. And later in that match, he once again fell through the top of the cage, this time as a result of a backdrop. Maybe it was actually good that Foley lost the match, as it meant he had to retire from WWE.

In 2002, the Steel Cage evolved one more brutal time into an even deadlier structure: The Elimination Chamber. Made from two tons of steel, the Chamber has a roof, a steel floor, and of course, four steel chambers to hold the participants.

While there have only been a handful of Elimination Chamber Matches, you can confirm the dangers of the Chamber just by looking at the Survivors. At New Year’s Revolution 2005, Triple H survived to win the World Heavyweight Championship, but he left the structure a beaten, bloody mess. One year later, the Elimination Chamber Match was so grueling that victor John Cena was immediately easy prey for an opportunistic Edge.

And now, the Punjabi Prison awaits The Great Khali and Undertaker this Sunday night. One can only wonder what the carnage will look like, and also what the survivor will look like when he emerges. But are we sure we really want to know?

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