(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31289543/?contentId=31289543&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=king_of_the_ring)
Oh…I’m halfway there! Only 50 matches left to watch…!!!!
Surely this is the most infamous match in WWE history? Mankind and The Undertaker have given us one of the most replayed moments in WWE history. Mankind’s fall from the Hell in a Cell structure through the Spanish announce table will live on in WWE broadcasts until the end of the business. The fall came to define the Hell in a Cell, for better or for worse. From that moment on, people expected HIAC to include a death defying fall from the top of the cell (see Shane McMahon’s latest entry in the pantheon of Cell’s falls at WrestleMania 32, for example). But is the match more than that fall (and Mankind’s other death-defying fall through the cell itself and onto the mat)? Or should it be remembered only for that hellacious fall?
Read Mick Foley’s first autobiography. Before the match, both he and The Undertaker knew they couldn’t match the magnificence of the inaugural HIAC match between ‘Taker and Shawn Michaels. ‘Taker had an injured foot, for a start. So they decided to start the match with an ending: ‘Taker hurling Mankind/Foley off the structure. The climactic beginning is repeated again, when Foley returns after five minutes and is chokeslammed through the mesh of the cell and onto the mat. You’d think that would be the end…but Mankind (legitimately knocked out) continues, and ‘Taker carries him adequately to an ending that involves thumbtacks.
Of course, the thumbtacks are no match for the first climax at the beginning. The two falls from/through the cell are unbelievable. How Foley got up from either from them is incredible. He mentions a litany of injuries resulting from both falls, including kidney damage, internal bleeding and a dislocated shoulder among other things. But from that moment on, it’s barely a match at all. ‘Taker is clearly guiding Foley along, literally at the hand at one point. Chairs and steel steps are used by both competitors, but they have no effect on the viewer. We just saw Mankind fall fifteen or twenty feet twice! What harm would a chair do to him? Until the thumbtacks come out, the proceedings are dull and contrived. ‘Taker is clearly playing for time until Mankind wakes up out of his stupor.
“It’s not a pretty sight!” Jim Ross exclaims as Mankind rakes ‘Taker’s face across the mesh. The whole match isn’t a pretty sight. Yes, it’s ultraviolent. Those falls from Mankind almost justify the match being in the Best 100…List. Even now, almost two decades on, they are still shocking in their brutality. JR’s scream of “GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! THEY’VE KILLED HIM! AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, HE’S BROKEN IN HALF!” is the perfect complement to the first fall through the Spanish announce table. But apart from the (actual) climactic thumbtack involvement, it’s a pretty dull affair. There are far better matches between the two competitors. Check out their Buried Alive match at In Your House 11: Buried Alive, or their match at In Your House 14: Revenge of the Taker (or even their Boiler Room Brawl at SummerSlam 1996).
VERDICT: 6/10. A match that has the climax at the beginning, and not much else after that (apart from liberal use of thumbtacks). The Undertaker and Mankind gave us one (or two) of the most replayed high spots in WWE history. Mankind’s falls from and through the cell are still shocking to this day. But they make the rest of the match meaningless.
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Click here for my review of #51 Vader vs. Ric Flair (WCW World Title, WCW Starrcade 1993)