WWE spent the bulk of Monday’s episode of Raw hyping up Sunday’s Hell in a Cell on Sunday, which will feature an unprecedented three Hell in a Cell matches. The triple-main event format, along with Mick Foley’s tearjerking warning to Charlotte and Sasha Banks, leaves one major question for Hell in a Cell: Can WWE actually deliver the barbarous, “evil” action that’s been promised without its top stars putting their careers - and long-term health - at risk?
Hell in a Cell is a quintessential Attitude Era match type, but WWE in 2016 bears little resemblance to the product from two decades ago. On Raw, the man fans most closely associate with the Cell - hardcore legend Mick Foley - sold the first ever women’s match inside the structure as Jim Ross would have on commentary years ago, by hammering home the unparalleled danger inherent in Hell in a Cell matches. Fighting back tears, Foley brought up the fact that he’s been in constant pain for years due to the punishment he took in legendary Hell in a Cell matches over the years.
“I walked in a man and I walked out a shell of the person I had been,” Foley said. “You see the way I walk? You see how difficult it is for me to get around? You see the look of pity that the superstars, both male and female, have? And you know why I walk that way? Because it hurts!””
Foley’s in that condition, of course, because he subjected himself to some of the most dangerous stunts in WWE history. In one 17-minute match at King of the Ring in 1998, Foley was thrown off the top of the Cell and fell through the announce table, chokeslammed though the Cell roof to the mat below, took multiple shots to the head from steel chairs and ring steps, and was dropped onto a bed of thumbtacks twice.
It makes sense, of course, that the Raw GM would bring up those moments - but by evoking the memories of WWE’s wildest matches, Foley and WWE may have set unreasonable expectations for what will happen in an era where WWE is far less violent (which isn't a bad thing!). In other segments on the show, Rusev said he would do “despicable things” to Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins told Kevin Owens he’d “rip him apart” and have a list of Owens’ body parts that would never be the same.
Given those repeated, savagely violent promises from all parties involved, it’s natural for fans to then expect something jaw-dropping in a match type that’s already set the bar incredibly high. Just a few months ago at WrestleMania 32, Shane McMahon took a dive off the top of the Cell, which has been made even taller since the days when Mick Foley was plummeting to the ground. WWE has seemingly put six of its biggest stars in a tough position: Not only do they have to deliver unique performances, as three similar Cell matches will get boring quickly, fans will be understandably underwhelmed if something crazy doesn’t happen given the build-up.
There’s one obvious, (comparatively) safe and somewhat counter-intuitive solution to the dilemma here, which Sasha Banks hinted to on Twitter Monday. WWE has been enforcing a no-blood rule for years, and now even stops matches to allow doctors to intervene if a wrestler is accidentally busted open - but a camera shot of two bloody wrestlers in the ring is a brilliant way to convey both pain and danger visually without having athletes jump off of frighteningly high structures. If, for one night only, WWE relaxed it’s blood policy (something John Cena of all people has publicly longed for), Hell in a Cell could shock viewers without putting careers in jeopardy.