There is no other encounter in professional wrestling that signifies the pinnacle of a feud more than the steel cage match. Its confines are unforgiving and blood shed is a virtual guarantee. Villains of bravado and champions of heroic destiny square off in this last resort encounter where the referee’s three count is not enough. Finish your opponent or escape the cage is often your only option for victory. In two weeks, CM Punk will defend the WWE title against Ryback. This match has everyone talking for a variety of reasons but none of them include the Hell in a Cell itself. This makes me wonder; are Steel Cage matches dead?
Magnum T.A. vs. Tully Blanchard, Undertaker vs. Mankind, Bruno Sammartino vs. Larry Zabyszko and Jimmy Snuka vs. Don Muraco are just some of the caged classics that will never be forgotten. The match itself has evolved over the years but the style over substance approach the matches are booked with these days are causing its devolution. Instead of being the main attraction, they are a meaningless spectacle used to garner a quick buck or to pop a rating.
Pay-per-view events such as Lockdown and Hell in a Cell cheapen what is supposed to be a worth wild affair. Would you rather watch a cage match because it means something or simply because it is the month of October? War Games, which only happened once a year, was the exception because it involved two teams battling it out in gang warfare since faction dominance was the norm in that era.
Fireworks are fun to watch but you forget about them as soon as they are over. It’s the same thing with cage matches today. The Undertaker vs. Triple H match at Wrestlemania 28 didn’t need to be inside the cell and they barely used the apparatus to heighten the match. I understand they had already wrestled twice and needed something special the third time around but it was merely window dressing.
CM Punk and Jerry Lawler worked a cage match on the 8/27 episode of Raw. Here was the buildup to the match. The King demands an apology. Punk challenges him to a match instead. Lawler thinks about it and accepts the challenge later in the show. One Raw Active Twitter poll later and we have ourselves a Steel Cage match. It was a good TV main event but why was it in a cage? To get Punk over as a heel? He blindsided the beloved Jerry Lawler with a kick to the head and he is the best promo in business. The cage enhances nothing in this situation. It doesn’t take away anything from this particular match either but it dilutes the entire steel cage concept.
Why are these matches not as special as they use to be? Are random gimmicks required to captivate today’s wrestling fan? Is the UFC to blame since all of their fights occur in the cage; causing fans to be desensitized to anything they see in a chain length fence? Perhaps we’ve seen everything a steel cage match can offer and it just doesn’t matter anymore? Making the concept completely disappear for three years could ignite the excitement the match once garnered. If you don’t see something for a while you tend to miss it. Then again, maybe it’s too late and it’s just another stipulation to throw in to the mix.