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[1998-06-28-WWF-King of the Ring] The Undertaker vs Mankind (Hell in a Cell)

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Foley’s bump off the top of the cage, the chokeslam through the top of the cage to the mat (which wasn’t supposed to happen), and chokeslam into the thumbtacks makes for an out of this world music video highlight but not a good or even average match.

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Everything that can be said about this one has been said. I was able to briefly convince myself that maybe this was a classic, I guess because I feel a little guilty not loving something that had so much personal sacrifice in it. But it's just not a good match. It's not. While the wrestling style still has many unnecessary risks, I'm so glad this never became the norm.

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A complete visceral match that is not great in the scheme of what we apply to the interworkings of a great match but an absolutely gutty and nutty performance by Foley that was transcendent in pushing him over with more mainstream appeal. Some people say they become immune to the first bump but it still looked incredibly violent here. I have no idea what to rank this but it is certainly memorable and the sacrifice is impeccable. (****)

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It's hard to say anything new about this. It wasn't a good match, but the image of Foley coming back down the aisle with a deranged grin is unforgettable.Speaking of forgetting, I hadn't recalled that they raised the cage with Undertaker still on top of it, which had to be scary as shit given the roof had already showed signs of collapsing. And Foley still did a run-in and took a stunner in the main event!

 

I will say this: WWF at least paid off Mick's commitment by treating this all as something special and insane.

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I doubt that I'll forget those two bumps as long as I live. The Spanish announce table always bit the dust, but never quite that spectacularly again. He's damned lucky he landed that one right. 5m of being laid out for the stretcher job was a bit excessive. Back up they went and the unplanned 2nd bump with a chair sending a tooth through his nose. Insanity! After that an actual match with Taker bleeding and then thumb tacks. Foley took the beating of a lifetime and that made the match what it was. Just witnessing the obscene amount of punishment that one man endured. JR on commentary was incredible at putting this over. Such a great spectacle. No subsequent HIAC matches are nearly as memorable as the first two.

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The Undertaker vs Mankind - WWF King of the Ring 98 Hell In A Cell Match

 

One of the most iconic matches of all time, I will say one improvement undoubtedly of 2016 compared to 1998 is there is no way this match would have been allowed to continue after the second bump probably not after the first. The first bump is incredible for the sheer velocity. We saw Shane-O Mac fall from the top, but Foley was hurled from the top. I can't believe the fans were chanting for Undertaker as Foley was being carted out. I mean God, that just seems cold and callous. That second bump through the roof is even scarier because of the chair falling with him. It is incredible he landed the way he did each time that he did not die or paralyze himself. Undertaker must been like fuck, twice, are you shitting me? Looks like Taker jammed his ankle pretty good. The iconic image from my childhood was Foley in the corner with the sick bloody smile and the tooth sticking out his nose. Taker basically bumps for himself as Foley's shoulder is fucked up, is concussed and is loopy as fuck. Taker spears the cage. OW! Tacks get introduced. I forgot about this! Is this WWF debut of tacks? Foley eats the tacks twice, that Chokeslam looked painful. Tombstone ends it. Crowd redeems itself with a standing ovation and a decent sized Foley chant. A match everyone needs to see, but something I wouldn't call great. It is iconic.

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I'm reading a book at the moment called The Only Rule Is It Has to Work. And that's sort of how I feel about the layout of this match. It was masturbatory, overly dangerous, even moreso with what we know now, and a bad sign for where the business was headed...but from a coldly pragmatic standpoint, it was successful. It got the HIAC gimmick over as a drawing card in and of itself, it got Foley over as a legend when he had been floundering ever since Over the Edge, and it even got Undertaker over as a remorseless killer in preparation for SummerSlam and his eventual turn. It's another match that's impossible to rate conventionally but that everyone should probably see once, and for many that will be enough. It doesn't entirely work as a match but as a compelling spectacle and as theater, it did.

 

In addition, I've also long seen this match as signifying the Death of ECW. That promotion has been pretty bad ever since the initial WWF invasions with Lawler and Cornette, but seeing this has rendered the company utterly superfluous. The WWF has taken their formula and improved upon it, getting more out of two incredible bumps than ECW could out of a zillion balcony dives. If Joey Styles had tried to claim that nothing in any other promotion could top something we'd just seen, I'd roll my eyes at him. When Lawler says it here, it sounds truthful even if it may not literally be so.

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Oh, this match. It can be summed up as Fall > Fall > Tacks > Tacks > Tombstone > Pin, but I have a bit more to say.

 

First, Foley has a very difficult time climbing to the top of the cage and it's borderline embarrassing. Trying to convince me that two gladiators are about to go to war while one of them has trouble navigating a chain-linked fence is a hard feat.

 

Second, they went to the toss of the cage way too soon. They should have brawled a few more minutes to build it up. Foley took a flat bump on the table so I think he hurt his shoulder trying to climb the cage.

 

Third, way too much bullshit killed any momentum this match could have had as Foley should have got up earlier. It sounded like he was telling Funk that they needed to keep the action going and Funk telling him to fuck the match.

 

Fourth, I don't believe for a second that the second bump through the cage wasn't planned. My evidence is:

a) They both avoid that section of the cage during the first trip up

B) The fence tore away on the opposite quadrant as they were walking across the first time which indicated gimmick as the rest of the cage held up.

c) The perimeter of the piece that broke had metal stripping around it that points to being gimmicked.

d) Foley braces for the fall and not for a two foot choke slam.

 

I don't think the chair falling on his face and busting up his mouth was planned, but it added to it. At this point Foley knew this was his career defining moment so he smiled and did all the lame brawling. Tacks are a cheap pop. All of this and he's out for the main event to take a stunner.

 

The revisionist history and focus this match has, especially the lame moment in Holy Foley where he goes with Noelle to the WWE Storage facility and has a "moment" with the HITC cage is beyond stupid.

 

The falls off the cage knocked the talent out of Foley for the next 17 months and it only came back a handful of times past that.

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This was my favorite match when I was a kid, my wrestling tastes are drastically different now but this more than holds up. I liked all the stuff before the first bump. The first bump is one of if not the most iconic visual of all time. Like Childs said, kudos to them for actually treating it like a big deal which really enhanced the drama. The second bump was downright brutal and I have no idea how Foley continued. There was a immovable object vs. unstoppable force type theme here as Foley just kept coming back no matter what happened to him while Taker was Taker. There was other super violent stuff afterwards too like Taker repeatedly hitting Foley's dislocated shoulder with steel steps. Taker's missed tope in the cage was also a great transition to get Foley realistically back into the match. Strong build to the finish as well. JR-Lawler is my favorite US commentary duo and here they deliver a legendary performance that actually adds to the match (something pretty rare, for US commentary especially). Just a great, violent, memorable spectacle. ****

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Believe it or not, I just watched this match for the first time. Two things that I wasn't expecting stood out for me. One, even though I've seen it on a million video packages, Undertaker throwing Foley off the cell still felt shocking because it came pretty much out of nowhere. There was no build or teasing beforehand, they brawled on top of the cell for a bit and then Taker just threw him off. Two, the bulk of the match actually took place after the two huge bumps. I have no idea how Foley was able to keep it together and work a match after what he went through.

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I love this match warts and all. I guess it's my Hogan/Andre cause I remember just watching it as a kid and being gobsmacked by Foley's performance. Yes, it's not a great match and a lot of bad habits came from it, but it's an excellent caper to the two year feud between these two and Foley has one of the all time great performances. The two big Cell bumps, the tack bumps, and just him pushing through it all to keep going just sums up why he had that folk hero status at that point. Taker looked like a killer and I loved Terry Funk here as well. Ross and Lawler were probably the best they've ever been here as well. Just the whole match is unforgettable and I recommend anyone seeing it just once even if they end up not liking it.

 

**** 1/4

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This is going to be controversial. This gets the full five from me. Outside of all the nostalgia I have for this, I still think it's one of the best Attitude Era matches ever. Everyone involved in this got over. Foley's career was made because of his performance and The Undertaker looked like a monster. Because of the two horrific bumps, many people forget that the brawl they have once they are both locked in the cell is great stuff. From the bloody Foley smile to the steel steps and thumbtack spots, it completes this nasty little package. Every cell match owes something to this and WWE will try to recapture the magic of this night again and again, but they never will. There's a reason why WWE still shows that bump in their video packages 20+ years on.

★★★★★

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