Edge and The Undertaker are two of the biggest superstars in SmackDown history. They had a long and bitter feud that spanned multiple PPVs, involved numerous other wrestlers, and featured lots of twists and turns in its story. So it stands to reason that such a bitter, complex and storied rivalry needed to end in the stipulation to end all stipulations, Hell In a Cell.
This match took place in something of a better time, when the Cell wasn’t an annual themed PPV but an actual useful storytelling device. Those four words – Hell in a Cell – actually meant something. They struck fear in almost everyone and were synonymous with brutality. Sadly, those days are long gone and the cell has little significance now, if any. This is what happens when bad creativity and desperate marketing ruin a good thing.
Anyways, today we look back at what is widely considered to be one of the better HIAC matches. There have been 49 Cell matches in WWE, and while none matched the greatness of the first one, many have tried. This is one that a lot of fans have said is up in terms of historic greatness, so let’s see if that still rings true in 2021.
Today we look back at the Hell in a Cell match between Edge and The Undertaker from SummerSlam 2008.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
This is the culmination of a rivalry that had lasted over a year. Throughout 2007 and the first half of 2008, Edge and the Undertaker were at loggerheads. Edge had used his Money in the Bank briefcase to win the World Heavyweight Championship from the Undertaker. Months later, Edge cost ‘Taker that same title in a match against Batista by interfering and hitting him with a camera. Undeterred, ‘Taker won an Elimination Chamber match and earned the right to face Edge at WrestleMania XXIV. Edge tried his best but not even he, with his bottomless well of tricks and deceit, could end The Streak.
But Undertaker’s victory was short-lived as Edge beat him two months later in a TLC match and was then banished from WWE by General Manager Vickie Guerrero. Shenanigans then ensued and Edge was caught cheating on Vickie with another woman. Vickie, in her fury, reinstated the Undertaker in a rather poorly-executed retcon and announced that Edge would face Undertaker at SummerSlam inside Undertaker’s favorite stipulation, Hell in a Cell.
This match took place at SummerSlam 2008 and was rated ****1/2 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and by TJR’s John Canton also went ****1/2 for this match. Let’s see how well it holds up.
Edge avoids some corner punches from Undertaker and lands his own to start the match. Undertaker tosses him into the corner but Edge dodges him again and goes for more punches. ‘Taker tosses him off once more and boots him down hard. Undertaker tosses Edge out of the ring and drives him spine-first into the cell wall. He continues his methodical punishment by raking Edge’s face against the cell and smashing him into the steel ring steps. He lands his apron leg drop and places the steps in the corner. Undertaker drops Edge with snake eyes into the steps and charges for a boot, but Edge counters with an elbow. Edges takes advantage by shoving ‘Taker into those steps and then dropkicks and spears him into said stairs.
Edge pulls out a table and then smashes Undertaker with the stairs. Edge sets up a second table on top of the first one and attempts to suplex Undertaker into them. But ‘Taker counters with a chokeslam. Edge drops him against the ropes and then hits him in the throat with a chair. He smashes the chair on ‘Taker some more and then pulls out two more chairs, one more table, and two ladders. More brutal chairshots by Edge. He puts Undertaker onto a table, climbs a ladder while holding a chair, and dives off and smashes the chair into the Undertaker through the table. Edge pins but only gets two.
Edge grabs two chairs and sets up the one man con-chair-to. He raises the chair up to swing it but Undertaker sits up and grabs his throat. Edge fights out and charges. Undertaker lands a big right hand and boots Edge into the cell wall. Still bent on destruction, Undertaker smashes the steel steps into Edge’s face. He tries to follow up with Snake Eyes, but Edge counters and sends ‘Taker face-first into the ring post. The Undertaker’s groggy as Edge sets up the stairs. He charges…and spears Undertaker right into the cell wall. The wall comes crashing down. Both men go down hard.
They start fighting ringside as Undertaker smashes Edge into any hard surface he can find. Undertaker pulls a monitor from the Spanish announce table to use as a weapon, but Edge dodges his swing and hits him with it instead. Edge climbs onto another table…and spears Undertaker through the announce table. What an impact.
Back in the ring, Edge drops Undertaker with a ladder shot and then with a camera. Edge crawls for a pin. Undertaker kicks out. Edge goes for a spear. Undertaker counters with a chokeslam. One, two, Edge kicks out. Undertaker goes for the Last Ride. Edge answers with a low blow. Impaler DDT by Edge. Undertaker kicks out and then sits up. He dodges a ladder shot and goes for the Last Ride again, but this time onto the tables. But Edge escapes and lands a spear. One, two, no, Undertaker kicks out. Edge lands corner punches. Undertaker counters into the Last Ride. One, two, Edge kicks out. Undertaker goes for a Tombstone on the steep steps. Edge counters into a slam and Undertaker hits the steps hard. Another pin and another kickout.
Edge goes for some open mockery by attempting the Undertaker’s Old School ropewalk. Undertaker cuts him off and Edge gets crotched on the rope. Undertaker gets his revenge. Top rope chokeslam into two tables. He’s not done. Spear by Undertaker. He lands a better spear than Edge does. Undertaker’s not done mauling Edge. Camera shot to the head. Con-chair-to. Tombstone Piledriver. Undertaker gets the pin and the win.
Winner after 26:43: The Undertaker
Post-match, Undertaker celebrates but then returns to the ring upon seeing Edge still stirring. He returns to the ring and sets up two ladders. He launches Edge into one of them and climbs the other, then chokeslams Edge from the ladder, through the ring. Edge’s body disappears through a role in the ring. Undertaker poses as his music plays, and a column of fire shoots up from that same hole. Edge, it seems, has indeed been sent to Hell.
I think I got swindled by the bait-and-switch WWE pulled here. This wasn’t a Hell In a Cell match; it was a Tables, Ladders, Chairs and Stairs match contained within a cell. And in my opinion, that direction turned this into, well, a pretty mediocre spot-fest of a match.
There was precious little in the way of story, psychology, tension or build-up. Instead, it was pure hardcore mayhem, a demolition derby contained within a cage. All these two wrestlers did for twenty minutes was follow the same pattern: I hit you with weapon, you block and hit me with weapon, we dodge and counter each other, I hit you with different weapon, pin, kickout, rinse and repeat. It was fine for what it was, but it also got repetitive really fast. So much time was wasted for setting up complex spots that, once they were executed, weren’t really justified.
The only story elements here were Edge and Undertaker’s use of the camera as a weapon. Edge tried to get an upset win over Undertaker and failed, and Undertaker used it to inflict as much punishment as possible. It was similar to the chair that was introduced in the first-ever HIAC match in that it brought Undertaker some poetic justice.
There were some clever spots in the match, though. Edge spearing Undertaker first through the cell wall and then through the announce table was pretty brutal. Edge got all cocky and tried to insult ‘Taker (which sort of made sense since he was pretty much maniacal at that point in the match and not thinking clearly) and it blew up in his face. And the finishing stretch that saw Undertaker maul Edge to pieces was really fun and satisfying.
I just wish they did things a bit differently. I understand that this TLCSHIAC match was meant to stand out from other cell matches. But to me, that was a good idea on paper but not in execution. The cell barely played a role in the match once one part of the wall came down. Speaking of which, if the whole point of the cell was to keep Edge’s stablemates in La Familia from interfering, why didn’t they rush in once that wall came down? It was a cool moment that looked good but it also left a gaping hole in the match’s logic (among other things).
Final Rating: ***3/4
This match could’ve been a lot better. It was the culmination of a year’s worth of story, of Edge being the biggest pain in the ass the Undertaker had suffered in years, if not longer. But instead of the match being driven by that story and the chemistry between the two wrestlers, it was driven by which person could set up the most needlessly-complex weapons spot.
Both wrestlers tried to make this into a compelling match but, in my opinion, they didn’t really succeed. In terms of shock and awe, their TLC match from One Night Stand: Extreme Rules two months earlier outclassed this one. And Edge was desperate to incorporate his stipulations into the Undertaker’s instead of showing some dynamism and creativity by trying to beat Undertaker at his own game.
I really, genuinely wish I could say this match was as awesome as the ****1/2 rating it got, but I can’t. It just didn’t resonate with me. I’ve always liked Edge as a wrestler and the Undertaker has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. But they just didn’t deliver in this match.
It goes to show that combining two stipulations into one doesn’t create unique matches; it dilutes the significance of both and creates at best a patchwork concept that doesn’t really hold up that well.
Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.