For clarification, I’ve made this ANY type/structure of steel cage. I have, however, discounted multiple-person matches (such as, say, Elimination Chamber) and I’ve also discounted War Games. But if you don’t like the rules just remember…It’s my favourite five! So chronologically, let’s get cracking.
Magnum TA vs. Tully Blanchard (I Quit, Starrcade 1985)
The matches that follow this one on my list will largely be stunt-filled affairs full of dangerous high-sports. In 1985, this wasn’t what you were going to get in a steel cage. There was just pure violence on display. The spots of throwing your opponent back or head first into the cage were of course here but the months-long feud between the southern gentleman babyface and the cocky, Four Horseman bully had a lot more riding on it to end like that. Despite Blanchard’s battering of TA with the microphone, always imploring his opponent to say the words “I Quit”, there was no end in sight. When Blanchard’s valet Baby Doll tossed a chair into the ring he used it to smash over Magnum and then attempt to use one of the broken shards to, for all intents and purposes, blind his opponent. Magnum was able to block it though and use the wooden splinter to smash Blanchard in the head forcing him to utter the words and forfeit the match. That sounds a very simple storyline, but it was done to perfection here. In an age when babyfaces really were supposed to be clean-cut, the provocation, both on the night and in terms of the feud as a whole, meant that Magnum was justified in his violent actions. Wrestling psychology at it’s finest was on display here.
Aja Kong vs. Bull Nakano (Wrestlemarinpiad II, 1990)
There will be some of you who know me well no doubt rolling their eyes right about now. God, Matt’s banging on about Bull Nakano again…well seriously, watch this match and tell me it’s not one of the craziest spectacle’s you’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring. Before the two even get into the cage Kong is stabbing at Nakano’s head with a pair of scissors; no need to suspend your disbelief here folks. You do not need persuading that these two hate each other. With a group of other wrestlers at ringside throwing in foreign objects to each wrester (as well as fighting each other) there’s some pretty sick spots like Bull stabbing Kong in the arm repeatedly with said scissors and a rope being thrown into the ring whereupon Kong attempt to hang Nakano! But there’s also some wicked suplexes thrown in and one hell of a finish as Nakano hits a flying leg drop from the top of the steel cage. And this is 1990 don’t forget!
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (SummerSlam 1994)
Well a traditional blue-barred WWF effort had to make the list didn’t it? I could have stuck Hogan/Boss Man or Rude/Warrior in here but in the end this battle of the Hart’s just snuck in. Naturally the chemistry between the two was there and they’d had a five-star classic at WrestleMania X earlier in the year and whilst it would be easy to mock Bret Hart for his proclamations about this match and his “big brother” way of working with Owen it would do him a disservice. There was a different edge to this match as the big brother took on the ungrateful younger sibling and the action was compelling and exciting.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (Hell In A Cell, Badd Blood 1997)
It’s impossible to quantify the “greatest match ever”. Times change, styles evolve, new favourites come along. But if I had a gun to my head and had to answer the impossible question, this bout wouldn’t be far from my mind. It’s certain of it’s place in my list as the greatest steel cage match I’ve ever seen. It was just so different from what we were used at the time and saw two men at the top of their game going at it without a seconds thought for self-preservation. It was bloody, it was brutal and even though the finish was not a clean one, the fact that it was the debut of Kane added another layer of excitement to proceedings. It’s a crying shame that this match is kind of a forgotten classic in comparison to the much more famous Undertaker/Mankind HiaC match, which may have included a handful of the most insane spots ever witnessed in mainstream pro wrestling but couldn’t hold a candle to this as a match.
The Hardy Boys vs. The Dudley’s (Survivor Series 2001)
At the back end of the wasted opportunity that was the WWF vs WCW war, things came to a head with the 2001 Survivor Series show. These two teams met to unify both sets of World Tag Team Titles in a Steel Cage match and as you would expect from two teams who had wrestled numerous times before in countless gimmick matches this was another excellent encounter. What really makes it stand out though for me is the highly logical plot twist it engineered. The problem with the rules of this match was that both men from one team had to make their way out of he cage for their team to one. The logical flaw is that the one person who escaped first was leaving his partner at the mercy of two opponents. Still, with Matt Hardy at ringside, Jeff was on his way out of the cage when his ego, or the need for thrills, took over and instead of completing his climb out he went for a spectacular move off the top which missed and meant that The Dudley’s won. A great match, with a memorable twist.
– By Matthew Roberts