Cage matches used to be a big narrative blow-off in pro wrestling circuits. These days, they’re used much more sparingly, and the fact that we’re getting two cage matches in rather rapid succession — Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor and Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho — means that someone in the WWE offices is a big fan of steel mayhem.
Frankly, who isn’t? There used to be a time when, if someone was battling Ric Flair, they’d eventually get the chance to throw him headfirst into the steel. It seemed like every single one of Flair’s blow-off (feud-ending) matches were encased in steel. Perhaps the whole “no blood” thing has sullied the essence of cage matches, because really, if you fight someone in a cage, someone should bleed. Dems should be da’ rools.
Anyway, with two matches in the steel coming up — one this weekend at Extreme Rules — let’s take a gander at four cage matches that should get you warmed up for the metallic beatdowns coming in the next few weeks.
Ronnie Garvin vs. Ric Flair, NWA Starrcade 1987
You want a ridiculous chop fest? Look no further. Garvin and Flair chop the skin off of each other’s chests in this grueling World Heavyweight Championship (I like writing the full thing) bout. The two men were feuding during the last half of 1987, brawling all over the nation, and trading the title on one occasion. Really, you should seek out both of these title cage matches because they’re both really good. And, Flair — he’s the best.
Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels WWE Bad Blood 2004
In my humble opinion, the very best Hell in the Cell match that ever occurred. (And yes, Hell in the Cell is a steel cage match. It’s just a bigger cage.) For damn near 50 minutes, HBK and Triple H told a riveting story of courage, tenacity, brutality, and ultimately, a little bit of luck. This was one of the last great cage matches before the PG era, so it’s a little on the bloody side, but damn it’s glorious.
Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle, TNA Lockdown 2008
In the future, when people are looking back on the legacy of TNA, they’ll look at the feud of Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle as one of the greatest rivalries inside the six-sided ring. Indeed, they had some classic bouts with multiple titles on the line, but perhaps none was bigger and better than this MMA-inspired technical slugfest (yes, a dichotomy but if you watch the match you’ll understand).
Both men, rather than use the cage as a weapon as in most of these matches, used the cage to confine themselves to do battle with wrestling holds and sequences. In the end, Joe put together a series of moves punctuated by a vicious looking Muscle Buster to secure the “w.”
Randy Orton vs. Christian WWE SmackDown 8/30/11
With the battle cry of “one more match,” recent in-ring retiree Christian begged Randy Orton to give him another shot at the World Championship. Orton obliged, and the two met inside the confines of the steel structure on SmackDown in 2011. The two opponents were no strangers to each other at this point, and this match was just the brutal cherry on the cake of their brilliant feud. Both men matched each other counter for counter, until Orton made one final reversal and pinned his opponent one more time. Great job, fellas.