Posted in: LOP Hall Of Fame
2015 LOP Hall of Fame Inductee: Mankind vs. Undertaker Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring '98
By Maverick
Mar 25, 2015 - 8:37:37 AM

Mankind vs. Undertaker Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring '98
Class of 2015

Sometimes in professional wrestling, fate conspires to provide us with an unforgettable moment in an unforgettable match. Time seems to stop as you gawp at your television, open mouthed. And never more was this the case than on June 28th 1998. In fact, we stared agog not once, but twice, as Mick Foley passed into legend as the man who performed the two most ludicrously dangerous spots in WWF/E history. If ever there was a “where were you when?” moment in the history of professional wrestling, this bout is the one. I am not in the least surprised that the readers of Lords of Pain have chosen to vote match into the Hall of Fame; at the end of the day, we all love a workrate classic, but anyone who says they don’t like watching men put everything on the line to create a flash photography moment that will live forever is probably lying. The semi-main event of King of the Ring 1998 is not a workrate classic. It’s just a classic.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, during the first Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, Michaels took a mad bump off the side of the cell through the announce table to the famous sound of Lawler calling “incoming!” Who could have known at the time that Foley would not only trump that stunt but blow it out of the water entirely? A few days before the event, Foley confided in Terry Funk that he felt that he could take a bump off the roof of the structure itself after Funk had suggested it as a joke. The distance from the cell to the table, including the angle of the fall, was a whopping 22 feet. Even for a professional bump taker like Mick, it was an insane risk. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. Hell, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything like it to this day, apart from the second bump, that is. After miraculously climbing off the stretcher wheeling him to the back and staggering towards the ring, Foley scaled the cage and began to fight the Deadman atop it. In the Michaels match, ‘Taker had backdropped his opponent on the chain link roof. With Mankind, a choke slam was employed...and the cell gave way. This was not supposed to happen, unlike the first bump. The roof caved in and Foley’s 290 pounds flew with shocking velocity back first onto the mat; no soft landing there. He was legitimately knocked out; Terry Funk was first on the scene and has said since that he thought at first that Mick was dead. The first bump had dislocated his shoulder, the second shattered his jaw. He had a tooth tear through his nose. Remarkably, the match not only continued, but was wrestled in a competitive fashion, with Foley taking a couple more brutal bumps on thumb tacks for good measure. The entire thing just had such a surreal air of authenticity, since the injuries to Foley were very much real. JR and Lawler’s commentary was never better than that night, simply because of the sheer intensity of the moments they were witnessing on our behalf “GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! THAT KILLED HIM! AS GOD IS MY WITNESS HE IS BROKEN IN HALF!” and “WILL SOMEBODY STOP THE DAMN MATCH?!” are absolutely legendary calls for good reason, and they enhance the drama tenfold.

Mick certainly earned his “Hardcore Legend” moniker that night in Pittsburgh. Vince McMahon, speaking to him after the match, told him that he would never be able to repay him for what he had done for his company. Mick responded that he was very welcome. Vince then paused and said “don’t ever do that again!” although, of course, he would reprise the through the roof bump for his match with Triple H in February 2000. Most remarkably of all, Foley was still able to perform a run in during the Austin/Kane main event, which is crazy even to think about. The sheer visceral thrill of those absurd risks taken by Foley at King of the Ring ensures that this match will be talked about for as long as there is such a thing as professional wrestling, but it’s important for another reason too; it was the ultimate conclusion to a two year long on/off feud between the Mankind character and The Undertaker that helped Marc Callaway finally step away from endless circus matches with freakishly sized guys who couldn’t work. Mick Foley is fairly much responsible for rehabilitating the Deadman as a watchable and vital wrestler. Sit down and watch the series of contests between the deranged Mankind and the implacable Undertaker in succession and you’ll see a wonderfully heated feud which began in the New Generation period and reached an incredibly fitting conclusion with the insanely violent cell match in the heyday of the Attitude Era. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the fact that Foley’s heroics in the cell match changed the game forever so far as risk taking in mainstream professional wrestling is concerned. You can trace a line from that night in the summer of ’98, through to the insanity of the TLC era (where Jeff Hardy established himself as the new daredevil on the block) and indeed, on into the modern day, with the likes of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose helping to keep the big bumping spirit of the ‘Taker/Mankind bout alive.

The sophomore edition of the Hell in a Cell gimmick found its perfect proponents in Mankind and The Undertaker, and the fact we’re still talking about it in hushed tones all these years later speaks of just what a remarkable piece of work it is. From a shock and awe perspective, I’m not sure it will ever be topped. I certainly hope it never is, for the sake of the performers if nothing else. It is an honour and a privilege to induct Mankind vs. The Undertaker from King of the Ring 1998 into the Lords of Pain Hall of Fame.