Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher’s feud-ending steel cage showdown on NXT was something else.
With Kurt Angle officiating – a man who himself brought a refreshing style to a cage stip with his shoot-style battle with Samoa Joe for the TNA World title at Lockdown 2008 – Riddle and Thatcher offered us something unique and very enjoyable courtesy of a few tweaks to the usual format.
Over the years, many attempts have been made to reinvent that four-sided, steel-fenced wheel. Many of them have been utter failures. Remember Kennel from Hell? TNA’s awful Steel Asylum?
However, we think there have also been a fair few great ideas. Some were underappreciated, others ended up becoming as famous as the classic steel cage itself.
Here are five other times tweaking the cage worked a charm.
Of course, this tops the list. The original double-ring cage with a roof and its turn-based team warfare was one of Dusty Rhodes’ greatest ever contributions to the business. Often imitated in various ways with mixed results, but we’re relieved to see NXT find a decent compromise for its return and we’re certain AEW will get the formula right too, when live crowds return.
Hell in a Cell
Perhaps the only other cage variant to become as iconic as War Games, the bloody war between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker and frightening destruction derby pitting the latter against Mankind set the extra-large structure up for life. Sure, the winning formula has been overdone in recent years and tinkered with so much it’d make Claudio Ranieri blush, but we fans still love a HIAC showdown.
The Lion’s Den
While a red-hot WWE staged a memorable Summerslam 1998 inside Madison Square Garden, Ken Shamrock and Owen Hart went upstairs to the building’s smaller and more intimate MSG Theater for a rather shameless ripoff of the UFC Octagon from Shamrock’s storied past. That said, the two put forth a state-of-the-art blowoff bout in front of the perfect type of crowd for such a thing, and had WWE not failed to grasp what made the idea work, it could have been a bigger success. In fact, there was definitely a bit of Lion’s Den inspiration to be found in Riddle/Thatcher…
‘Ready To Rumble’ Triple Cage
Wait, hear me out! I know WCW’s foray into cinema was a massive bomb and both of the company’s actual wrestling matches using the structure from the film were Vince Russo-conceived messes, but the premise of that triple-decker in the year 2000 deserved much more. It was a better design than the failed attempts at Great American Bash ’88 and Uncensored ’96, there’s a lot of drama to be built into the Everest-esque climb to the top of the ‘mountain’, and we’re certain WWE could have a much better crack if not for the WCW stigma.
A hybrid of WarGames, Survivor Series and Royal Rumble matches inside a very slick and unique structure, the beginning of the Chamber in 2002 was another that was so good it led to a reputation of its own. And like HIAC, WWE have certainly overdone it in recent years but the match remains a great spin on the origins of the straight-up cage.