Episode 99- Hell In The Cell

Hell In The Cell

Today’s episode and episodes like this, I’m going to call these empty calories. Cause I love to bring a story to every podcast, but I want to bring the story with the lesson something that you can come away with and you can take something from so you can use it to get better. 

But I have to tell you, there are a lot of stories that I want to tell but I don’t think they have a lesson attached to them. So, I’ve avoided recording them because I don’t know the hook would be to help you. And these stories come up sometimes in conversations and people are like “you got to tell that story to your podcast.” And I think I should but what’s going to be the hook that helps out with the lesson? So, I said to myself, these can be empty calories. This is like the doughnut or the bowl of ice cream, the stuff that tastes good but got no redeeming value. I don’t think. So, when you hear empty calories, think that there’s not a probably be a lesson tied into this, it is just going to be a fun or crazy story that’s happened in the past.

So as I’ve mentioned before, I used to be a photographer for what was the WWF which is now WWE which was the World Wrestling Federation,  now World Wrestling Entertainment. And one of most famous matches in their history was the hell the cell match between the Undertaker and a guy named Mick Foley. And that match happened in Pittsburgh in 1998, it has become so famous they actually celebrated the 20 year anniversary last year and they brought Mick into talk about that famous night, 20 years ago.

So I was hired by Tom Buchanan, who was the lead photographer the month before to start shooting with the WWF. And he gave me my schedule and on my schedule was a pay-per-view event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And the next night, we be heading over to the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio for the Monday Night Raw live event. 

That was a bizarre night all around. I remember from the very beginning, everything kind of going wrong. David McLane, one of the photographers got into a car accident in Pittsburgh early in the day. I remember other issues of production as we got ready. Then the event started and the madness settled down and we go about our business. 

And the big anticipation of the night was the Hell In The Cell match between Mick and the Undertaker. The crazy thing is it wasn’t even the main event. The main event was the next match where Stone Cold Steve Austin would defend his title against a guy named Kane. But the Hell In The Cell match was what people are there for.

My shooting position was one level up from ringside. So, I wasn’t ringside but Tom was. And before you know it, the giant steel cage is being lowered to the ground from the ceiling and the entire crowd is booked into a frenzy. Now, before the match I was told that the Undertaker was going to throw Mick off the top of the cage onto the table below, and that was the shot that I needed to get.  

Now Mick’s character was named Mankind, and that’s the name that he was wrestling under that point so you could feel the tension and the anticipation as the ring got lowered and Mick walked into the ring holding a steel chair in his hands. Then the Undertaker’s music came on and then he came towards the ring. We know that this is all scripted but I’m telling you, it was as dramatic as you might imagine. 

So the match started with Mankind climbing up one side of the cage and the Undertaker climbing up the other side and they met at the top of the cage and the battle started right there. 

So the battle started but I’m not enjoying the match like the fans are. They are screaming and yelling and going crazy but I need to make sure that I get this shot of Undertaker throwing Mick off the cage but I don’t know where or when it’s going to happen. And adding to the drama for me is this a one-shot deal. But we are photographing with strobes which were wired in at the top of the arena and these strobes give off a big burst of light but you only get one frame to shoot before needs to recycle. So, you get one frame and it takes four seconds before you could shoot the next one. So, it truly is one-shot. 

So, they’re beating each other on the top of the ring and Mick looks like he’s winning and the undertaker turns it around and I fire a frame. And as soon as I do the Undertaker grabs Mick by his hair and by his pants and he proceeds to toss him off the top of the cage into a table at ringside. And as he was to toss him, I fire frame, but I knew the strobe didn’t go off and I knew I didn’t get the shot. So, I’m feeling sick to my stomach. I know that when this is all done I better go back and explain that I didn’t get the picture that I need to get. 

The match continues, but we also knew that Mick was going to recover and at some point in the match, they’re going to be back on top of the cage and the Undertaker’s going to slam Mick into the top of the cage and it’s going to fall through and Mick will going to land on the ring inside. So I knew I needed to get that picture as well. So, Mick recovers to get back to the top of the cage. They’re battling again and this was after Mick got let off on a stretcher and then came back to meet Undertaker on top. With a couple seconds of fighting, the Undertaker lifted up Mick in his choke slam and threw him down into the top of the cage. And the cage gave way and Mick fell 16 feet, crashing into the floor of the ring. Now I did get that picture and that was supposed to happen, but what wasn’t supposed to happen was that the folding chair that Mick had with him was not supposed to come down with him. And when Mick landed hard onto the canvas, the folding chair landed hard into his teeth and that was not supposed to happen. 

So, this fight went on for another 15 minutes and I remember while shooting, I was looking around and I’d been to so many events in my lifetime and photograph them, but I’d never remembered a crowd as entranced, as engaged and at multiple times stunned by what they are watching. And after more craziness including Mick bringing out a bag of tax, well they were real tax because I felt them, and then again being choke slammed into a pile of tax that were sticking out of his body. I’m sorry from grossing out with this, it is just what happened. He mercifully was pinned and mercifully lost the match to the Undertaker about 20 minutes in. As Mick was carried and helped out the ring, I caught my breath but I looked down and I saw my boss, Tom, looking up at me and pointing for me to go back to the locker room. And he had a serious look on his face like “you better go now.” 

So I ran down, I hopped over the wall, I headed towards backstage and I was flashing my press pass and I got backstage in record time. I found the locker room so I can get pictures of Mick after what was obviously an iconic battle to be remembered. So I headed back in the locker room and there is Mick laying there on a small little bed and a bunch of doctors looking at him and a few people all around. And they tried pushing me away but I told them I need to be there so they let me in and I was literally a foot away from Mick. As I started working on him. 

That’s going to get a little bit gross here. So if you can’t handle it. Stop listening now. 

But when that chair came crashing down on Mick, it’d knocked out a few of his teeth. But even worse and it can get a little more gross so I warned you. But two of the teeth that push through his upper lip and one went into his nose. I’m photographing all this and all of a sudden, I hear commotion. And to my right. The Undertaker, comes walking into the room to check up on Mick. I could see the Undertaker was concerned. He is asking about Mick’s feeling and Mick smiled at made kind of joke to the Undertaker and then he looked at him and said “Did you give me the tombstone?”, which is Undertaker’s signature move and I look to Undertaker, he is sweating on me because he’s right on top me and Undertaker says “Are you serious?” And Mick said “Yeah.” He goes “I did it to you twice.” And Mick laid back down as they work on him. It was obvious that he had a concussion.

And the night just continues to the most bizarre fashion because what was supposed to be the highlight of a pay-per-view event which is the heavyweight championship. Steve Austin lost his title that night to Kane but nobody remembered it and nobody even seemed to care. As everybody left the arena, all they could talk about was the performance in the Hell In the Cell match. 

And I knew it was a classic but I never knew that 21 years later, people would still be asking me about that match and so many questions about it. But what I found so impressive was this. After a rough night sleep in Pittsburgh, we drove to Cleveland the next night for the Monday Night Raw Event and we were there way early because everybody was just jacked up from the night before. And were talking and of all people, Stone Cold Steve Austin, heavyweight champion comes up to us as were chatting and we’re talking about Mick and Undertaker and the whole performance that happened. They said the most incredible moment happened as that match ended and Steve and the other guys were saying, everybody was watching the match on the monitors backstage and when the match ended, all the wrestlers collectively gathered at the entrance where the wrestlers exit and enter backstage. And as Mick was carried back to the locker room, for the only time that any of them can remember, they all collectively surrounded Mick and gave him a standing ovation and they said that nobody ever remembered that happening at any other time besides that night.

So those are my empty calories. There’s no lesson there. It’s just a fun crazy story that I want to share with you. I hope you’re not too grossed out after that, but it is what happened. 

Thanks for listening through that and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!

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