A look back at the first Women’s Hell in a Cell match

WWE’s women’s division has shattered the glass ceiling. Starting in NXT around 2015 and spilling into the main roster, there have been many firsts this decade. Let’s rewind back to 2016, right in the midst of the women’s evolution.

In the first-ever women’s Hell in a Cell match, Sasha Banks defended her Raw Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair. The match took place at the TD Garden in “Bosstown”—Boston, MA.  

At this point, there were no hotter superstars capable of making a statement as the first women to step foot into the cell than “The Boss” Sasha Banks and “The Queen” Charlotte Flair. In retrospect, this seemed like the biggest year for women in WWE. We know now, they will accomplish a lot more. 

Hell in a Cell
Credit: WWE.com

The Divas Championship had been retired, and there is now a Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championship. Three out of four of the Horsewomen — Flair, Banks, and Becky Lynch — put on a classic at WrestleMania 32 earlier that year, setting the tone for what would be expected from the women moving forward. 

Both Sasha and Charlotte were hot coming up from NXT. They were in the middle of arguably the best women’s feud on the main roster since Lita vs. Trish Stratus. The underlying theme of their Hell in a Cell match was history. 

A couple of weeks prior, the two competed in the main event of Raw for the first time since the aforementioned Hall of Famers did.

Hell in a Cell
Credit: WWE.com

“The Queen” was in the middle of an undefeated streak at pay-per-view events, which included 13 consecutive wins and 12 straight title defenses. This record-breaking streak was the longest for any WWE superstar.

Bayley broke Charlotte’s streak at Fastlane in the following year, setting the record at 16 wins. 

It was also the first time women headlined a WWE pay-per-view. Both competitors, who are no stranger to grand entrances, showed up for the occasion in style. Sasha dressed in camouflage, ready for the battle of all battles.

Each superstar had a reason to be confident, it was one of those moments. 

Hell in a Cell
Credit: WWE.com

And with the already storied legacy of the Hell in a Cell match, the anticipation was high. Fans will never forget the image of the Undertaker standing on top and Mankind falling off the side of the cage onto the announce table back in 1998. “Oh my God, he’s broken in half!” screamed good ol’ J.R. 

What were the two hottest women in the company going to bring to the “demonic structure”? 

Charlotte, the challenger came out first to boos but with an entrance fit for a queen. Sasha’s hometown crowd anxiously awaits her entrance. “We Want Sasha!” chants fill the TD Garden arena and they got their wish when her music hits to a great pop. 

The Boston crowd was invested in every moment throughout the match. Before the cage came down, Charlotte attacks the Raw Women’s Champion. This is when things went in an unexpected direction. 

The two brawled out into the crowd and found themselves climbing the side of the cage. Soon, Sasha went through the announce table in a brutal looking bump. One of many Sasha will take in the match.

Afterward, she was carried out on a stretcher. When the ring announcer proclaimed Charlotte the winner via forfeit, Sasha made her triumphant comeback to compete. 

Hell in a Cell
Credit: WWE.com

The match went for 22 minutes and 25 seconds, with the champion taking a beating for most of it. The two went all out with big spots, including an epic monkey flip, double knees off the cage, steel chairs and two table spots. Sasha paid tribute to her hero, Eddie Guerrero.

All in all, it was a good match, until the finish. This is where the debate comes in on who should’ve won.

Charlotte pins Sasha after the Natural Selection to regain the Raw Women’s Championship for a second time. The crowd was stunned, and it feels like the air has been taken out of the arena. The general consensus is that Sasha should have retained. 

Hell in a Cell
Credit: WWE.com

At the time, the critical reception of the match was mixed. Headlines even described the match as underwhelming. It became more about the importance of history as opposed to the legacy of the actual match. In hindsight, how does this match stack up 3 years later?

Now, this was a big moment. WWE wanted to make it as big as possible. Considering the legacy of the Hell in a Cell match, there was a lot of pressure on these women to deliver something memorable. But was the false start necessary? 

 It felt like WWE tried too hard to make the match memorable and the finish didn’t add up. To be honest, it felt lackluster.

Charlotte was the heel going in and Sasha was clearly the hometown favorite. Having Banks lose robbed the universe of what they really wanted. 

Hell in a Cell
Credit: WWE.com

However, Charlotte’s win is more acceptable because of the character she has developed since then. She is “the Queen,” who is entitled to every championship opportunity and wins even when it feels like she shouldn’t. She is now a record-breaking nine-time women’s champion. 

We have seen superstars lose in their hometown, which adds a surprise element. Sasha has a bad record when it comes to title defenses. But she was a star walking into that match and a bigger star walking out of it. 

The outcome, in hindsight, establishes Charlotte as a major heel character, who will seemingly win no matter what. It leaves Sasha Banks as the fighter who will put it all out there in an unforgettable match. She will continue to claw her way towards the main event picture.

Hell in a Cell
Credit: WWE.com

Since Sasha made her shocking return on the Raw after Summerslam, she is once again one of the hottest members of the division. Losing her first Hell in a Cell match could set up the best story for her to win against Becky in her second one. It fits her argument, and the new side of her character, for vindication.

After this match, Sasha and Charlotte went on to have more classic matches.
We walked down memory lane as we gear up for the second women’s Hell in a Cell match. On Sunday, Oct. 6, Sasha Banks returns to the “demonic structure” to challenge the current Raw Women’s Champion, “The Man” Becky Lynch.

Will it match up or be better than the first? Who should win? Let us know in the comments!

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