If you count NXT TakeOvers, there have been nearly 400 WWE pay-per-view main events over the years. And while many of those matches and moments are iconic, none of them have the honor of being called the best WWE pay-per-view main event of all time.
That title belongs solely to the Badd Blood 1997: In Your House pay-per-view main event from October 5th of that year.
From the incredible build featuring multiple intertwined storylines to the match itself, the main event of Badd Blood 1997 has everything you could ever want and more.
You have two iconic stars in Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker facing off for what is widely considered the second-best of their many classic matches together. (Authors note: I personally consider this to be the best of their singles matches with one another.)
There’s also the debut of the Hell in a Cell match stipulation itself, which is certainly quite notable. It’s a concept that WWE loved so much that they turned it into its own yearly pay-per-view event, which wouldn’t have happened if this match was a stinker.
On top of all of that, you have the legendary debut of Kane, a guy who became a major star in the company the moment he ripped the door off of the Cell that night in October.
But as fun as all of that is, to truly understand just how great the main event of Badd Blood 1997 was, you have to dig even deeper. And the best place to start with that deep dive is with the main storyline of the match itself: Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker.
Shawn Michaels Runs From The Undertaker
Before the two men battled it out inside of Hell in a Cell, they had their first major interaction at the 1997 SummerSlam pay-per-view event in August.
On that night, Michaels was the special guest referee for The Undertaker’s WWE Championship match against Bret Hart. And though he didn’t have any issues with Undertaker yet, he came into the show with plenty of bad things to say about Hart, who was challenging for the title.
During the heat of the match (and after being spat on), Michaels attempted to hit Hart over the head with a steel chair. Hart, of course, moved out of the way and the chair connected with The Undertaker’s skull instead, leading to the end of the match.
Thanks to Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart had captured the WWE Championship, for the final time, from The Undertaker. Talk about tough luck if you’re Michaels or The Undertaker, right?
The very next night on Raw, Michaels turned heel and blamed WWE (and the fans?!), both for what happened at SummerSlam and for his many other problems at the time.
His biggest problem at that particular moment? A match with The Undertaker at the next pay-per-view, Ground Zero.
On the August 11th episode of Raw, Michaels aimed to increase his chances against The Phenom by aligning himself with Rick Rude, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and Chyna. And together, the trio went to work on Undertaker. The following week, on the final Raw before Ground Zero, they laid him out with that same steel chair from SummerSlam.
At Ground Zero, Undertaker finally got a chance to exact his revenge on Shawn Michaels. Michaels ran from him for the majority of the match, which is a bit of a forgotten gem due to the fact that their other matches together are so iconic.
During the match, that same steel chair was used once again, and things got so chaotic that the match ended in a no contest. On paper, it might not sound like much to write home about, but I’d argue that it’s one of the best matches to end without a winner… ever?
The night after Ground Zero, a rematch between Michaels and Undertaker was announced for the next pay-per-view event, Badd Blood. In an attempt to prevent another chaotic ending, as well as stop Michaels from running away from Undertaker, a stipulation was added to the match.
That stipulation, which was announced somewhat nonchalantly via a standard match graphic, was called Hell in a Cell.
WWE did a wonderful job of teasing the match stipulation itself during the build. We got a brief description of what it was (a cage with a roof!), but we never actually saw the structure until seconds before the match began. In a time where you had to pay more than 10 bucks for a pay-per-view, this was especially genius.
The go-home episode of Raw for Badd Blood is worth mentioning, too. The show went off the air in the midst of chaos, but that’s not what made it so notable.
As Michaels was attempting to flee from The Undertaker once again, he was cut off by a “red light” directly behind the entrance stage curtain. He called an audible and climbed up the Titantron, and the “red light” was barely mentioned on commentary, as the show went off the air.
What was the mysterious “red light” all about? Well, to tell that story, you have to go even further back in 1997, to the month of April.
That’s (Going) to Be Kane
WWE’s April 1997 pay-per-view event was coincidentally titled In Your House: Revenge of the Taker.
One of the more notable things to occur on the show is a moment that saw The Undertaker throw a fireball at his former manager Paul Bearer’s face. Because it’s wrestling, and that’s what happens sometimes.
Over the next few weeks, Bearer would sell those injuries in a way that only he could. By comically covering his entire face with bandages and telling viewers at home just how much pain he was in using his iconic voice.
It wasn’t until the May 12th episode of Raw that Bearer finally started to get some revenge on the ‘Taker himself.
On that episode of Raw, Bearer threatened to reveal a dark secret about The Undertaker’s past if he refused to return to Bearer’s side. He reiterated that threat over the next few weeks, which spooked Undertaker so much that he eventually did reunite with him. For a moment, at least.
That brief reunion, which consisted mostly of Bearer verbally abusing Undertaker, ended on the June 23rd episode of Raw when Undertaker grew tired of Bearer’s harassment and finally snapped.
At this point, it had been well over a month since the initial mention of Undertaker’s secret, and the intrigue was at an all-time high.
Upset that Undertaker had left his side once again, Bearer revealed that secret in great (and hilariously entertaining) detail on the June 30th episode of Raw.
During that segment, we got the backstory for Undertaker’s brother Kane, who was actually mentioned by name for the first time ever on TV.
Bearer then teased Kane’s arrival, specifically to confront The Undertaker, for the next few months. His last Kane teaser came on the August 11th episode of Raw, two months prior to Badd Blood, and two months after the secret was first introduced.
That brings us back to that September 29th go-home episode of Raw for Badd Blood. The weird “red light” was barely a thing at all…
Again, it wasn’t touched on by the commentary team for more than a second or two. In fact, the show itself went off the air seconds after the moment happened, making it easy to miss when watching live.
If you were paying close attention, you knew what it was. But again, Kane hadn’t been mentioned on TV in months at this point, which means he wasn’t on the minds of many watching at home.
The Night of Badd Blood 1997
Everything up to this point has led us to the night of Badd Blood 1997 and the Hell in a Cell Match between Michaels and Undertaker. The match itself, in large part due to the build, told an amazing story that can be broken down into 4 acts.
ACT I: Shawn Runs
At this point, Shawn Michaels had been running from the Undertaker for around two months. And while being trapped inside of Hell in a Cell limited his ability to do so effectively, he continued to try.
The only problem? The Undertaker was beating the absolute hell out of him the entire time he ran around the ring, which was honestly the thing we’d all been wanting to see for months.
While this is happening, Michaels is selling the attack in a way that only he can, making it look as if he has no chance to survive the match, let alone win it.
ACT II: Shawn Survives
Somehow, Shawn Michaels managed to survive the early storm unleashed by The Undertaker. And because he survived, he was given the opportunity to get in some offense of his own, which he took advantage of.
Through this attack, Michaels appeared to have turned the match around in his favor, planting The Undertaker head-first onto the steel ring steps with a vicious piledriver. Up to this point, it was the most devastating-looking thing to happen in the match, giving HBK fans a small glimmer of hope.
Remember that steel chair that had tied these two together so beautifully during the build? The one that was used back at SummerSlam to spark the entire feud?
Michaels certainly did, as he seized the chair and used it to whale on Undertaker as soon as he got the chance to.
Despite all of this abuse, The Undertaker managed to survive the storm, much like Michaels did earlier in the match. And it wasn’t long before he was on the attack again, sending Michaels crashing to the floor and onto an unfortunate cameraman at ringside.
ACT III: Going Up Top
Of course, this cameraman wasn’t Shawn Michaels or The Undertaker. So the moment he went down, he required medical attention.
In order to give him that attention, the chained and locked Hell in a Cell door needed to be opened.
As soon as that door was opened, Michaels took off running yet again, this time heading back up the entrance ramp. He was quickly cut off by Undertaker, who sent him face-first into the Cell, introducing blood into the match.
Still on the run, Michaels attempted to flee from danger one last time by climbing to the top of the Cell. He was met at the top by The Undertaker, who continued to beat him senseless for all the trouble Michaels has caused over the past two months.
In a stroke of luck, a drop of Michaels’ blood fell from atop the cage and onto a camera lens that was inside the ring over a dozen feet below. It was a total happy accident and the kind of thing that turns a great match into a classic.
Beaten and bloodied, Michaels tried to descend back down the cage. But, of course, he was cut off by Undertaker and sent crashing through the announce table on the floor below in spectacular fashion.
Sure, the bump itself was topped the following year by Mick Foley. But it still looks incredible today and helped take the match to the next level.
ACT IV: The Closing Moments
Back inside the Cell, and in the middle of the ring, Undertaker continued to attack Michaels. He grabbed that familiar steel chair, and for the first time ever, used it to get in some licks of his own on Michaels.
The match was very much over at this point, and Undertaker knew it, so he went for his legendary Tombstone Piledriver to seal the deal.
Before he could hit it, the lights went out, and we heard for the first time what is now one of the most recognizable entrance themes of all time.
Like the build to the match, and the match itself, words don’t do this moment justice. Vince’s iconic call of “…that’s gotta be, that’s gotta be Kane” is one of his best, and on his last night as the lead play-by-play guy, no less.
Kane ripping the door off the Cell and going toe to toe with The Undertaker, who sold the shock of seeing his brother alive beautifully without saying a word, is a perfect example of what wrestling can be in its greatest moments. It’s the bow that tops this entire thing off beautifully, making it the best ending to a WWE pay-per-view event ever.
Of course, you’ve seen the moment. You know that Kane hits a Tombstone of his own on The Undertaker, allowing Shawn Michaels to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
You also know that things didn’t stop there and that the fallout of the match was just as important as the match itself.
The Fallout From Badd Blood 1997
One of the things that make wrestling so different from other mediums is that it never ends. And while the 5-month-long build to Kane’s debut and the two-month-long feud between Michaels and Undertaker were both great, the show literally went on the next night.
Going forward, all three men involved were set up for success thanks to the execution of the Badd Blood 1997 main event.
Kane had just made his iconic debut and was instantly feuding with a top guy in a major storyline. He also had the benefit of Undertaker logic, which simply meant he could get away with things other characters couldn’t, like summoning fire… with his arms.
The Undertaker had something especially important to fall into after his loss as well: a feud with Kane. In fact, I challenge you to find another person who lost a big-time pay-per-view main event and came out looking this good and set up this nicely for the future. It’s not easy to do, is it?
Shawn Michaels, of course, won the bout, which just so happened to be a number one contendership match for Bret Hart’s WWE Championship.
The same championship reign that started at SummerSlam 1997 because of Michaels and was the launching point for Badd Blood was going to end the next month at Survivor Series… an event that somehow managed to be more notable than this one.
For my money, I think this is the best combination of a storyline build, a match execution, and a fallout that any WWE pay-per-view main event has ever produced. You have great stories being told, iconic moments happening, and a truly timeless match all going down at the same time.
If you still don’t believe me, I suggest you go watch the wonderfully-done WWE Untold episode about the match itself on the WWE Network. And after that, go watch the match again, and even the build to it, because it’s just as good today as it was in 1997.