Three Stages of Hell Professional Wrestling Matches

Triple H and Shawn Michaels battled one another in the first 3 Stages of Hell Match.
Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Three Stages of Hell Match is a Best-of-3 Falls Match with an added twist. Every fall of the match features a different and more dangerous stipulation than the fall before it.  This match is traditionally used for only the most intense feuds in the business and has only taken place four times in over a decade.

The First Three Stages of Hell Match

The Combtants: Triple H and Steve Austin
The Event: No Way Out 2001
Events leading to the match: Even though Steve Austin was a month away from challenging The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania X-Seven, he still had some unfinished business to deal with. Austin had recently returned to the ring after being out of action when Rikishi ran him over with a car. It was later revealed that Triple H was behind this plot which kept Austin out of action for almost a year. Austin got a small measure of revenge when he used a forklift to drop a car Triple H was in 20 feet to the ground.
Fall One: The first fall of this match was a traditional wrestling match which Steve Austin won after hitting a Stone Cold Stunner.
Fall Two: The stipulation for this fall was a Street Fight. In this stage of the match, there was no disqualification. The two men took advantage of this stipulation and this part of the match featured the use of multiple weapons. Triple H won this fall after hitting Steve Austin in the head with a sledge hammer and then followed that up with the Pedigree.<br/>Fall Three: The final stipulation was a Steel Cage Match. The ending of this one saw Steve Austin hit Triple H in the head with a barbed wire covered 2x4 at the exact same moment Triple H hit Steve Austin in the head with the sledge hammer. Triple H was lucky enough to fall on top of Steve Austin to get the pin fall.
The Aftermath: Steve Austin would go onto beat The Rock for the WWE Championship and in the process he joined forces with Vince McMahon. The following night, Steve Austin and Triple H put their differences aside and formed the Two Man Power Trip and would go onto win the World Tag Team Championship. That team broke up a few months later when Triple H tore his quad muscle in a tag team match they were partners in.

The Second Three Stages of Hell Match

The Combatants: Triple H and World Heavyweight Champion Shawn Michaels
The Event: Armageddon 2002
Events leading to this match: In 1997, Shawn and Triple H revolutionized the business when they formed D-Generation X. Shawn's time in the group didn't last too long as he was forced to retire the following year due to a back injury. Over they course of the next few years, Triple H became one of the biggest stars in the company and had gotten out of Shawn's shadow. Triple H wasn't happy when Shawn announced his return to the ring in 2002 and put Shawn's head through a car window. The two men fought each other at SummerSlam in an Unsanctioned Street Fight which Shawn won. Triple H wasn't happy about this and hit Shawn in the back with his sledge hammer following the match. At Survivor Series Shawn won the World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H in the first-ever Elimination Chamber Match.
Fall One: The first fall of this match was a Street Fight. During the fall, Shawn hurt his leg. Triple H took advantage of this and won the fall after hitting Shawn with the Pedigree.<br/>Fall Two: Not only were Shawn and Triple H bloody messes by the time this fall ended, so was Ric Flair, who got involved in this match for protege, Triple H. Shawn won this fall after he placed Triple H on a table and then jumped off the top of the cage and delivered a flying body press onto his former partner. After Shawn scored the pin, Ric Flair needed help to get to the back.
Fall Three: The final fall was a Ladder Match and featured the World Heavyweight Championship dangling from the arena. During the earlier portions of the match, Ric Flair had stacked three tables at ringside. When Shawn was climbing the ladder, Triple H tipped it over which caused Shawn to crash through all the tables. Triple H was then able to climb the ladder to regain the World Heavyweight Championship.
The Aftermath: This feud would go on for several more years. Shawn and Triple H would eventually reunite in 2006 and have remained friends to this day. In a historical footnote to this match, this event was the last time that Shawn entered a match as a world champion.

The Third Three Stages of Hell Match

The Combatants: Triple H and WWE Champion Randy Orton
The Event: The Bash 2009
Events leading to this match: Randy Orton's first big break in the business came when he was mentored by Triple H when they were both a part of Evolution. Triple H turned on Randy in 2005 and Randy held a grudge for a long time. By the time this match took place, Randy was a main event star and formed his own group called Legacy which featured him in the leadership role. The feud became personal in the months leading up to WrestleMania as Randy punted Vince and Shane McMahon in the head and even gave hit Triple H's wife. Stephanie McMahon, a few occasions. Orton entered the match with the WWE Championship, the title Triple H held before the assaults on his family began.
Fall One: The first fall was fought under traditional wrestling rules. Triple H purposefully lost the fall by disqualification when he decided to pummel Randy with a steel chair over a dozen times.
Fall Two: The second fall was a Falls Count Anywhere Match which Triple H easily won when he gave the beaten Orton a Pedigree outside of the ring.<br/>Fall Three: The third fall was a Stretcher Match. The way to win this fall was to put your opponent on the stretcher and have it pass a line which was taped near the top of the ramp. Triple H was inches away from dragging the stretcher over the designated line when he was attacked by Legacy. Triple H took care of both members of Legacy by using his sledgehammer which he had hidden in the set. However, Orton used that piece of the set to hit Triple H. He then put him on the stretcher and moved it a few inches to go over the line to win the match. However, his celebration was short-lived because Triple H hit him with the sledgehammer while he was celebrating.
The Aftermath: This marked the final time these two men fought each other in a singles match on pay-per-view. John Cena found himself caught up in this feud which eventually led to a long feud between him and Orton. While Cena and Orton feuded with one another, Triple H rejoined forces with Shawn Michaes as D-Generation X set their sites on Legacy.

The Fourth Three Stages of Hell Match

The Combatants: WWE Champion John Cena and Ryback
The Event: Payback 2013
Events leading to this match: Ryback and John Cena were the final two men in the 2013 Royal Rumble Match. Cena won the match which propelled him to winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXIX. The night after the event, Ryback shocked the WWE Universe when he hit Cena with the Shell Shock. A Last Man Standing Match between the two men at ended in a No Contest when both men went crashing through the set. Cena got the worse of that collision and was put on a stretcher and almost wound up leaving the arena in an ambulance. Cena got off the stretcher right before the EMTs put him in it.
Fall One: The first fall of this match was a Lumberjack Match which Ryback won after escaping the STF and giving the champion the Shell Shocked.
Fall Two: John Cena won a Tables Match after putting Ryback through one with an Attitude Adjustment.
Fall Three: The deciding fall was Ambulance Match. Upset over losing the prior fall, Ryback put Cena though the announcers table before bell rang to begin this stage of the match. However, Ryback's attitude was adjusted when John Cena put him through the roof of the ambulance with the Attitude Adjustment to get the win.
The Aftermath: The feud between these men ended as Ryback went onto feud with Chris Jericho while Cena's next pay-per-view title defense was against Mark Henry.