The Punjabi Prison match is an iconic set piece in the history of the WWE. Conceived as a signature match type for The Great Khali (although you’ll later find out why he didn’t take part in the first ever one), it combines a Hell in a Cell match and a Cage match, by design and match rules, but with it’s own unique twist.
Making it’s debut in 2006, it was one of the first brand new match types WWE had invented in years. It’s unique structure and potentially fun rules was unlike anything else seen before and had a bamboo-inspired look that has not been seen before or since.
The match saw two wrestlers start inside the ring, as two giant bamboo cages surround them. The inner cage is around the size of a steel cage, with one door on each side of the square structure. Once requested by a superstar, the referees on the outside will open the door. A wrestler has 30 seconds to exit the inner cage through before it is slammed shut and locked. Once all four are locked, there is only one way to escape – by climbing over the cage.
You cannot win a Punjabi Prison Match by Pin fall, Submission or Disqualification. The only way to win is to escape both cages and for both feet to touch the floor. This has led to some tense endings, as both men involved try to hurry over the cage after a weary fight inside the ring. There has never been a multi-man or tag team edition of the match, so it unknown what the rules for the match be like.
Every Punjabi Prison Match
1) The Undertaker vs. The Big Show – Great American Bash (2006)
The Great Khali was originally supposed to wrestle in the first ever Punjabi Prison match. However, he was was removed from the match on the day of the event after elevated levels of enzymes were found in his liver. The led his rival at the time, The Undertaker, without an opponent and an expensive, never before seen set piece that had been heavily advertised, now unusable.
To counteract this, they drafted in a new opponent for The Deadman. Big Show, who was loosely aligned with Khali at the time, replaced him in the match. While it made sense to put in somebody just as big as The Great Khali as his replacement, there was little storyline involved in the match which requires a good story make it watchable. It was also controversial, as the match was “created” by the Indian star and having him not involved just made very little sense.
Both Undertaker and Big Show came close to winning the match, but The Phenom’s feet hit the floor first, giving him the victory.
2) Batista vs The Great Khali – No Mercy (2007)
A year later, WWE brought back the match and actually let The Great Khali wrestle in it. He challenged World Heavyweight Champion Batista for the title inside the demonic structure, as the two heavyweights attempted to beat each other up so much that they couldn’t stop them climbing over the bamboo cages and escape with the championship.
It looked like Khali would use his height to his advantage and was so close to climbing out and winning his second World Heavyweight Championship in the WWE. However, somehow Batista used all his strength and cunning to climb down lightning fast and dropped onto the floor to retain his title and become the second ever winner of the infamous match.
3) Jinder Mahal vs Randy Orton – Battleground (2017)
After a decade away from the WWE, the Punjabi Prison match made it’s triumphant return at WWE Battleground 2017. It was brought back by Jinder Mahal, the in-storyline brother in law of The Great Khali and the first Indian to hold the WWE Championship in history.
He had won the title off Randy Orton just weeks prior, and had defended it via cheating not long before. This led to a final face off between the two where the Punjabi Prison returned, much to the ridicule of fans who did not appreciate the Bamboo-based structures history and prestige.
In one of the funniest returns of the year, The Great Khali came out to cost Orton the match and help Jinder Mahal to win the bout. He then hilariously grabbed the title belt for himself and walked backstage with it, to the confusion of everyone. He was later rewarded with a Hall of Fame induction by Vince McMahon.
Why Did WWE Get Rid Of The Punjabi Prison Match
WWE has not been one to overuse the Punjabi Prison match. There have only been 3 Punjabi Prison matches in history, with the last being over five years ago. However, one former WWE writer gave a simple and succinct reason as to why WWE are so hesitant to reuse the match type.
Speaking on the on the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast, former WWE writer Matt McCarthy said: “As far as off-the-wall stuff, I feel like the last off-the-wall idea was the Elimination Chamber… or maybe the Punjabi Prison, actually. That would have come after, right? The Punjabi Prison was used so sparingly just because it was so expensive. You know, you have to get a separate truck just to bring that, and it’s so heavy… the cage.”
The Punjabi Prison match has yet to be reintroduced to the WWE since 2017 and we eagerly await the latest iteration of the match, even if The Great Khali will no longer be a part of it.