Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wrestling Wednesdays: Kane

This is the first in a semi-regular series of columns focusing on great wrestling ideas and storylines, often with a touch of super-powered storytelling in the process. I actually scrapped my original plans for my first post (though it should appear in the next couple weeks) to focus on a character that I have loved for years and has really came out in to his own in the last few weeks: the Big Red Machine known as Kane.

I very willingly admit I am what they call a “smart” mark, a wrestling fan that knows just a little too much about the wrestling world for his own good. It often makes me finicky as a wrestling fan, though never quite at the level of some of the craziest “smarks” I have met on the net. I still appreciate a good gimmick, a good storyline, and good charisma along with a good wrestler. I just wanted to include this preference to clear up any confusion when I talk about the subject for the first week of this column: Kane.

Now Kane was a great gimmick early on, much as Undertaker was, simply because both characters may be the closest thing WWF/WWE ever came to having true superhero crossovers. Wrestling has had a superhuman quality to it since the days of Hulk Hogan, but the two supernatural forces, brothers and enemies, personified why great gimmicks can truly take a wrestler to the next plateau in their career.

After years of going in and out of wrestling with some of the worst gimmicks imaginable: Unabomb, the Dark Knight (an actual knight, not Batman), the New Diesel, and Dr. Isaac Yankem DDS (the evil wrestling dentist...with bad teeth!), Glen Jacobs finally got the wrestlign gimmick that would change his life. Paul Bearer and Undertaker split up several months before after years of working together. Alongside Mankind, Bearer had a long feud with Taker, but never could pick up a win. So he decided to bring in his ace in the hole: Undertaker’s long lost brother.

They teased the coming of Kane for several weeks until October 1997 during the Badd Blood pay-per-view. During the first ever Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker, Kane arrived to attack his brother.

It would be months still before the feud finally lit up, despite all the fire in Kane’s entrance. He would feud with his brother for most of the next year. This would lead him to his first WWE title shot in mid-1998. He would quickly beat Stone Cold Steve Austin to win the title. he would hold it for only a day, as he dropped it back to Austin on the very next night.

Over the next several years, Kane would continue to alternately switch from face to heel as he alternately fought and teamed with his brother. The two characters would have their own stories, but it never seemed to be more than a few months before they met again. During the Invasion, they officially became a tag team, the Brothers of Destruction, and dominated for several months against all foes. His costume reversed during this title reign, as his old red and black outfit suddenly turned primarily black with red flames all around it. The new attire proved slightly more sensible (what is a black flame anyway?) while the slightly smaller mask seemed to give Kane a greater ability to both breath and to speak, a trait he picked up only months before (through a brief team with X-Pac.)Their feats at the time bordered on superhuman, as it often seemed that no matter how great the force lined against them, they were unbeatable.

As the invasion ended, the brand extension began. And with it came the first chance for the two brothers to be completely separated. Taker was on show while Kane was on the other (though they both switched shows early on.) Kane returned after injury with his first major revamp in appearance since his debut. With his new look and his first long term run as a hero, Kane’s focus seemed to be on putting together multiple title reigns. He would be the final Intercontinental champion (or at least until the title was brought back nine months later) and hold the tag titles twice, once with Raw’s comedic superhero The Hurricane, the other with the high-flying Rob Van Dam.

After the tag title run with RVD ran its course, he would enter his last big main event push in mid-1994. He would feud briefly with Triple H for the World title, only to lose by interference to Triple H in a mask vs title match. After seven years, Kane would have to unmask.

Without his mask he would become a more human foe, but a man fueled by an unending rage as well as a desperate need not just to beat, but also to torture his foes. He turned on first Rob Van Dam and later on Shane McMahon. He would tear both apart over subsuquent months on his way back to the World title picture. He would eventually fail in his quest to get the title, falling to Triple H and Goldberg, but he did run head long in to an old enemy: Undertaker.

At Vince McMahon’s bidding, he helped beat Undertaker in a buried alive match and the Deadman disappeared for several months. But as Wrestlemania XX, the classic Undertaker would return and defeat Kane once and for all (or for now at least.)

He would end up involved in an extended story for the next year involving Lita, which would take him through a feud with Matt Hardy before he turned face and battled Gene Snitsky and Edge (with Lita turning against him). From here he would flounder in the midcard with only a short lived tag reign with the Big Show. Kane would continue to grow crazier over the next few weeks until he left Raw to return to SmackDown. Kane became a long term midcarder as of 2006, often doing little more than helping midcard stars look better by beating the crazed monster. He would go on to a brief run as the (midcard) ECW champion. This run would quickly end a sell, and he quickly returned to midcard status.

But that ended just a few weeks ago. With his brother Undertaker suddenly attacked and left in a vegetative state, Kane started on a path of destruction. He destroyed every top star on Smackdown over the next several weeks until just a few weeks ago, at Money in the Bank. He would win a Smackdown title shot and almost immediately cash it in to win the World title from Rey Mysterio.

After twelve years, Kane was World champion again.

It’s all a bit crazed, as any long term history of a pro wrestler tends to be. But Kane has proven again and again that he is by far one of the best and most versatile characters in professional wrestling. He is an insane sociopath, whether good or evil, with powers granted him by dark forces.

This is almost certainly Kane’s last hurrah as champion. His dark presence continues to be felt strongly over WWE, but at 43 Glen Jacobs, the man that plays Kane, only has a few more years left in his career. Still it’s great to see such a super-heroic (or super-villainous) presence rise in modern wrestling. The great gimmicks are few and far between in wrestling these days, and to see someone as powerful and entertaining as the Big Red Machine holding the title, does my super-powered heart proud.

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