Like The Undertaker, Kane’s career in WWE needs little explanation. His prominence in the company over the last 24 years makes it difficult to condense the tenure of “The Big Red Machine” in only a few paragraphs. So, like my entry on The Undertaker, I’ll go over some of Kane’s biggest storylines and most important moments.
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After a number of failed gimmicks including an evil dentist and a fake “Diesel,” Glenn Jacobs had left a sour taste in the mouths of professional wrestling fans, but to no fault of his own. The WWF was still in its “New Generation” era which had produced some of the silliest, most unwanted and downright laughable characters in professional wrestling. Who can forget Mantaur or Max Moon? Why wouldn’t a bloodthirsty dentist fit in well with the likes of Duke “The Dumpster” Drowsy? Thank the wrestling Gods then that Glenn Jacobs would have a career resurgence in 1997.
In April of that year, Paul Bearer had threatened to reveal The Undertaker’s “biggest secret” in an attempt to reconcile their differences after months of animosity between the two. The Undertaker continually refused to rectify their conflict and wouldn’t buy into Bearer’s ultimatum, a move that would result in Bearer leaking this “secret” to the world. It had been revealed that The Undertaker’s long-lost brother, Kane would be coming to the WWF to face The Deadman. By the looks of Taker’s face, there was way, way more to this story than just a bitter sibling rivalry.
Over the coming months, the siblings’ relationship would be better understood by fans. Here’s the very abridged version of what Paul Bearer had been implying from April up until October 1997. Mind you, I’m shortening seven months of long-term storytelling into one sentence.
When he was a child, The Undertaker burned down his parents’ funeral home, killing them in the process, while leaving his little brother, Kane with severe mental and physical scars from the fire. Pro wrestling fucking rules.
In one of wrestling’s most memorable debuts, during the main event of In Your House: Badd Blood on October 5, 1997, the lights in The Kiel centre in St. Louis shut off during a Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. A few dissonant organ notes played before the arena was illuminated once again, this time in a blood-red hue. Walking down the aisle was Paul Bearer accompanied by a giant masked-man with long black hair and a black and red bodysuit. Fire erupted from the stage as Paul Bearer lifted his arms up with an evil grin over the sounds of Vince McMahon yelling “THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE!” from the commentary table. The camera cut back to the ring to show The Undertaker’s jaw dropped, mouth curled and eyes wide. The man who had terrorized the WWF over the last six years was now the one who was terrified. Kane approached the cell, ripped the door that was keeping the two wrestlers in the cage off of its hinges, entered the ring and stared at his brother for about 30 seconds. He then lifted his arms over his head which seemed to have caused the four turnbuckles to erupt in flames. Shortly after, he lifted The Undertaker over his head and delivered a Tombstone Piledriver before walking back to the stage, ultimately costing The Deadman the match. It was perfect.
Over the next couple of years, Kane would feud on-and-off with his brother, eventually forming The Brothers of Destruction. The two brothers, bonded by their dark history, would run roughshod on the WWF’s tag division and would go on to become three-time tag team champions. During this time, Kane would become more humanized, evolving from a mute monster to a sort of loveable giant. He would talk through a machine, have a few unlikely alliances, get a girlfriend, (speaking of, I refuse to talk about Katie Vick) and refer to his fans as “Kanenites.”
Kane unmasked in 2003, bringing back much of the seriousness we saw in his first arc with the company. After setting fan-favourite commentator and legendary wrestling personality, Jim Ross on fire, The Big Red Machine’s new attitude was apparent. He was hellbent on destruction. He went on to bury his brother alive, setting up the Wrestlemania XX match that saw The Undertaker return to his Deadman persona.
After a really strange storyline that saw Kane impregnate Lita, then lose the baby to a miscarriage caused by Snitsky, Kane was a good guy once again. Yes, I am purposefully going over this storyline very fast.
Over the course of the next six years, he had a fantastic monster tag run with the Big Show, feuded with the likes of Edge and Viscera and eventually made his way to the World Heavyweight Championship in 2010.
From 2011-2013, Kane had another massive career resurgence in the form of Team Hell No. The unlikely duo of a mentally unstable monster in Kane, and a technical wrestler mastermind in Daniel Bryan created some of the most genuinely hilarious moments of WWE’s PG era. The two constantly bickered over who was by themselves, the tag team champions. Some say you can still hear, “no, I’m the tag team champions!” echoing throughout arenas and stadiums today. Hysterical backstage segments and anger management sessions aside, the team of Daniel Bryan and Kane was a true story of friendship, and while it lasted, was an always entertaining part of WWE programming.
In 2014, Kane was shortly part of “The Authority,” acting as Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s Director of Operations. He would be referred to by fans as “Corporate Kane,” and despite being a little silly and relatively forgettable, it made even more satisfying when The Big Red Machine returned to his old, destructive and fiery ways. Since 2015, Kane has gradually slowed down his position on the card and has made appearances more sporadic and far between. Yet, whenever those opening organ notes of his theme song play, those in attendance all lose their minds and impatiently wait for those turnbuckles to erupt in flames.
Today, Kane is the mayor of Knoxville County, Tennessee. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2021, and just like The Undertaker is a constant in professional wrestling. The big, masked monster trope wouldn’t exist without Kane. The fiery pyrotechnics so prevalent in wrestling today wouldn’t exist without Kane. The fear struck in the hearts of countless young viewers wouldn’t exist without Kane. Whether it’s the attitude era, ruthless aggression era, PG era, or reality era, Kane will always be synonymous with WWE.