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Revisiting The Kane Mythology

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On Wednesday, the Undertaker announced on WWE’s “The Bump” that Knoxville Mayor Glenn Jacobs, known to WWE audiences as Kane, the Undertaker’s half brother, would be enshrined into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 class.

In the wacky world of professional wrestling, the character is the ultimate selling point in the industry. Perhaps, there is no better character than “Kane.” Whether it was as a demented soul or comedy act, Kane was a superstar you could elevate to the main event, stick in the midcard or put in a tag team and he’d be successful due to his versatility, as well as being one of the company’s most popular stars for the better part of two decades. A tremendous athlete for his size, “The Big Red Machine” walked through hellfire and brimstone to be one of the most accomplished wrestlers in the business. All of this being said, the true selling point of Kane’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame lays within his persona.

“Well, I grew up locked in a basement, suffering severe psychological and emotional scarring when my brother set my parents on fire. From there, I shifted around among a series of mental institutions until I was grown, at which point, I buried my brother alive…thrice. Since then, I’ve set a couple of people on fire, and abducted various co-workers. Oh, and I, uh…once electrocuted a man’s testicles. Years ago, I had a girlfriend named Katie, but, uh… let’s just say that that didn’t turn out so well. My real father is a guy named Paul Bearer, who I recently trapped in a meat locker. I’ve been married, divorced, broke up my ex-wife’s wedding, and tombstoned the priest. And for reasons never explained, I have an unhealthy obsession with torturing Pete Rose.”

-Kane, in a 2012 anger management segment.

The Undertaker is one of the most beloved characters in all of pop culture. In 1997, following his WWF Championship loss to Bret Hart at Summerslam, his former manager Paul Bearer once again started targeting the Phenom. After weeks of giving the seemingly real-life comic book character a really cool backstory that explained to the “Creatures of the Night” why he’s the “Lord of Darkness,” Bearer revealed that “KANE IS ALIVE!”

The Undertaker in the Attitude Era.

The story goes that Paul Bearer was learning under a mortician, who happened to be the Undertaker’s father. While he was being mentored, he had an extramarital affair with the Undertaker’s mom, impregnating her in the process. The Undertaker went through a rebellious phase while his half brother Kane looked up to his brother, following him everywhere. The Undertaker would burn down the funeral home, killing his family in the process.

While the Undertaker would go onto dominate the World Wrestling Federation, by this point having twice become WWF Champion and posting his first six of an eventual 21 consecutive WrestleMania victories, he thought that his brother had perished into eternal damnation alongside his parents. The Undertaker was taken aback when Paul Bearer announced to the world that Kane was alive and that Bearer had sheltered him while he attempted to heal his scares for twenty years. It was at the 1997 Badd Blood event where the Undertaker took on Shawn Michaels inside of a Hell in a Cell (hot take: this is their best contest) to determine the number one contender to Bret Hart’s championship at the Survivor Series. It was in this match that the lights went out, the now-iconic organ played and Kane first appeared to the world, masked to hide his scars, ripping the cell door off of its hinges while the Undertaker looks pale as a ghost. It’s considered by many the greatest debut in Pro Wrestling history.

It was immediately established that Kane possesses the same supernatural powers that the Undertaker has. Kane had the aura and presence of something out of a John Carpenter slasher film as he ran roughshod on the WWF roster. He competed in his first match at the Survivor Series, destroying future tag team championship partner Mankind. While Kane sought revenge, the Undertaker vowed to never fight his own flesh and blood while trying to reclaim his WWF Championship from Shawn Michaels. In his chase for the gold, Undertaker culminated his program with Shawn in a casket match at the Royal Rumble, where Kane forced his brother into a casket and then set it on fire.

This led to months of the Undertaker and Kane battling, including a match at WrestleMania 14, where Kane begins his aforementioned obsession with torturing Pete Rose, as well as a match at Unforgiven where Kane once again gets set on fire. Kane eventually sets his sights onto the WWF Championship himself, it’s here where we hear the character speak for the very first time. He uses a voice box, as if he’s Richie Sambora in Livin’ on a Prayer. He threatens to set himself on fire if he “does not win the title.”

Kane won the championship and subsequently lost it the next night. It was the only time in his career that he held the WWE Championship. Across the next year, Kane would do despicable things, such as digging up the remains of his parents while Bearer sang Randy Travis’ “Diggin’ Up Bones” so offkey you’d think it was 8-year-old me on a road trip.

In December, Kane interfered in the buried alive match between Steve Austin and the Undertaker, aiding Austin to victory. Kane was given an ultimatum: be admitted into an insane asylum or be the corporation’s hired gun (although, this is probably the wrong wording as that’s what they referred to Test as). This led to his first on-screen girlfriend in Chyna in 1999. In the weeks leading up to WrestleMania XV, Triple H targeted Kane with a fireball, but accidentally struck Chyna in the eye raising the ire of Kane. A week later, Triple H, dressed as Goldust, connected with a fireball to Kane’s face. At WrestleMania, Chyna turned on Kane re-aligning with Triple H. Kane wouldn’t date again until he teamed with X-Pac and met Tori. In the process, X-Pac convinced Kane that he didn’t need the voice box to speak (following the most hilarious “suck it” ever). At the end of the story, it was revealed the Tori and X-Pac were using Kane and were actually a couple.

I’m leaving this photo here because it makes me laugh.

Kane’s most controversial arch also has to do with his love life, but it’s not something that was introduced until 2002. Triple H claimed that Kane had a dark secret by the name of Katie. Katie was Kane’s caretaker in his early 20s, and one night they went out drinking and she got tipsy and asked him to drive her home. He did not know how to use a shift and was inebriated himself, but obliged. An animal ran in front of the car, causing the impaired couple to crash, killing Katie in the process. Triple H also claimed that Kane was a necrophiliac, having had intercourse with Katie’s corpse, as if it’s something out of a southern gothic Will Faulkner story from the early 1930s. To make things even freakier, the very next week Triple H donned a Kane mask and dry-humped a mannequin in a casket. Yeah, the early part of the Ruthless Aggression era was wild.

From 2000-mid 2002, the Kane character had become relatively tame in the midcard, with feuds that were prompted by actions such as Chris Jericho spilling coffee on him. However, in 2003, Kane had been teaming with Rob Van Dam and feuding with Evolution. Following a loss to Triple H, he was forced by Eric Bischoff to unmask and did so, with the support of Rob Van Dam. Afterward, he assumed Van Dam laughed at him and chokeslammed him. Kane had this makeup on but a week later and a clean face, it’s revealed that Kane doesn’t actually have scars from the fire. The Kane persona was ultimately dealing with a really bad mental illness called body dysmorphia. Kane hid his face because of his insecurities, revealing a deeper rooted problem with the Kane character, ultimately making the character more human and psychologically a lot scarier. He’d come out chained with a towel coving his head. The Kane persona got an overdue refresher.

Kane went on a psychotic rampage that included a starmaking interview with Jim Ross, giving just a sign of things to come in what would end up being the best year of Kane’s career.

Of course, if you have 90 minutes to kill, I’d recommend watching this entire compilation as its some of the most compelling storytelling that WWE has ever done.

He embarked on a program with Shane McMahon because he tombstoned Shane’s mother, Linda. This included Kane electrocuting Shane McMahon’s testicles and Shane sending him into a burning dumpster. Their feud culminated in an ambulance match at the 2003 Survivor Series, won by Kane, who appeared later in the evening to help Shane’s father Vince bury the Undertaker alive (again). The Undertaker would haunt Kane until his victory of his brother at WrestleMania XX.

One intriguing arch of Kane most haven’t picked up on that I dove into in 2015 at another site is that of his seven years of bad luck. The night that he took his mask off, he broke a mirror in a backstage segment in a fit of rage. He took his mask off, suffered psychologically throughout the remainder of 2003 and into 2004. In 2005 when he won Lita’s hand in marriage, she lost her baby due to an attack from Gene Snitsky that caused a miscarriage of Kane’s child. From there, she screwed him over to side with Edge, citing that she could never love a monster. She divorced him and married Edge, where he would interrupt the wedding and tombstone the priest.

Kane would team with the Big Show for a bit, and a successful tag team. He would win his one of his only two championships over this seven year span, the World Tag Team Championships, defeating Trevor Murdoch and Lance Cade at the 2005 Taboo Tuesday event. The most notable story of the Big Show partnership is that of the 2006 May 19th angle, a key part of the Kane identity. With this piece already being long and the end not anywhere near in sight, I’ll just link the in depth piece I did on the angle last year here. It’s so ridiculous it’s only worthy of its own separate piece. Kane is still haunted on May 19th to this day.

His next program was with the new monster of Raw: Umaga. Umaga beat Kane in a loser leaves Raw match that forced him to leave the brand altogether. He went to SmackDown and saw moderate success, with midcard programs with talents such as MVP and Booker T that were solid, but not necessarily integral to the Kane character. He was just there, until WrestleMania 24 in 2008 where he finally struck singles gold for the first time since his 2002 Intercontinental Championship reign. He defeated Chavo Guerrero in mere seconds to become ECW Champion.

After a three month reign as champion, Kane would drop the belt to Mark Henry before once again fading into obscurity until 2010. On the seventh anniversary of the mirror shattering, he lost to CM Punk on an episode of SmackDown. He’d then go on an 11-match win streak and win the Money in the Bank contract. He cashed in on Rey Mysterio.

Kane celebrating his World Heavyweight Championship victory.

In the seven years since he broke the mirror Kane had unmasked, gone completely insane, been thrown into a flaming dumpster, saw his wife suffer a miscarriage, got divorced from said wife, had to relive some of his toughest trauma head on, lost his job and floundered in obscurity but came out of it as one of three men in WWE history to be WWE, ECW and World Heavyweight Champion (the other two being the Big Show and CM Punk).

In 2011, Kane once again returned with the mask. He was once again the “devil’s favorite demon” and would smother superstars until summer of 2012. Following a loss to Daniel Bryan, the two were forced to work out their problems…in Anger Management.

Eventually, they were forced to “hug it out” giving Kane a positive outlet and a friend, as he learned not to repress his emotions. Kane and Daniel Bryan would defeat R-Truth and Kofi Kingston at the 2012 Night of Champions event to become WWE Tag Team Champions, which they would hold until the 2013 Extreme Rules PPV when they lost to Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. He was targeted by the Wyatt Family and lost to Bray in a ring of fire match at Summerslam 2013.

When Kane returned two months later, he handed his mask to Stephanie McMahon, thus aligning himself with the Authority and becoming a hired gun, similar to his role in the Corporation, only expanded. Kane would now become Corporate Kane, wearing a suit and become the Director of Operations. Kane now portrayed a stereotypical schizophrenia patient, jumping back and forth between the corporate character and monster. His main job during this time was to guarantee that Seth Rollins held onto his WWE Championship.

Kane has returned sporadically since, most recently in the 2021 Royal Rumble match, but his character is one of the most fascinating in WWE history. Very few characters have their own mythology and backstory, but it’s characters such as Kane, The Undertaker and Raven that did and made the ’90s the most special time in the history of the industry. Kane has more than earned his spot in the Hall of Fame and there’s an argument to be made that he is the greatest character in WWE history.

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