So we're coming up on Extreme Rules in a few days, and Daniel Bryan's first official opponent in his (hopefully) long and exciting title reign has been set.
The Big Red Machine, Kane, has "awoken the monster" or some such hyperbole, and looks to go after Bryan ostensibly, I imagine, for humiliating him while he served (serves?) as the WWE Director of Operations.
I know a lot of people would raise their eyebrows at this idea, the line of thinking on their part no doubt based on the fact that Kane is definitely not the person most wanting to take down Bryan at this point in the game. (Orton, Batista, and Triple H come to mind, though they're busy being Meh-volution.) Hell, even the Wyatt Family could have risen up in vengeance. Don't tell me that Bray isn't thinking about his revenge for that fucking amazing betrayal by Bryan.
But me? I think that this is an excellent choice for an opening feud for the new champion Daniel Bryan. (For the sake of argument, I'm going to treat his prior two WWE Championship victories as invalid, as first Trips and Orton and then that referee sullied the thing) For starters, it works well as an "appetizer" feud, both legitimate yet not quite big enough where it feels like WWE is rushing things by immediately having Bryan face off against his biggest competitor, who, let's be honest, is probably going to be John Cena at Wrestlemania 31.
Also, it highlights the continual resilience and workhorse reliability of Kane, who has quietly proven himself to be one of the most versatile superstars on the company roster.
Though Kane is my second-favorite Brother of Destruction, I've found him to be fascinating in terms of how many times he's reinvented himself, and just how…meta the man behind the mask, Glenn Jacobs, is. I mean...
Can you picture Mark Calloway ever breaking Kayfabe like this? (Disregarding that one interview when he was in his American Badass gimmick, which I'll write about eventually. Spoiler: That's one of my favorite gimmicks of all time, but my defense of that is another article for another time) For God's sake, Undertaker is so old-school that he still religiously holds to the idea that "you go out on your back" if you're in the twilight of your career, even when the guy who ended you in no way has made it clear he'll respect your decision in the future, based on his prior actions. I bet he'd rather commit seppuku than say things like this, especially while still an active participant in the day-to-day runnings of the company.
But Kane (or rather, Glenn Jacobs) has gladly gone through whatever crap the WWE has asked him to do, and not only has he done that but he's also gone completely whole-hog every time. Now, some of the things he's been involved in have been absolutely ridiculous and would have remained that way had he not been so dedicated to his performance, whereupon they became memorably entertaining. Though my main man is and always will be Mick Foley, I have to say that Kane's ability to pull off five "faces" is pretty impressive, too. So, in honor of what might be his last WWE Title match before his career almost completely winds down, here's the top four "faces" of Kane.
As always, feel free to discuss/debate in the comments your thoughts on what I've come up with, and the ranking for them. Let's begin!
#4 CORPORATE KANE
Okay, before you punch through your computer screen in an effort to wring my neck, hear me out. This is at the bottom of the list for a reason: it definitely doesn't deserve to leapfrog any of the other variations he's gone through. But it still deserves a listing because of how…strange it was while it lasted.
WWE Creative might not be that clever, but I think the IWC has a perfectly valid theory that when the Wyatts abducted Kane, Bray Wyatt brainwashed Kane so that he'd be more malleable to the suggestions of Stephanie McMahon to become a sort of corporate enforcer for the Authority when they needed someone to bother the rest of the roster while she, Trips and Orton spent their days kicking Daniel Bryan and his little dog, too. Oooookay, a big brute in a suit? Not the most creative thing to pick, WWE...
Okay, that's weird. Keeping his dark and evil music, making his movements more subdued and…soulless? That's pretty impressively dissonant. It also gave people plenty of "No, I'm serious. My boss really is from hell!" jokes to throw around. I love the fan reactions as well. There's a bit of cheering, and then he comes out in that getup and the place goes quiet. Because this was his debut as "Corporate" Kane, you could chalk it up to stunned silence. Maaaybe a little bit of enraged silence that one of the greatest Attitude Era heels was being sanitized like this, but I would argue that that was precisely the point. Because he was so odious, so depressingly boring, we momentarily dropped our smark-ish nature and booed his filthy guts. Which, now that I think about it, is probably precisely what Triple H had intended.
#3 POST-UNMASKING KANE
Let's be honest, the special effects for the initial and supposed dramatic unmasking of Kane were so laughably bad that it's sort of become a joke to act like it never really happened, and that at one point there was a masked Kane, and then BOOM! Unmasked Kane. How did he get from point A to point B? Uhhh…
…So Kane sort of floated around the middle of the card for a couple of years at the turn of the millennium, which isn't entirely his fault considering the early 2000's gave us the greatest swing-and-a-miss angles in professional wrestling history: the Invasion. With such a huge cast of characters, it would be very easy for Kane to get lost in the shuffle, especially considering his unmasking had destroyed a good chunk of his original mystique-SHIT! Uh...
So what did Kane do to stay relevant in the early 2000's? That apparently was an easy decision: act like one of the most over-the-top super villain-wannabes in history.
This version of Kane clearly spent too much time watching Saturday morning cartoons, and decided that he was going to be EEEEEEEEVILL like he was Skeletor or Cobra Commander or something. That of course, led to a man who decided to leave rationality at the doorstep for our entertainment, committing such heinous acts as pushing his father off of a ladder, breaking up a wedding and tombstoning the priest, and continuing his unexplained obsession with tormenting Pete Rose.
I guess it worked enough, because when the WWE wised up and gave him his mask back, he continued his schoolyard bully tactics to the delight of the fans, though I think pushing Zack Ryder off a wheelchair might've been pushing it. God knows that guy has suffered enough.
#2 ORIGINAL KANE
This guy is one of the most memorable characters in WWE history, for good reason. It takes quite a bit of stage presence to be able to upstage The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, of all things.
Also, that mask was creepy. I mean, how was he able to breathe in that thing? I'm sure it's actually not as claustrophobic as it looks, but it sure looks messed up.
And this man was a beast. He rips open the cage doors like they're nothing, throws away the referee like a rag doll, and then held the Undertaker for an impossibly long time before dropping him for the Tombstone Piledriver. And this pretty much summed up the essence of Kane in a nutshell. A psychotically angry character who never really spoke, never showed his (supposedly burned) face, and had a vendetta like nobody's business against the Undertaker 'cuz he hated his guts. This was a masterwork of storytelling, especially in the Attitude Era when Kayfabe first went on life support. The fans, perhaps deep down, knew that the Undertaker probably didn't actually have an equally-tall brother who was also a skilled wrestler, but nobody cared because holy shit that guy just Tombstoned the Undertaker!
When they finally met at WrestleMania XIV, that went down as one of the greatest matches in Undertaker's career and certainly one of the better pieces to "The Streak." It's also memorable for just how much of the Undertaker it took to put his demented brother away. Long before John Cena and the Rock effectively ruined the staying power of finishers during "Once in a Lifetime…Part 2," this Taker-Kane match had people's jaws hitting the floor because it took not one, not two, but three Tombstones from the Undertaker to finally put Kane away. And he still just barely missed kicking out. AND HE STILL HAD ENOUGH STRENGTH TO TOMBSTONE THE UNDERTAKER AFTER THE MATCH.
So why isn't he number one? Well, this list is about versatility, after all. And over time, Kane's silent killer persona might have started to feel like a bad rip-off of the Undertaker. And maybe as 2012 rolled along, the ultimate memories of Kane might have been "He was great once, but now I don't know if WWE knows what to do with him…" That is, he got assigned to the same anger management class as a certain bearded, over-the-top technical wrestling wizard...
#1 TEAM HELL NO! KANE
The WWE has tried (and failed) many, many, many, many, many, MANY times to create funny gimmicks and angles, and quite often they've fallen completely flat. That's because while Vince McMahon may be a genius (or Satan, depending on whom you're asking), his sense of humor is…a bit of off-kilter with the rest of, well, humanity. And it doesn't help matters when you continually try to force a certain brand of humor down our throats to the point that the only reason we're laughing is because you've broken our wills to resist and we're doing it just so you can get to the wrestling, aka what we're really paying to see. Despite what McMahon and WWE might think, that's not comedy. That's an exercise in Pavlovian torture.
Kane and Daniel Bryan, on the other hand? THAT'S comedy.
There's an old saying floating around there that has been attributed to several sources that the Attitude Era was really just every wrestler cranking up their existing personality to ludicrous levels (See: Austin, Stone Cold Steve). If that's the case, then that's what Daniel Bryan and Kane did in that glorious year that they were tag team partners. I mean...
I would pay good money to find our just how many takes it took for him to say all of that with a straight face. The timing, delivery, and cadence for every sorry part of his life is delivered perfectly. And the best part is? WWE hasn't tried ret-conning this yet, so that means that *ahem* EVERYTHING HE SAID WAS CANON LOLZ. Seriously, just go Youtube the rest of the anger management sessions. Kane and Daniel Bryan are clearly having the time of their life.
Then they were the tag team champions-no, wait that's not quite right.
That's more like it.
The gimmick and team holds a special place in my heart, because there are a lot more moving pieces involved than Kane playing the straight man to Daniel Bryan's insanity. (I swear I never thought I'd type that sentence ever in my life.)
Because first they started off as heels, except the fans loved them so much that eventually WWE decided "Screw it, let's turn 'em sorta-face and have them beat up heel teams."
Then, they won the tag team championship in an extremely entertaining way.
Then, the crowd kept cheering them, and Daniel Bryan started getting supremely over, proving that that loss to Sheamus in just 18 seconds wasn't going to bury him after all.
Then, the team split up, but Daniel Bryan still kept getting those cheers.
Then, WWE threw him a bone and let him pin Cena clean, but lol the fans'll love Randy Orton as champion because he looks like a champion.
The the fans revolted, and wouldn't accept anything except what they wanted.
Then this happened.
I'm not saying that Kane played a vital role in getting one of the most over men in the company's history the adulation he deserved, I'm just saying that that's exactly what I'm saying. We're entering a brave new world in the realm of professional wrestling, where maybe things are going to be a little bit different than they were during the dark days of the late 2000's.
And now, at Extreme Rules, the former friends meet up for a fight that's going to be hell on both of them. And who cares if WWE is too lazy to acknowledge that previous bond? The fans know. And we'll watch the circle come right back around to the beginning. Where it all started with Team Hell NO!, it'll end at Extreme Rules.
And we've got the Big Red Machine playing a big role in pushing it all along. The company, Daniel Bryan…everybody.
Thanks, big guy.
…But…uh, you'd better tap out or we riot.