Though I’ve tried to learn as much of the history as possible, the fact is I only began watching pro wrestling when I was in ninth grade (late 1999). As such I missed the Hogan years, the Hart years, even the first HBK years. I missed the first half of the Austin years too. When I started watching The Rock was peaking as a rising babyface, the Triple H/X-Pac/New Age Outlaws version of DX had just reformed and vignettes were just starting to air hyping a new signee, Kurt Angle.
One of the first episodes of either Raw of SmackDown that I watched featured the breakup of the X-Pac and Kane tag team. Seeing the much-smaller X-Pac turn heel on the masked muscular monster was such a play against type I instantly gravitated toward Kane; he became my first favorite wrestle, a position he would hold until the new year (when I could no longer deny the awesomeness of Kurt Angle) though Kane would always hold emeritus status as “my favorite.”
Because I didn’t start watching until 1999, I missed watching Kane’s incredible debut. I missed his surprise WWF championship win. I missed—thankfully—his “voice box” phase. I started watching as the reformed DX teased adding Kane as a member. Being a newbie I failed to see the set-up that was happening before my eyes; I took everything at face value and thought Kane would be a great addition to the team. Why wouldn’t he be? He was seven-foot tall, ripped to shreds, had a killer theme song, a hot girlfriend. He was amazing.
When I first started watching, I did so only because the more popular kids in my class were watching. They’d comment on what Austin did to McMahon or what Rock said to Mankind and I would have no idea what they were talking about. I tuned in only so as not to be left out. But watching Kane be betrayed by the cruel and mean-spirited DX made me long to see the big man get revenge. From then on I was hooked, and as the WWF teased the revenge longer and longer I grew more and more attached to the product, and more and more used to watching it every week.
Still though, I could have walked away at any time. I didn’t have to watch the WWF, and if my friends in school had decided to quit, I would have quit with them.
Until this happened…
That has to be one of the biggest reactions in Raw history. It gives me goosebumps today as I watch the replay, because I remember watching it live on Raw and experiencing my first real mark-out moment. I can’t recall another superstar, except for maybe Chris Jericho, whose surprise appearances made me go bananas to such an extent.
After WrestleMania 2000 Kane injured his hand and had to take several weeks off. In the interim I started looking to other wrestlers to root for to fill the void. By the time he was back in the swing of things I was already in love with Kurt Angle’s incredible mix of in-ring athleticism and hilarious promos.
Meanwhile Kane evolved from silent monster, to–after he finally started talking–one of the funniest guys on the roster. He didn’t speak much, but when he did…
He danced around the main event scene, but mostly worked the midcard, getting guys over and providing a good opponent for the top stars who weren’t doing anything important that month. He was a utility guy: It’s not a flashy job, and it’s very under-appreciated, but someone has to do it, and he did it very well.
But like the moon, time is a harsh mistress. Age and road weariness catches up to all pro wrestlers, and Kane was no different. To be fair, I can’t recall a single WWF/E superstar who has stayed as consistently healthy as he, but it’s not breaking news to say he’s not as fit as he once was, not as quick as he once was, not as fresh as he once was.
Nevertheless, Kane has keep on trucking over the past twenty years. From masked monster, to maskless maniac, to a masked demon, to corporate stooge, back to masked demon, there’s not been much of a rhyme or reason to the changes, but he’s made them work, even when the changes were dramatic.
But twenty years is a long time, and lately things have gotten…tiring.
It’s not his fault. He doesn’t ask to be given such a big spotlight every week on RAW. But because the booking of the show is sometimes weighed-down by a 1980’s mentality, Kane is trotted out there as though he’s not a semi-retired, out of shape caricature of his former self, and made to put over younger, hotter talent. It wouldn’t be as bad if this was 1999, when Kane was the still-new and popular character. But this is 2017.
Going over Balor, Rollins and who knows who else is not impressing anyone. It’s not making everyone forget he’s just a Tennessee libertarian running for mayor, who has been a punchline/jobber to the stars for the better part of a decade now. It’s not going to make everyone say “wow” when Braun Strowman or Roman Reigns or whoever finally beats him. It’s going to feel like a colossal waste of time, watching him burn through so much of the talented younger part of the roster on the way to an inevitable loss that does nothing for the guy who beats him.
I’m not saying Kane can’t still contribute to the company. With the right material to work with he can cut a great promo. A managerial-type role would be perfect, even an on-screen authority figure would work (imagine the skits with Kane and Angle co-running Raw), or even forming a tag team and working to put over a constantly underdeveloped division. There’s a lot he can do and a lot he can contribute to help the company.
But the days of his being pushed as an unbeatable monster need to end.
Kane has had a great run as a major attraction in WWE. He’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer the moment he hangs up the boots for good. His career is legendary and the twenty years he has given to WWE (not mention the many before that under different gimmicks) have made for some of the company’s best and most entertaining moments. But that was then and this is now.
And now is not the time to push Kane over anyone.
I’m Matthew Martin. I love the WWE but everything sucks and I’m never watching it again.
See you next Monday.