On one magical night in 1997, just as the Monday Night War between the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling was on fire and the Attitude era was taking its earliest steps, the Undertaker was about to meet his match in the form of his younger brother. While the Undertaker was locked inside Hell in a Cell, the broken and gruesome Kane made his way to the ring ominously and ripped the door off of the cage in order to get to the Dead Man and utterly destroy him.
As the story went, a fire set by the Undertaker years prior had killed his parents and severely burned his half-brother, Kane, who was now being brought to the WWF by Paul Bearer, the Undertaker’s manager, and Kane’s biological father. Whether driven by guilt, principle or both, the Undertaker refused to fight his vicious brother for months, but the path led them to one of the biggest matches of each man’s career at WrestleMania where they finally went to war.
That narrative is looked upon fondly as perhaps the most creative and memorable story ever told inside a pro wrestling ring, and Kane was at the forefront. His influence on the business, however, would not end there by a long shot. Kane’s touch has been felt everywhere; he’s held virtually every Championship in WWE and teamed or feuded with just about everyone who has come through the company. Here are eight of his best friends in wrestling – and seven of his worst enemies.
15. Friend: The Hurricane
Kane might be recognized as one of professional wrestling’s most ruthless and destructive monsters, but within a few years of his debut in WWE, he was already being utilized for his comic relief skills. A tall, nearly mute giant in a mask was just begging to be thrown into some hilariously uncomfortable situations, and one of those situations was a tag team with another masked grappler, albeit a smaller one.
Shane Helms had originally risen to fame in World Championship Wrestling and came to WWE after Vince McMahon bought that company. He was eventually repackaged into a delusional “superhero” known as the Hurricane, inspired by the Green Lantern comic book character. He soon found himself teaming with the Big Red Machine and, together, the team known as “Hurri-Kane” won the WWE World Tag Team Championship. They became quite the popular tandem in the early 2000s and the Hurricane became one of Kane’s most popular tag team partners.
14. Enemy: John Cena
Ever since the retirement of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson from the wrestling ring in the early 2000s, there’s only been one man who has been able to carry the WWE banner as the face of the company and that man’s name is John Cena. Nearly twenty years into the twenty-first century and WWE has yet to find their next big hero, but John Cena continues to dominate as the face that runs the place and is closing in on tying the legendary Ric Flair’s record of sixteen World Championship reigns.
Naturally, with two decades in the ring, Kane would have crossed paths with Cena. In fact, the two have met on multiple occasions, but it was their rivalry in early 2012 that became notable. It wasn’t so much the rivalry that had people talking, because that itself is not remembered too fondly by fans. However, this feud marked the return of Kane to his demonic, masked character, after years of wrestling with his face fully exposed. John Cena was there for Kane’s modern reinvention, and it’s hard to say a man the caliber of Cena is not one of his biggest rivals.
13. Friend: Mankind
In 2016, wrestling fans are most familiar with Mick Foley as the loveable General Manager of Monday Night Raw. But despite Foley’s innocent and huggable nature now, he was once one of the most sadistic and feared men to ever step foot inside a wrestling ring. Foley played multiple characters and the mask-wearing lunatic who called himself Mankind was easily his most famous. Though Mankind eventually became a beloved WWE Superstar who entertained the audience with clowns and talking sock puppets, he was originally a psychopath who hung out in boiler rooms and was managed by the infamously devious Paul Bearer.
Being the father of the Big Red Machine Kane, Bearer would see to it that his son would form a tag team with his monster Mankind. That team would terrorize WWE for a time, winning the WWE World Tag Team Championship on two occasions and feuding with the likes of the Undertaker and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
12. Enemy: Shane McMahon
Soon after removing his mask and revealing his face to the entire wrestling world, Kane would find himself at odds with the McMahon family. Kane completely snapped upon being forced to unmask and began attacking everyone in sight. One of his victims was Linda McMahon, the wife of the WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. Kane hoisted Linda up and dropped her on her head with a Tombstone Piledriver on top of the steel stage on an episode of Monday Night Raw, which sparked a rivalry with Linda’s son Shane, who sought revenge for his mother.
The rivalry played an important role in presenting the newly reinvented Kane as a heartless force of destruction. Kane defeated Shane McMahon in brutal matches and at one time, the rivalry saw Kane attach a battery to Shane’s testicles and electrocute him. It was certainly a more aggressive time in wrestling, but the storyline paid off by making Kane one of the most ruthless monsters in WWE history.
11. Friend: Big Show
Kane and the Big Show came into the World Wrestling Federation at right around the same time in the late 1990s. Both were massive monsters who left a path of destruction in their wake, and both would lead seemingly parallel careers as far as their WWE accomplishments were concerned. Before coming to WWE, Big Show, played by Paul Wight, was known as The Giant for several years in WCW and was one of the most dominating forces in that company’s history. His reign of terror continued in WWE and he won many World Championships over the course of his career. He also found himself frequently on the opposite side of the ring from WWE’s other giants, Kane included.
But it seems that more often than they were at odds, Kane and the Big Show were teaming together. The two have worked as a tag team on many occasions over the years in WWE, even becoming the WWE Tag Team Champions at two separate times. The two may have had their share of battles against one another, but they’ll each go down as one of the other’s best tag team partners.
10. Enemy: Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy is famously one of the most respected tag team wrestlers in WWE history alongside his brother Jeff, but he had his share of solo rivalries and accomplishments as well. One of those rivalries was with the Big Red Monster Kane in what would become a precursor to one of the most controversial storylines in all of wrestling involving Kane, Lita, Edge and Matt himself, but that’s a story to be covered later in this list.
Soon before Matt would receive a release from his WWE contract, he feuded with Kane over Matt’s real life and on screen girlfriend Lita, who Kane had blackmailed into having sex with him in order to protect Matt. Lita soon found out she was pregnant with Kane’s child and the war was on. Kane would defeat Matt Hardy and, via a prearranged agreement, Lita married the monster on an episode of Raw. Kane would injure Matt, putting him out of action, and thus ended one of the craziest rivalries in each man’s career.
9. Friend: Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam was arguably the most popular star to ever compete for Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling organization in the 1990s. He joined WWE when Vince McMahon bought out both that company and World Championship Wrestling and would go on to a pretty lucrative career in the world’s biggest pro wrestling organization. Van Dam won a ton of titles in WWE including the Intercontinental and WWE World Championships, as well as the ECW Championship when WWE officially resurrected that brand.
But one of the peaks of RVD’s career came when he formed a tag team with Kane. As one of the biggest stars in ECW, he naturally became one of Kane’s most popular tag team partners. The two won the WWE World Tag Team Championship together and made an exciting pair. It all ended when Kane was forced to unmask and turned on RVD in an emotional rage, but the team is remembered fondly by the WWE Universe.
8. Enemy: Pete Rose
As a Hall of Fame caliber legend in the sport of professional baseball, it seems a bit strange to consider that Pete Rose would have left a memorable mark on the sport of professional wrestling. That’s exactly the case, however, as Rose would become one of Kane’s most famous enemies, though certainly not one of his most dangerous.
In the late 1990s, Pete Rose appeared at WWE’s annual WrestleMania spectacular and got himself into some trouble when the Kane took it upon himself to drop Rose on his head with a Tombstone Piledriver. Rose returned annually over the next couple of years to the same event and each time was beaten down in various scenarios by Kane. Through these entertaining bits, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame inductee Pete Rose helped Kane in his rise to popularity in the eyes of wrestling fans and became notorious as one of his biggest enemies.
7. Friend: X-Pac
Sean Waltman will certainly one day enter the WWE Hall of Fame, having contributed so much to the company and the sport of pro wrestling as a whole throughout the ‘90s and the early years of the following decade. Initially known for his upset victory over Razor Ramon in 1993 as the 1-2-3 Kid, years later he found himself in WCW as a part of the New World Order and wound up back in WWE in the Attitude era as X-Pac in D-Generation X.
After the D-Generation X angle faded, X-Pac was teamed with Kane, who developed a soft spot for the smaller wrestler. The WWE Universe watched as Kane and X-Pac became close friends and X-Pac brought out the sentimental side the monster. Naturally, fans took a big liking to this tag team, which won the WWE World Tag Team Championship together, and they became one of the most beloved teams of the 1990s.
6. Enemy: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
As the face of the WWF’s Attitude era, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the man who nearly made Hulk Hogan an obsolete force in pro wrestling. Austin’s star took off on an insane level in the late ‘90s and quite possibly became more widely known as a household name than Hogan ever was. The multiple-time WWE World Champion was perhaps the most popular star to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots at that time, and his fame and influence on the business will likely never be duplicated. Considering all this, how could a feud with Steve Austin not be one of a wrestler’s biggest?
That’s certainly what it was for Kane, who was involved in storylines with Austin early in his WWE career. Kane and Austin battled for the WWE World Championship in a First Blood match which Kane won. The fact that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was the man Kane defeated to win his first World Title makes Austin easily one of the Big Red Machine’s biggest foes.
5. Friend: Daniel Bryan
His name might not be one known even in non-wrestling households around the world like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin or The Rock, but among wrestling fans, Daniel Bryan is one of the most popular WWE Superstars of all time. He developed a monstrous following on the independent circuit using his real name, Bryan Danielson, before coming to WWE and changing the way business was done with smaller guys. His popularity was strong enough that WWE was forced to change their WrestleMania XXX main event to include Bryan after extremely negative crowd reactions resulted from him originally not being scheduled for the match.
One of the biggest factors in cementing Daniel Bryan’s following within the WWE Universe was his run as the WWE Tag Team Champions with Kane. Kane and Bryan, known as “Team Hell No,” started off as bitter enemies but became close friends over the duration of their title reign. There’s no denying that Daniel Bryan is one of Kane’s most beloved on-screen partners.
4. Enemy: Triple H
To say that Triple H is destined for a WWE Hall of Fame induction someday would be stating the blatantly obvious. He began his career as a WWE Superstar and worked his way into a management position and married the boss’s daughter; there’s no way that career path doesn’t attract its share of criticisms and it certainly has. Fans and former employees alike have long made claims that Triple H is only where he is today because of the family he married into, but whatever the reason there’s no denying his plethora of World Championships and classic matches and rivalries.
One of those rivalries was with Kane, though it wasn’t exactly a classic for good reasons. The storyline saw Triple H expose Kane’s past with a love interest he lost in a car accident and claim that Kane had sex with her corpse. Triple H then proceeded to act out the scenario by wearing a Kane mask and simulating sex on live television with a mannequin inside of a coffin. It went down as one of the most embarrassing angles of all time, but the myriad of battles between Kane and Triple H live on as memorable nonetheless.
3. Friend: Paul Bearer
One would be remiss to talk about Kane’s allies without mentioning the man to bring the character into the World Wrestling Federation to begin with, his father Paul Bearer. The late Paul Bearer was, of course, not the real life father of Glenn Jacobs, the man behind Kane’s mask, but until his untimely death in 2013 he was always closely associated with both Kane and his half brother the Undertaker. Bearer was at Kane’s side from the moment of his debut and managed him for many of his earliest matches.
Kane and Paul Bearer were also on opposing sides of the ring from time to time and Bearer managed his share of other stars such as Mankind, but there’s no denying he generally proved to be one of Kane’s most loyal associates throughout his wrestling career. Bearer’s eerie presence became less frequent in later years, but it was always a special and emotional touch anytime he graced the WWE Universe with an appearance.
2. Enemy: Edge
Adam “Edge” Copeland is one of the most decorated WWE Superstars in history, having major successes in both tag team and singles wrestling. He was an eleven-time WWE World Champion and following his sudden and unexpected retirement in 2011 was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame with the class of 2012. Edge truly hit the big time when his “Rated R Superstar” gimmick took off, and the seeds for that gimmick were planted during one of his rivalries with The Big Red Machine Kane.
Following Lita’s aforementioned pregnancy angle with Kane, rumors began circulating that Lita and Edge had a real-life affair while Edge was still married and Lita was still in a relationship with Matt Hardy. WWE decided to embrace this public knowledge in the form of a storyline and Lita would turn on Kane to help out Edge. Kane and Edge would feud for months and embarked upon another rivalry years later over the World Heavyweight Championship. Kane and Edge always had tremendous chemistry, and because of their memorable programs together Edge will always be one of Kane’s greatest enemies.
1. Friend: The Undertaker
Kane’s first months in the World Wrestling Federation would see him at war with his older brother the Undertaker, and that rivalry would set the tone for the next two decades of a feud that would continue to recur over the years. The brothers would battle at two separate WrestleManias and a myriad of other big events over World Championships and personal issues, but despite each being one of the other’s longest running rivals, Kane and the Undertaker are perhaps more fondly known by the WWE Universe as the Brothers of Destruction.
As a unit, the Brothers of Destruction have proven to be an unstoppable force. They’ve won Tag Team Championships together and terrorized WWE’s antagonists, but their bond reaches beyond the wrestling ring. In fact, the men behind those characters, Glenn Jacobs and Mark Calaway, are close in the real world as well. Both men are destined for the WWE Hall of Fame and their careers will forever be intimately intertwined.