No wrestling career can be perfect. Especially in the WWE, where there’s no off-season and writers are never given a break. Because they are always trying to keep storylines and characters fresh, there are bound both some hits and misses. The truly great WWE Superstars, however, will find a way to rise above all the moments that brought them down and make the moments that work really shine.
Kane is one of the most recognizable and respected personalities, not just in the WWE but in all of wrestling. He is one of those WWE employees, like John Cena or the Big Show, who are bound to run into criticism for taking on embarrassing or cheesy projects because he’s loyal to the company. Glenn Jacobs, the man behind the red and black mask, has done everything from impersonating a former WWE Champion to portraying a wide variety of characters such as a dentist and a corporate yes-man with split personalities.
While the shining era of his career is when he portrayed the scarred, sadistic younger brother of the Undertaker, but he has done so much more. He has battled all the greats and proven to be one of the most successful tag team wrestlers of all time, having teamed with an eclectic array of Superstars. He has had a slew of WrestleMania moments and made a living as one of the best “big men” in wrestling.
But, as you’ll also learn, like with any other WWE Superstar, it’s not all wine and roses. In honor of his legendary career, here are the greatest ups and downs of the Big Red Monster, Kane.
15. Up: Winning The WWE Championship
Winning the WWE Championship should be the highlight of any professional wrestling career. Kane’s run with the title was very brief and that usually equates to the few occasions where this statement stands false, but somehow the “Big Red Machine” made it count.
At King of the Ring in 1998, Kane defeated “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in a First Blood match to capture his first and only WWE Championship. This was at the apex of Kane’s monster years when he was still a terrifying sight to behold. And even though he lost the title back to Austin the next night, it served the purpose of providing an obstacle for Austin’s career at a time when few Superstars could claim such a feat.
It was great timing for Kane to win the WWE Championship so early in his career, as it allowed him to quickly establish himself as a force to be reckoned with.
14. Down: Fake Diesel
If you ask fans or those in the business when the biggest shot was fired in the Monday night wars between WWE (then WWF) and WCW you’ll probably get a few different responses. Some will tell you it was Lex Luger’s appearance on the first episode of WCW Nitro after recently being under contract with WWE. Others might credit WWE Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze for showing up on Nitro and throwing the Championship belt in the trash.
But perhaps the most popular opinion would be the defection of WWE’s Diesel and Razor Ramon, now going by their real names Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, to WCW under the storyline guise of a WWE invasion. Nash and Hall brought WCW to new heights with the New World Order, but WWE’s response was lackluster and brought everyone involved down with it.
Before Glenn Jacobs became Kane, he portrayed a fake Diesel character alongside a fake Razor Ramon, which was played by professional wrestler Rick Bognar. It was a tongue-in-cheek way for the WWE to poke fun at Kevin Nash and Scott Hall for their defection, but it just made the WWE look bitter and childish. No one appreciated it, least of all the fans, and it remains a blight on the career on Kane’s career.
13. Up: Teaming with X-Pac
It took the WWE less than two years to start running out of ways to make Kane feel interesting as the brutal, cold monster he was introduced as. Today the company has a reputation of ruining monsters with comic relief roles once the well has run dry. While that did happen to Kane later in his career, in 1999 he had one last touching story left to tell before the original variant of the character began coming to a close.
The previously heartless beast known as Kane began teaming with X-Pac, a relatively small former member of the wildly popular faction D-Generation X. And to the surprise of the WWE Universe, Kane began to care for the guy. The story really started taking shape when X-Pac was brutally assaulted by the Big Show and the Undertaker, which resulted in a devastated Kane actually crying. No, not sobbing, but actual, painful wailing.
It was the start of the humanization of Kane, and although that would eventually result in an overall weakening of his character, at the time it was television gold. Fans loved the dynamic between the soft, loveable demon and his hyperactive little friend with an unbreakable spirit. The pairing found success in the ring as well, having a couple of runs with the WWE Tag Team Championship. Unfortunately, it all came crashing to a halt when X-Pac turned on Kane after the reformation of D-Generation X.
12. Down: May 19 And Imposter Kane
Wrestling and science fiction have always had a close relationship. Sometimes it works because as fans of pro wrestling we innately have the ability to suspend our disbelief for the benefit of a storyline. Other times it fails so badly, that you know everyone involved would probably like to see the whole thing erased from the record books.
The nature of the characters of Kane and his brother the Undertaker meant that one or both of them were involved in most of these fantasy-driven stories. As a result, they had some cool moments, but Kane also suffered greatly from one of the worst storylines in the history of the WWE.
It started in 2006 with Kane attacking people for mentioning the date May 19. He was hearing voices in his head while other wrestlers watched him as if he were losing his mind. The problem with this concept was that the fans at home and in person were all in on it. How could these voices be in his head if we were all hearing them too?
The rivalry bloomed into an embarrassing attempt to portray Kane as battling his past. May 19 turned out to be the date his family had been burned alive and an imposter Kane (played by current WWE Superstar Luke Gallows) showed up to make the real Kane’s life even more miserable. Imposter Kane sported real Kane’s old wrestling attire from 1998 along with a horrendously bad wig. The imposter never even looked remotely like the Kane from the past and the whole thing bombed miserably.
11. Up: ECW Championship Run
Paul Heyman’s ECW was a cult phenomenon in the ’90s, but the WWE’s resurrection of the brand under Vince McMahon’s umbrella brought with it some serious controversy. ECW die-hards saw the lazy, halfhearted mainstream version as seen through WWE’s lens for what it was and never even came close to accepting it. But if you take away those three letters and the expectations that came along with them, WWE’s ECW wasn’t all bad. In fact, as a third brand during the original brand split gave a stage to several Superstars who weren’t seeing the light of day otherwise.
Chavo Guerrero, for example, finally had a serious singles run in the WWE by winning the ECW Championship and even got his big WrestleMania moment when he defended the title against Kane at WrestleMania XXIV. Kane dominated that match and quickly won the ECW title.
As ECW Champion, Kane had an opportunity to lend some credibility to the struggling brand. He eventually helped long-time WWE employee Mark Henry receive a similar opportunity when Henry defeated Kane for the championship a few months later.
10. Down: Lita’s Pregnancy
In one of the absolute weirdest, most nonsensical storylines ever produced, Kane became obsessed with Lita in 2004. Lita was not interested, so Kane took it upon himself to kidnap her. Later Lita would announce her pregnancy by then-boyfriend Matt Hardy, but Kane revealed the baby was actually his as he’d purposefully impregnated Lita during a coerced sexual encounter. It had no basis in any believable scenario, but WWE went full speed ahead with it.
As the ridiculousness went on, Kane fell on a very pregnant Lita during a match and caused her to have a miscarriage. At some point, Lita started to fall for her former captor and rapist, as both began playing fan favorites and everyone in the WWE Universe was completely confused. Eventually, Lita turned on Kane to join up with Edge, and somehow Lita was now the villain. At least it meant the angle was coming to a close.
9. Up: Tag Team Champions With Rob Van Dam
Kane is one of the most notorious monsters in all of pro wrestling. Ask any wrestling fan for the ultimate example of a wrestling monster and Kane will probably win out most of the time. Kane has spent time being both beloved and hated, and he’s played a versatile collection of roles over his lengthy career.
Rob Van Dam, on the other hand, is the biggest star to come out of Paul Heyman’s ECW. The easy-going Superstar soars high and his acrobatics are insane. RVD is most famously known for his Five Star Frog Splash and his penchant for kicking chairs right into the face of whoever he is up against. It’s a high-flying, hardcore hybrid style not possessed by many WWE Superstars past or present.
How, then, did a fiery demon and a pot-loving ECW original come together to form one of WWE’s most popular tag teams? It’s unclear who deserves the credit, but Kane and Rob Van Dam were successful enough to become the World Tag Team Champions. Not only that but they have left a lasting impression that is still talked about among fans today.
8. Down: Isaac Yankem, DDS
In 1995, the World Wrestling Federation was on the verge of transitioning to an edgier product on the cusp of the Monday night war with WCW. The company had been making most of their profits on over-the-top characters based on cheesy stereotypes such as a police officer, a barber, an Elvis impersonator and an undead mortician. Some or all of those may ring a bell as having varying degrees of success, but when WWE tried its hand at dentistry what resulted felt like an excruciating toothache.
It was a few years before the birth of the brilliant Kane concept and Glenn Jacobs was about to embark upon a doomed journey playing Jerry “The King” Lawler’s personal dentist. As Isaac Yankem, DDS, Jacobs tried to pull off a successful heel character who ironically happened to be a dentist with the worst, most yellow teeth imaginable. In an era when wrestling fans still fully accepted such eccentric personalities into their homes during wrestling hour, even then viewers were laughing at this one.
7. Up: World Heavyweight Champion
Kane is one of the most recognizable names and faces to anyone in the WWE Universe. In 2010, fans were still awaiting the day he would get a chance to run with a World title since his only taste of the gold was when he was WWE Champion for a day. By this point in time, it wasn’t so much about Kane’s talent, as much as it was that everyone just felt he deserved the belt after so many years of devotion to WWE.
Then it happened. Kane, who had been one of the driving forces behind the acclaimed “Attitude Era” in the late 1990s, utilized a very modern wrestling concept known as Money in the Bank to light a fire and burn a path straight to the World Heavyweight Championship. After winning the Money in the Bank contract, he cashed in the contract that same night to take the title from Rey Mysterio.
Today, Kane’s run with the World Heavyweight title is rarely mentioned on WWE TV and thus newer fans may not be aware of it. That’s surprising considering it lasted for many months and saw the renewal of an old rivalry for Kane against his brother the Undertaker.
The reign was notable not just because Kane finally got to show he could carry the brass ring for a respectable period of time, but because it gave the wrestling fans one last string of experiences between Kane and the Undertaker. Nobody was complaining that we got to add some closure to one of the most revered rivalries in WWE history.
6. Down: Katie Vick
Wrestling never takes a break. Writing teams are often given a hard time by fans because of storylines that fail to impress, but the team is writing for close to ten hours of television every single week of the year. Most regular TV shows last for an hour each week and are only on for half the year. Needless to say, ensuring every wrestling angle is interesting is an impossible feat.
But once in a while things get brutally bad. Kane himself has had his share of storylines that didn’t go over so well, but in 2002 he was involved in a program with Triple H that left a rancid taste in the mouth of every fan. Triple H began making claims that Kane had a love interest in his younger days that died in a car accident, and that Kane had sex with her corpse.
Already in an uncomfortable area, the story went even further. Triple H presented what he called video footage of Kane committing the act, but it was actually Triple H in a Kane mask pretending to have sex with a mannequin in a casket. WWE wouldn’t be satisfied until every single viewer who still remained was totally repulsed. Once they were, the angle was phased out.
5. Up: Team Hell No
It was 2012 and Daniel Bryan’s star was on the rise. He had been feuding with Kane for a while, but following a match between the two at SummerSlam, they began partaking in some therapy segments with a man called Doctor Shelby. This lead to the two teaming together and somehow, in the midst of trying to work out their differences, Kane and Daniel Bryan became the WWE Tag Team Champions.
Due to Kane’s demonic nature and Bryan’s love of the word “No!” the team was dubbed “Team Hell No,” which you have to admit, is pretty awesome. The two bickered back and forth constantly, with each claiming “I’m the Tag Team Champions!” and managing win after win despite their apparent distrust of one another. It was a charming, light-hearted storyline which proved wrestling doesn’t need to go to dark places to be successful.
Team Hell No are still seen as one of the most entertaining tag teams of the last ten years and the Championship run remains a highlight of both of their careers.
4. Down: Corporate Kane
You know that saying about how meeting your heroes will always disappoint you because you realize they’re actually just normal, flawed human beings? That’s what happened in 2013 when Kane handed his mask to Stephanie McMahon and turned in his demon gear for a suit and tie, joining “The Authority” as Director of Operations. That’s right, the Big Red Machine, who once struck fear into the hearts of WWE Superstars everywhere had sold out and became a businessman.
Unofficially dubbed “Corporate Kane,” the new Director of Operations decided it was his duty to assist Stephanie McMahon and her husband Triple H with the day-to-day responsibilities of running the WWE. What this meant was that now he would attempt to ruin lives the old-fashioned way, by being an awful boss.
Fans hoped it would be a short-lived situation because for every week we saw our beloved monster in a suit, we lost a little of our ability to ever see him as a threat again. But the WWE insisted on dragging this thing out and it’s still going on today, with Kane intermittently switching between “Corporate” and “Demon” versions of himself. As a result, he also never seems to be consistently a protagonist or antagonist. Corporate Kane has single-handedly tainted any ability Kane may have had to ever see a rebirth as a true monster.
3. Up: Wrestling The Undertaker At WrestleMania XIV
Few WWE Superstars have had as many varied WrestleMania moments as Kane. He’s competed for the ECW Championship, fought in a crazy triple threat match for the Hardcore title, and wrestled his brother the Undertaker on two separate occasions. Undoubtedly his most legendary appearance at the biggest wrestling spectacle of the year is the first time he met the Dead Man at WrestleMania XIV in 1998.
Everyone is aware of the Undertaker’s unrivaled undefeated streak on the “grandest stage of them all,” and it was a streak already well underway at this time. Still, people were still wondering how could the Undertaker possibly get past Kane, who was basically Michael Myers?
He did, after an astonishing three tombstone piledrivers. The match was a classic, not as much for the wrestling involved itself, but because it was the epic payoff to an unbelievable storyline. This angle is still called by many to be the most solidly-executed narrative in the history of professional wrestling and it will never be forgotten as Kane’s greatest WrestleMania moment.
2. Down: Unmasking
In 2003, Kane was coming off a successful tag team run with Rob Van Dam and had received a World Heavyweight Championship match against Triple H. If Kane lost, however, he’d be forced to unmask. And that’s what happened. He lost, and reluctantly ripped his mask off in front of the world.
A couple of things were happening here that made people excited. Number one, fans were eager to see what the monster looked like under that mask. For years the claim had been made that Kane wore the mask to hide severe burns on his face, but when he revealed himself his face was intact and he was bald on top. People were totally confused at the inconsistency, especially since Kane’s mask had been ripped off years earlier and his face remained hidden by his naturally full head of long hair.
The second thing that happened was much more important. Kane removing his mask was killing the most important thing that made him terrifying, his mystique. It exposed him as a regular Joe and set into motion nearly fifteen years (and counting) of humanization which has crippled any ability for him to ever be seen as a threatening monster in the future.
1. Up: His Debut
Kane’s illustrious career is packed with countless Championship reigns, in fact, more than almost anyone in WWE history. He has teamed with a vast number of partners and made nearly every team work, and he has proven to be versatile and loyal to the WWE, willing to commit to any storyline the company gives him. Through rivalries with future and current WWE Hall of Famers like the Undertaker, Triple H, Edge, John Cena, Steve Austin and more, the Big Red Machine has simultaneously carved his niche in professional wrestling and elevated the vast majority of every WWE Superstar he’s been in the ring with.
But not a single Superstar in WWE history has a debut as perfect and mystical as Kane. It was teased for weeks in 1997 that the Undertaker had a younger brother who would take revenge on the Dead Man for the accidental burning alive of their family. When Kane finally made his first appearance, it was to rip off the door of the Hell in a Cell structure to get to the Undertaker and assault him.
The debut was the kickoff to one of the most famed storylines ever in wrestling, which saw the Undertaker refuse to fight Kane until he was finally provoked enough that the Phenom agreed to a match with his brother at WrestleMania XIV. Everything played out to perfection through to the conclusion and it is a storyline that has been revisited countless times. Unfortunately, the glory was never recaptured, but Kane’s first WWE appearance set the tone for a legendary career.