This October marks the 20th anniversary of the Big Red Machine.
It feels like just yesterday Kane was ripping off the door to Hell in a Cell and tombstoning his big brother. His character has evolved more than any other in wrestling history, certainly a major contributing factor in his amazing longevity. Even now, in 2017, Kane is a central figure of Raw, destroying current superstars who grew up watching him.
In honor of two decades of walking through hell fire and brimstone, here’s the definitive list of Kane’s 20 greatest matches.
20. vs. Rey Mysterio, Money in the Bank 2010
How can a 54-second match make the cut? Storytelling. After Rey Mysterio successfully defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Jack Swagger, the angry Okie attacked the champ afterward. Kane made the save to chase off Swagger, leaving Rey-Rey to feel the coast was clear. Nope…Kane returned with his recently won briefcase and a referee, demolishing Mysterio for the title. It was the first time that someone cashed in on the same night they won the title shot.
19. Team Hell No vs. Kofi & R-Truth, Night of Champions 2012
Who else forgot that R-Truth and Kofi were Tag Team Champions? This match was the culmination of Dr. Shelby’s therapy sessions as Kane and Daniel Bryan were forced to work together to win the titles. It’s fun to watch them bicker in the beginning, and then slowly tolerate each other toward the end. Team Hell No was Kane’s last great run and this was where it all started.
18. vs. Kurt Angle, WrestleMania X-8
Not as good as their 2001 Smackdown encounter, but still WrestleMania quality. Our Olympic Hero smashed Kane’s skull with the bell to start the match, and then dominated him with surprising (although we know by now he’s superhuman) power moves. If they hadn’t been out of position for the ending, history would look back on this bout more fondly.
17. Team Hell No vs. Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns, RAW 5/27/2013
One of the rare instances where Kane was the partner in peril as The Shield isolated the monster in the first half of this Tag Team Championship match. When Kane finally tagged in Bryan, the supposed weak link ran wild on Rollins. Then Reigns overpowered the Flyin’ Goat and it became Kane’s turn to make the save, rallying his lil buddy from the apron until he tagged in to unleash uppercuts of doom. Unfortunately, typical miscommunication between Team Hell No led to The Shield retaining.
16. vs. Big Show vs. Raven, Wrestlemania X-7
One of my favorite matches as a kid, I forced my uncles to see it at a family party but they only cared about the Gimmick Battle Royal. Raven defended the Hardcore Championship against two giants, and obviously, didn’t have a chance. But he damn sure tried! This cartoonish brawl has everything from a golf cart chase to Kane tossing Raven through a window.
15. vs. Daniel Bryan, Extreme Rules 2014
In his only high-profile title defense before surrendering the WWE World Heavyweight Championship due to injury, Daniel Bryan battled his former partner in an Extreme Rules match. He’s never thought of as hardcore, but the Smackdown GM wasn’t afraid to eschew chokeholds for chairshots. Whacking the Demon with a kendo stick to the melody of “Yes!” chants, Bryan played the unwavering underdog to perfection against the monster. Even P.G. restrictions couldn’t hamper the intensity of this brawl as the ex-Tag Team Champions fought into the parking lot, smashing windows and shovels along the way.
14. vs. Stone Cold, Raw 6/29/1998
Twenty-four hours after losing the WWF Championship, Stone Cold issued his rematch clause and faced Kane in a molten hot main event. It was a ballsy move to give away the match on free TV after fans had payed to see it the night before, but it’s that unpredictability that led to WWE winning the Monday Night War. Although Kane’s title reign was brief, it established him as a certified main eventer who could hang with the biggest star in the company.
13. vs. Chris Benoit, Bad Blood 2004
Pulling double duty, Chris Benoit had competed earlier in the night in a Tag Team Championship match, so this brutal slugfest is a testament to his ability. Kane truly looked like a big red machine as the Canadian Crippler repeatedly sliced his chest with blistering chops. It was a human chess match of targeting body parts as Kane worked over Benoit’s surgically repaired neck while Benoit weakened Kane’s arm to set up the Crossface. When that didn’t work, the World Heavyweight Champion focused on Kane’s knees to set up the Sharpshooter. This is definitely Kane’s best match without the mask.
12. vs. Triple H, Judgement Day 2001
From a psychology and pure brutality standpoint, this is one of the best (if not the best) chain matches ever. It’s also a rare sight seeing Triple H defend the Intercontinental Championship against Kane during an era in which both men were certified main eventers. Before the chain is even attached, the Cerebral Assassin attacks Kane’s arm with a chair and rams it into the steel post. Then The Game tortures his challenger until Kane battles back and unleashes hell.
11. vs. X-Pac, Armageddon 1999
Another friendship gone wrong – the Big Red Machine fought his ex-partner X-Pac inside a steel cage. As Kane waited inside the ring, X-Pac locked the cage door, seemingly trapping his foe while the degenerate forced himself upon Kane’s special lady, Tori. That didn’t last long as Kane climbed out and whipped ass before heading back to the ring. The big man-little man dynamic always served Kane well and X-Pac was another great opponent.
10. Money in the Bank, WrestleMania 21
The first MITB was a mind-blowing, human demolition derby. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Christian, Shelton Benjamin, Kane and Edge all had a viable shot to snatch the briefcase, keeping us in suspense with every climb. Kane played his role as the powerful big man to perfection, tossing around his smaller opponents and taking the brunt of such brutal ladder attacks.
9. Elimination Chamber, Survivor Series 2002
The first Elimination Chamber had the mysterious aura, a great lineup of participants, the returning Shawn Michaels and a hot heel champion in Triple H. Kane’s time in the match was brief, but explosive, as he immediately chokeslammed everyone. It took three men to hit their finishers to finally eliminate the demon.
8. Smackdown MITB Ladder Match, Money In The Bank 2010
It was a good mix of fresh faces and veterans, ladder experts and novices as Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes, Matt Hardy, Drew McIntyre, Big Show and Kane battled at the first MITB pay-per-view. The giants were targeted early on but they ended up clearing the ring. Big Show actually broke the steps of the ladder by trying to climb up. Although Kane didn’t heavily factor into the match until the final minutes, his presence was soon felt as he went on a warpath chokeslamming Ziggler and Kofi onto a pile of ladders and chasing Cody to the stage. As McIntyre had the briefcase in his grasp, the crowd cheered for the Big Red Machine to knock him off and clinch the contract.
7. Royal Rumble 2001
Entering at No. 6, the Big Red Machine set the record for most eliminations in a Royal Rumble with 11, a record that wouldn’t be surpassed until 13 years later thanks to Roman Reigns. From goozling Drew Carey upon entry to being knocked out by Stone Cold for the victory, Kane served as the centerpiece in this exciting edition of WWE’s annual 30-man battle royal.
6. TLC IV, Raw Roulette 10/7/2002
At the first Raw Roulette, Eric Bischoff spun the wheel and made the deal: a TLC match pitting Jeff Hardy & RVD vs. Christian & Chris Jericho vs. Bubba Ray & Spike Dudley vs. Tag Team Champions Kane sans Hurricane, after Triple H and the Nature Boy jumped him earlier in the night. This was a car crash between seven bodies as the action never slowed and the risks just got higher. Hardy attempted to take Kane out by delivering a leg drop off a ladder through a table on the outside. But the monster emerged through hellfire and brimstone and broken tables to retain his title. This is one of the craziest matches ever, but because Kane was barely involved, it doesn’t top his list.
5. Brothers of Destruction vs. Two Man Power Trip, Backlash 2001
All titles were on the line in this epic, old school tag team match between the company’s four top stars at the time. It’s fun watching Stone Cold be the chickenshit heel as he and Triple H stall before the Brothers of Destruction chase them down and beat them back to the ring. Kane’s elbow is heavily bandaged so the Undertaker tries to keep his baby brother out of trouble as much as possible. But The Game and the Rattlesnake are too much for one man, even the Deadman, to handle so he tags Kane in, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.
4. vs. Albert, Smackdown 6/8/2001
An internet favorite, this unlikely pairing produced an exciting battle over the Intercontinental Championship. It’s probably Albert’s greatest performance in WWE as the mammoth won his only title after DDP emerged from the crowd and struck Kane with a Diamond Cutter. This is worth checking out for Kane’s hurricanrana alone.
3. Team Hell No & Ryback vs. The Shield, TLC 2013
The Shield’s very first match in WWE was a hellacious TLC brawl with Kane, Ryback and Daniel Bryan. The Hounds of Justice dissected each member of the opposing team, utilizing a variety of weapons in the process. They isolated Ryback first, powerbombing him through the announce table. Then Team Hell No tried to fight the trio off, but the numbers game was too strong to overcome. Roman speared Kane through the barricade and Bryan was curb stomped on a chair. If you’ve forgotten how great Roman, Seth and Dean were when they first arrived, relive this awesome war.
2. vs. Kurt Angle, Smackdown 11/1/01
A few days after turning his back on Team WWF, Kurt Angle defended the U.S. Championship against the Big Red Machine. The action was fast-paced in the first half of the match with Kane surprisingly keeping up with the Olympic machine. Then Angle baited Kane into the crowd where Stone Cold ambushed him with a steel chair behind the ref’s back, targeting Kane’s ankle. Angle spent the second half of the match working over the ankle, and although Kane fought back valiantly, he had no choice but to eventually submit. Kane’s selling of the Ankle Lock was masterful and he clearly had great chemistry with Angle.
1. vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania XIV
The Brothers of Destruction finally faced off in this highly anticipated encounter. The black tear drop on Undertaker’s face symbolized his regret at agreeing to fight his brother, something he swore to his deceased parents he would never do. However, the Big Red Machine had pushed his older brother over the edge by attempting to burn him alive so it turned into fisticuffs.
Undertaker threw the first punch, but Kane quickly took control with a slew of strikes and surprising agility off the top rope. The Demon systematically dissected Undertaker, unleashing years of frustration on his big brother. After delivering a chokeslam, he scooped Taker’s shoulder up to break the pin, preferring to further punish his flesh and blood. The Deadman withstood the onslaught and delivered three tombstones (Kane kicked out of two, instantly making him a bonafide main eventer) to finally put his brother away.