In this edition of the Roundtable, the staff discusses their favorite Big Red Machine matches and moments over the past two decades.
What is Kane’s greatest match?
Calvin Gibbon: Hard as I try, I can only really narrow this down to two options: Kane vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania XIV and TLC from Raw Roulette. The first was a truly great match up marked by the high drama that only professional wrestling can provide, and a legendary buildup – two things that, on their own, make this match an instant classic. The second match saw him single-handedly win a Fatal 4 Way TLC tag team match, reestablishing Kane as a bad ass fan favorite.
Troy Taroff: Kane vs Undertaker at WrestleMania 14. Even though Kane took the loss, it was still an extremely impressive showing from The Big Red Machine, finishing with a devastating tombstone piledriver onto the steps before exiting the arena.
Anthony Mahalis: I would have to say that Kane’s greatest match is against the Undertaker at WrestleMania 14. That really set the table for what a monster Kane could and would be.
John Corrigan: WrestleMania XIV. Kane was a made man in just one match, taking his brother to the limit and kicking out of not one, but two(!) tombstone piledrivers.
Evan Cross: As much as I’d rather pick a singles match, all of Kane’s best matches have been multi-man. With all due respect to the first Elimination Chamber and the TLC match with Daniel Bryan and Ryback vs. The Shield, I’ll go with the first Money in the Bank match. Shelton Benjamin’s run up the ladder gets the (deserved) recognition, but to me, the defining image of that match is Kane walking down the ramp, grinning as the ladders around him are set on fire.
Jack Goodwillie: I’m a little stunned this wasn’t on the initial top 20 list, but for me it’s a no-brainer. Kane was not and is not the type of wrestler you’re going to see in a “mat classic” but rather his best matches are going to be the ones with the best build-up or the greatest spectacle. Kane’s WWE Championship victory over Steve Austin at King of the Ring 1998 fits as a spectacle. Prior to the match, Kane threatened to set himself on fire if he lost to Austin, but this fact only touches the tip of the iceberg. While Mankind squared off with the Undertaker in their infamous Hell in a Cell match prior, it’s usually forgotten that the Cell came into play during Kane’s match. It was mysteriously lowered midway through the bout, likely due to the witchcraft of Paul Bearer. While Kane didn’t exactly go over “clean,” he did put on a main event worthy performance. Add to the fact that it marked the beginning of what for a long time was the company’s shortest world-title reign, I feel like it should be remembered much more fondly than perhaps it is.
What’s your favorite Kane incarnation?
Gibbon: I dug the “reborn” masked Kane most, by far. I thoroughly enjoyed the “Embrace the Hate” campaign he led in his standout feud against John Cena. The one thing I wish they would have done differently with him is capitalize on that great momentum and turn him into a world champion.
Taroff: Masked Kane will always be the OG Kane. Team Hell No Kane and Corporate Kane will always have a special place in my heart due to the silliness of it all.
Mahalis: Masked Kane is clearly the best Kane. I would say full mask and tank top is his absolute best look ever.
Corrigan: His debut look was the best: decked out in red and black with a black glove on one hand, left arm uncovered to show his muscle, and that terrifying mask. His attire told you everything you needed to know about the vengeful burn victim.
Cross: I will always have a special place in my heart for Team Hell No, my favorite tag team, but it’s gotta be masked Kane. That was when he felt like the biggest deal.
Goodwillie: No mask. My answer to the next question will elaborate on this in some ways, but the fallout and story of Kane becoming more of a psycho without his mask and slowly adapting himself back into every day society and how Lita’s influence helped turn him face made for a compelling story and better television. The inclusion of Matt Hardy and Snitsky into said storyline also added to it in my eyes, albeit for different reasons.
Should the mask have ever come off?
Gibbon: This is definitely a tough one for me. I, like so many others, thought the mask was iconic, mysterious and gave Kane a very unique quality. But, I think the level of my enjoyment for the criminally insane Kane that followed outweighs my nostalgia for the masked monster in this instance.
Taroff: That mask should have never came off. As soon as it came off, all credible to Kane being a “monster” went out the window. He became a normal human that fateful night in MSG.
Mahalis: I think it would have been great for Kane’s mask to have never come off, but it was probably inevitable. The thing that bothers me is the hideous mask that they have him wear now. Who designed that thing? If you are going to put him back in a mask make it the original or the half mask that he had before he was unmasked.
Corrigan: Golden rule in wrestling — masks should never come off. They’re a license to print money and keep a certain mystique to the character. After six years of being told he was so scarred and disfigured, no makeup or CGI could have ever lived up to our imaginations.
Cross: I’m fine with it coming off, but it should have come off once and stayed off, with the exception of one final nostalgia run with it back on. The mask has come on and off too much in recent years.
Goodwillie: With hindsight being 20-20, I would say yes, it should have because they were able to tell a really unique story that they wouldn’t have been able to tell without the Kane character. However, without the benefit of knowing how maskless Kane would have gotten over, I would have been very hesitant to remove it because of two things: merchandising and continuity. When TV shows make bold moves like that, they’re taking a major risk and sometimes it causes irreparable damage (see Family Guy killing off Brian Griffin).
What’s your favorite Kane moment?
Gibbon: Kane has certainly earned his fair share of human highlight reel moments, a majority of which involved wanton destruction and mayhem. However, I’m picking a slightly more innocuous moment: when Kane cashed in his freshly-won Money in the Bank briefcase on a vulnerable Rey Mysterio and won the World Heavyweight Championship, bringing a long heavyweight championship drought for the Big Red Machine to an end. Shockingly, this was, and still is, only Kane’s second world title reign (unless you count ECW…) since debuting as a main-eventer 12 years prior, and it was well deserved.
Taroff: Taking the mask off will always resonate in my memory as being one, if not the most, impactful Kane memory for me. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.
Mahalis: When he came to the aid of Booker T and Goldust to stop the Un-Americans from burning the American flag. What’s better than a patriotic Big Red Machine? That was also the day we were graced with the Kane-A-Roonie!
Corrigan: He’s had so many returns over the years, but in early 2000 he interrupted a 10-man tag involving D-X and the Radicals against Too Cool and Rock & Sock. The lights went out and a spotlight shone on Paul Bearer walking out with a huge grin. Then all hell broke loose.
Cross: When he and Bryan came out to back up Undertaker against The Shield. At the time, it was two legendary figures and four of the hottest wrestlers in the world teasing a feud. In retrospect, it feels like a bit of a lost opportunity, but at the time it was tantalizing.
Goodwillie: Some are going to be partial to Kane and Lita’s initial wedding, but I personally prefer when Kane ruined the union between Lita and Edge. After Matt Hardy’s music played as a con by the bride and groom, Kane rose up and out of the ring, popping his demonic, ugly head out to the surprise of the wedding official who classically yells, “JESUS CHRIST!” in a subtly comedic moment. Kane goes on to destroy the set and give the priest a Tombstone Piledriver for good measure to cap off a hilarious, yet effective moment especially considering the way I bought into heel Edge as a young teenager at the time.
What is Kane’s legacy?
Gibbon: At this point, I think it’s safe to say Kane will surely be remembered for his reliability and longevity. My hope is that he will inspire younger talent to the same level of commitment to creativity and character that Kane has shown over his remarkable career. Reliability doesn’t just mean showing up to work every day either, it means having an ability to adapt and change your character with the times – and Kane has shown those abilities in spades. As a side note, it also struck me how well Kane is able to be funny without sacrificing the killer monster gimmick he had so skillfully built up.
Taroff: Kane will undoubtedly be a hall of famer. No argument there, but his legacy will always be connected with that of The Undertaker. Being an amazing performer like Kane was and how he made such an impact when he first arrived in the WWF will always be remembered.
Mahalis: Kane certainly is a first ballot hall of famer. He was one of the key players of the Attitude Era, and he has had the most longevity of the entire group. Kane has so much versatility as well. He can give you a monster, or he can give you great comedic work. Despite my praise for Kane here, I still find it incomprehensible that he has beaten Balor and Rollins in consecutive weeks.
Corrigan: He has the most riveting, complicated, multi-dimensional backstory in all of wrestling. Aside from in Lucha Underground, you don’t see characters so well-defined anymore.
Cross: He is perhaps the least selfish top guy of all time. He has supposedly been offered multiple shots at the world title or the top of the company, only to turn most of them down. He was perfectly happy getting others over, and he did it as well as anyone ever has.
Goodwillie: Well, Kane is one of, if not the longest tenured WWE characters in its history and all the different incarnations through the years show the versatility of the man behind the mask. When you consider the way he debuted, how he has morphed and evolved up until the present time, now running for political office as a Libertarian in Tennessee I think he has to be perhaps the most well-developed character in all of wrestling.