Names like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and a select few are arguably considered the greatest WWE superstars of all time, and rightfully so. However, it can be broken down into much smaller areas to determine who is the best in each area.
There’s the longevity aspect, the best star on the microphone, the one who bought into the gimmick the most, the best in-ring competitor - and so on. Although there’s no definitive answer, one thing that the majority of WWE fans will agree on is that Kane will go down as not only one of the most underappreciated stars in WWE history but someone who portrayed the best character in the history of WWE.
Again, the might be disputed by some. The Undertaker is undoubtedly going to be up there after his American Badass gimmick - which was brilliant in itself - was sandwiched between two runs as The Deadman - while other names like Mankind, The Million Dollar Man and even Goldust can be in the conversation.
Not everyone is able to come back from a failed gimmick, but for others, it’s a blessing in disguise, and that’s precisely what happened with Kane. When you look back at the career Kane has had in the WWE, it’s almost laughable to even think that his first big break came as Dr. Isaac Yankem
He’s proof, though, that not giving up can lead to incredible success and that’s what happened when his new gimmick led to the inferno of success he has had as The Big Red Machine.
SUCCESS WITH THE MASK…
If you’re going to make your debut against The Undertaker, then you better be sure that it’s going to be a memorable feud and character that will go down in history for the right reasons. That’s precisely what happened when a heel Paul Bearer introduced Kane to his on-screen half-brother who possessed perhaps the most compelling backstory of any WWE character.
Instant impact. The sheer size of the masked monster struck fear in anyone, and that’s not something masked superstars of today can bring to the table as it was ridiculously far-fetched, but he made you buy into the character and story. He tore those cell doors right off its hinges before going on a terrorising run which saw him become WWE Champion - even if it wasn’t a lengthy reign.
Then there’s the longevity of the mask. Sure, it might have changed in appearance throughout the years, but the core of that monster/demon-like character remained the same which has been crucial to his success. WWE didn’t feel the need to rip that mask off when things weren’t going his way - until it had originally run its course and the shock unveiling of his burnt face in 2003.
Despite that, Kane brought the mask back in what was welcomed by so many WWE fans because that’s the Kane the older audience fondly remember. Of course, more and more of his face can be seen, but in a sense, that mask ended up being the catalyst of a split personality when Kane corporate side was brought out.
...SUCCESS WITHOUT THE MASK
The common assumption can be that it’s easier to compete without a mask. But in Kane’s case, it’s completely different because of that longevity factor. For so long, he had been competing with his face covered but the unmasking of The Big Red Machine was another massive test in his career - one he obviously passed with flying colours.
At the time, it might have been an enormous risk as Kane had been so popular with the mask, but it eventually paid off when you consider what else Kane went on to achieve. Money in the Bank, runs as the World Heavyweight Champion and he is responsible for bringing back The Deadman at WrestleMania XX; all without the mask. They are things WWE superstars might not achieve throughout their careers.
Before the unmasking, Kane relied on his body language to convey his emotions but now, we were able to see an entirely new dynamic as we finally saw the facial expressions that hid for so many years under the mask, and he expressed those emotions perfectly too.
Those facial expressions made him come across as that legitimate monster the WWE needed, somebody you wouldn’t want to cross in a dark alley. As he was this larger than life character, fans perhaps wanted to cheer for him to cause chaos, but when you consider the downright nasty things his character was booked to do, the fans couldn’t help but boo him - which is what the WWE intended.
EMERGING FROM THE UNDERTAKER’S SHADOW
Whenever a superstar has a huge star alongside or opposite them, it can be difficult to break out and try to follow in their footsteps. Obviously, in some cases, it works, and the most recent example can be Braun Strowman overtaking Bray Wyatt but in the same example, has someone like Erick Rowan been able to emerge from Wyatt’s shadow on numerous occasions? Or even Marty Jannetty and the pressure of being as big as Michaels was - it simply couldn’t happen.
In Kane’s case, he certainly didn’t sink. If anything the pressure of competing alongside somebody like The Undertaker only made Kane thrive and helped cement his place in the main event scene for years to come. Obviously, things did take a slight dip for him during some questionable storylines over the course of his character while The Phenom remained the bona fide main event star. Still, that didn’t deter Kane or the WWE from his character.
He was still the monster, and he portrayed it to such perfection that a gimmick change down the line had never been on the cards. To this day, Kane has remained The Big Red Machine.
EMBRACING THE COMEDY
Whenever a WWE superstar ends up going down the comedy route, it’s a sign that things could be doomed. In Kane’s case, that was never in doubt as he still managed to keep the core of his character intact while embracing that comedic side. For example, Team Hell No alongside Daniel Bryan brought out a whole new side of Kane who, despite going down the comedy route, didn’t do any damage to his persona.
Throughout the anger management classes, for example, Kane remained the character that terrified the life out of everyone by recounting his long and disturbing history from kidnapping to arson - it was all still there to show that WWE didn’t completely strip away the Kane character.
Even during his corporate days alongside The Authority, what fans loved about that was the fact that the Demon character was still there, even if Kane was in a suit. It was just locked away, it was a side of Kane they didn’t want to unleash unless it was absolutely necessary and a side he didn’t necessarily want to bring out even during Seth Rollins’ run as a heel as the WWE kept his character and gimmick protected.
There’s no questioning his work on the microphone, he did what he had to do perfectly to match the character. It also speaks volumes that an entire movie - See No Evil - cast Kane which you could claim was basically the WWE version of Kane, but on a much bigger screen. That’s the level of impact his character has had.
His in-ring work matched his character perfectly, even if he could be spotted flying across the ring from the top rope to deliver a clothesline and it’s why WWE’s personal project is going to remain one of the most memorable and popular characters in history.
If anything, fans will wish he was more selfish throughout his career.
Who do you think deserves to go down as the WWE’s greatest character? Have YOUR say in the comments section below.