“That’s gotta be…that’s gotta be Kane!”
On October 5th, 1997 (the day after my twelfth birthday, which sadly clashes with Global James Bond Day), Glenn Jacobs made his dramatic debut as Kane, the scarred, monstrous younger half-brother of the Undertaker. Since then, for over twenty years, Kane ran rampant on an unmatched path of destruction, setting opponents alight, unmasking to reveal a mentally scarred psychopath, and targeting others for all sorts of minor transgressions. Massive, powerful, and garbed in an iconic red-and-blue leather mask, Kane made an instant impression on me and wrestling fans alike and remains, to this day, my favourite wrestler of all time.
The Date: 29 March 1998
The Venue: FleetCenter; Boston, Massachusetts
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Jack Doan
The Stakes: Semi-main event, personal rivalry between siblings
In the entire history of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), and perhaps all of wrestling, there is, arguably, no greater and more tumultuous story than the history between Kane and the Undertaker. The Deadman had embarked on a reign of terror ever since his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series event, seemingly under the control or influence of a mysterious urn wielded by his revolting manager, Paul Bearer. However, the Undertaker’s relationship with Bearer soured after Bearer turned his back on the Deadman in favour of Mankind. In retribution, the Undertaker used his supernatural powers to blast Bearer in the face with a fireball at In Your House 14: Revenge of the ‘Taker but was tormented by Bearer’s subsequent claims that the Undertaker’s younger brother, Kane, had actually survived the fire that claimed the lives of their parents and was looking for revenge.
These claims turned out to be all-too-true when, right as the Undertaker was about to defeat his long-time rival in the first-ever Hell in a Cell match at Badd Blood: In Your House, the lights went out, ominous organ music played, and a gigantic man garbed in red and black stormed the ring, literally tearing the cell’s door off, ignited the ring posts, and planted the stunned Undertaker with his own finishing manoeuvre, the Tombstone Piledriver as Kane made his shocking debut. Mute, superhumanly strong, and seemingly impervious to pain, Kane immediately embarked on a path of destruction in a bid to goad his brother into a match; the Undertaker, however, constantly refused to fight his brother but was finally pushed too far after Kane and Bearer attacked him at the 1998 Royal Rumble event. The two placed him inside a casket and setting it ablaze, seemingly killing the Undertaker, but the Deadman made another of his trademark dramatic returns and, now, was begrudgingly ready to face his brother, one-on-one, at WrestleMania XIV.
As you might expect, given the dramatic and destructive conflict between the Undertaker and Kane and the convoluted backstory between the two, the match is preceded by another of the WWF’s fantastic video packages highlighting Bearer’s claims that “Kane is alive!” and Kane’s breathtaking debut at Badd Blood .The emphasis of the hype package is primarily on Bearer’s obsession with using Kane to extract revenge against the Undertaker and the Deadman’s refusal to fight his own flesh and blood; one thing that’s actually very interesting about this feud, even here in its early days, is that both men are kind of portrayed as tweeners. Neither man is really a face or a heel as ‘Taker is clearly being targeted, so the fans are reluctant to boo him even though he inadvertently killed his parents, and Kane was just too bad-ass, too alluring, and too impressive for people to truly boo him. Instead, it seems tensions were palpable for their inevitable conflict and everyone totally bought into the ridiculous story, suspending disbelief to simply enjoy the supernatural elements of their story and watch two massive guys go at each other after weeks and weeks of build-up.
Nowhere is this unusual face/dichotomy more evident than during Kane’s entrance, where he famously stalked to the ring surrounded by flames and red lighting and delivered a Tombstone to Pete Rose, who had spent a couple of minutes insulting the crowd, their city, state, and baseball team. This, seemingly, signalled that Kane was actually a babyface despite everything that he had done leading up to this match, but then he switches right back into being more of a heel in his assault of the Undertaker. Like I say, Kane and the Undertaker was basically beyond the usual clichés of “good” and “evil”; they simply were and did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to, to whomever they felt like and people cheered regardless because it was always entertaining to see what these two big, beefy, semi-supernatural men would get up to next.
Of course, the Undertaker made a suitable dramatic and ominous entrance; flanked by several torch-carrying druids, the Deadman slowly stalked to the ring following a bolt of lightning and garbed in a gothic, almost vampire-like caped outfit and sporting a temporary black teardrop tattoo on his face. Kane, however, showed no signs of intimidation (or any emotion at all, considering his face was entirely obscured by his iconic mask, but you can feel his boiling, brewing anger thanks to Jacobs’ fantastic body language and subtle gestures) leading to an iconic face-to-face stare down between the two before the Undertaker broke the tension with a big right hand and a furious assault in the ring corner. However, a common theme throughout the match, especially in the early going, is Kane’s indomitable power and ability to answer, and counter, the Undertaker’s offense at every turn; he manhandles the Undertaker on numerous occasions, overpowering him, reversing his attempts to whip Kane into the ropes and the corners, and quickly takes control of the early stages of the match by brutalising the Undertaker with his superior physical power. Kane even showed off his impressive agility by springboarding off the ring ropes to knock the Undertaker to the outside at one point, though the Undertaker was no slouch in this department either as he uncharacteristically hopped up onto Kane’s shoulders form an awkward-looking Facebuster-type move and, later, dove right over the top rope and crashing through the Spanish announce table in what looked like one hell of a crash landing!
All throughout the match, Paul Bearer is a constant presence; standing at ringside, he continuously shouts encouragement and directions to Kane and taunts to the Undertaker. As the fight inevitably tumbled to the ringside area, Bearer distracted the referee so that Kane could bring the steel steps crashing down across the Undertaker’s spine. This, and similar assaults, allowed the Undertaker to truly take control of the match as he slowly, methodically, beat the Undertaker into submission, with Bearer getting a few shots in on the Deadman at every opportunity. Kane, however, allowed hubris and his emotion and obsession with hurting the Undertaker potentially keep him from winning the match as he pulled the Undertaker up from a potential three count following a Chokeslam. Kane, however, presses his advantage after ‘Taker crashes through the announce table and was prepared to finish his brother off with his patented Diving Clothesline but was enraged when the Deadman kicked out of the pin and the two ended up trading punches before Kane overpowered the Undertaker and reversed his Tombstone attempt into a Tombstone of his own! ‘Taker, however, kicked out to a surprisingly mild reaction from the crowd (the silence that followed suggests a degree of shock at this event since Tombstone kickouts weren’t as overplayed and highly anticipated as they would become in later years). Undertaker got his second wind following this and, with Kane finally showing signs of fatigue, was able to plant his brother with a Chokeslam and then returned the favour with a Tombstone…only for Kane to kick out!
Despite being on the defensive for the majority of the match, J.R. constantly points out that the Deadman is making every effort to cover up from Kane’s punches and suggests that he may be playing a long game and banking on Kane tiring himself out with his furious and relentless assault. While this means that he has to endure what J.R. claims is the most brutal and physically dominating attack than he has ever experienced, this turns out to be the case and the result is a fantastic showcase for Glenn Jacobs’ popular masked character as Kane looks like an instant superstar thanks to all of the offense he gets in and the dominating position he is in throughout the entirety of the match. Nowhere is Kane’s tenacity emphasised more than in the closing minutes of the match; having kicked out of the first Tombstone, Kane continued to sit up, to get to his feet, and to stalk his brother and, despite eating another Tombstone, simply would not stay down until ‘Taker hit a third and final Tombstone to finally put his brother away. However, Kane and Paul Bearer ended up standing tall as Bearer put the boots to ‘Taker after the bell rang and Kane delivered a massive Tombstone Piledriver to his brother onto a steel chair to emphatically send the message that the Undertaker may have won the battle…but the war was far from over!
The feud between the Undertaker and Kane was far from over following this match; the two would clash again the very next month at Unforgiven: In Your House in the first-ever Inferno Match, which Kane, again, would lose. The two would eventually go their separate ways and even formed a tentative alliance that saw the Undertaker help Kane to defeat Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship at the 1998 King of the Ring event and become embroiled in Vince McMahon’s ongoing feud with Austin over the championship throughout the summer.
The two continually crossed paths as both reluctant allies and bitter rivals throughout 1998, with Kane slowly turning babyface and Undertaker turning heel in the process thanks to numerous twists and turns in their storied relationship. Such drama would follow both men throughout their subsequent careers as they continually switched allegiances and alternated between being one of the most dominant duos in the entire industry and being two of the bitterest rivals but, no matter what form their appearance or relationship took, you could always be assured of an absolute spectacle whenever Kane and the Undertaker share the ring together.
What did you think to the contest between Kane and the Undertaker at WrestleMania XIV? How would you rate it compared to their other bouts and which of their feuds, matches, and moments is your favourite? Were you a fan of Kane’s when he debuted and were you hyped for his first match against his brother? Which of the two were you rooting for, given the tumultuous nature of the storyline? How are you celebrating Kane’s debut this year, what are some of your favourite matches and moments from Kane’s long and complex career, and what dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and let me know what you think about Kane.