We’re back in the squared circle with not so much a bang as a monstrous fireball, lighting up the darkness and bathing us in ominous red. Kane, “The Big Red Machine”, is on his way to the ring!
Or not so red a machine, as it appears. Kane’s foremost attire from his 1997 debut had the colours you see here transposed. This outfit crept into the mix in 1999, and I just think it looked so damned good; such a simple shift really reinvigorated the character. I’ve spoken before of my attempts – to no avail – to find an action figure as a child. I couldn’t resist. It’s probably my favourite wrestler’s attire of all.
Kane’s early run in the WWF can mostly be defined by his relationship with his brother, The Undertaker. It was apparently Undertaker’s accidental torching of the family home that left Kane disfigured – hence the mask, and presumably the outfit too.
Was he feuding with his sibling, or were they standing together, an unstoppable duo? There were times when it seemed this was shifting back and forth on a weekly basis, but it tallies in with the product’s crazy and complex storylines of the time, and such a rocky, fragmented bond seemed fitting for two tormented characters.
Whether ‘Taker was by his side or not, Kane was the epitome of monster and, within months of his debut, had upset Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship. At near seven feet tall, he towered over most opposition and could be seen to lift his bulkiest foes with ease. Just as impressive, though, was his catlike agility. Seeing such a huge man employ such speed, performing dropkicks and dives off the top rope with such aplomb really was a sight to behold. Kane is every bit “Big Red Machine” as “Big Red Flying Machine”!
The mask, and whoever lurked beneath it, was always a pivotal part of Kane’s mystique. They had The Undertaker rip it off at SummerSlam 2000, but Kane was able to escape before the cameras could catch a glimpse. In 2003, however, Kane staked his mask against Triple H’s World Championship in a one-on-one match. Kane lost, albeit under dubious circumstances, and finally had to unmask. (Turned out all that was underneath was a normal chap with some face-paint!) While the storylines that followed allowed Kane to go completely berserk with this, turning evil and reacquainting with that whole monstrous streak, I do think that, after that initial run, it harmed the character. It just didn’t seem like the same Kane – as evil as he was, the bare face lacked something. And he didn’t have the pick of badass outfits anymore.
But, if anyone can make a ropey storyline work, it’s Glenn Jacobs. There have been a few of them. Prior to being gifted Kane, he’d muddled his way through the personas of Fake Diesel – a bewildering parody of the real Diesel, who had recently left the WWF – and Dr. Isaac Yankem, a manic dentist. Kane has tussled and tagged with so many superstars over his near twenty-year stint, from giants like Big Show to cruiserweights such as The Hurricane, and always manages to make the combination seem coherent and exciting. I’m not really sure what’s going on with his character these days, but he’ll make it work, he’s a tremendous performer and very much worthy of recognition. The fire shall rage on!
As I look to begin a second series of WWF/E portraits, here’s fun regarding the first: I was most thrilled to have The Brooklyn Brawler sign prints of my portrait at a convention in Pennsylvania over the weekend.
Having rarely printed my digital drawings, I was a little nervous as to whether the run’s quality will meet expectations, but he looks to have fared well and shifted well – I’m excited for my own copy to arrive so I can inspect it up close. How marvellous, though, to think that my little portrait is now residing among the collections of bona fide wrestling enthusiasts!