Podzilla 1985

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Through Hell Fire, Brimstone, and Corporate Retreats.

I love professional wrestling. 

I have been a fan since I was seven years old. There would be stretches of time that I wouldn't pay as much attention to the shows themselves, but I would always keep track of the various stories being told. As a kid I completely thought that wrestling was real. These men were competing in a legitimate contest to see who was the best athlete. As I grew up I began to have a better understanding of what wrestling really is. I was able to choose my favorite performers based on their matches and their interviews, instead of just who the shows were telling me who I should root for. Over time my favorites have changed, but there has been one constant in my almost 20 years of being a fan. 

The Devil's Favorite Demon, The Big Red Machine Kane.

My introduction, and love for, professional wrestling came from an unlikely place. As a kid, I was obsessed with action figures. I had boxes of them; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, heroes and villains from Marvel and DC comics, and anything in between. My friends and I would have giant wars using them with the fate of the entire universe hanging in the balance. 

One day, my friend Andre brought over a couple of his figures to join the good fight against the forces of evil. One of these toys stood out from the rest, it was bigger and more detailed than the others. It was an action figure of the WWE(F)'s Undertaker, and I immediately needed to know more. It wasn't until later that year when I was invited to watch Summerslam '96 at his house that I would finally get to see this dark, creepy, tattooed character in action. 

The Undertaker fought Mankind inside of a boiler room. I enjoyed the Boiler Room Brawl, and the show as a whole, but it wasn't until the following year that I became obsessed with the sport.



The first time that a wrestling story truly held my attention was in 1997. Paul Bearer had been tormenting The Undertaker for weeks, claiming that The Undertaker's brother ,who was previously believed to be killed in a childhood fire, was coming to challenge him. Being eight years old at the time, I assumed that Paul Bearer was just trying to play mind games with The Undertaker, he was a villain and that is what they do. Then, in October at Badd Blood: In Your House, in the first ever Hell in a Cell match against Shawn Michaels, it happened. The lights went out. Organ music filled the arena. Kane. A masked giant dressed in black and red. The Undertaker looked as surprised as we did. Fire erupted behind Kane and Paul Bearer, Kane then ripped the steel door off of the cage and stood face to face with his brother. He raised his arms and more fire shot from the tops of the turnbuckles. He then attacked The Undertaker and laid him out with The Undertaker's own finishing move, the Tombstone piledriver.


That moment is the one that I can turn to, anytime someone asks me why I enjoy watching professional wrestling. 

Professional wrestling is so much more than fake fighting in skimpy outfits. It is live theater combined with stunt work, combined with acting. It is characters evolving over several years, constantly evolving, and changing. Kane was the first time I was completely glued to my seat, the first time that something left me legitimately speechless. There are many moments throughout Kane's career that spans nearly two decades that I can point to cement the fact that he is my favorite. I won't go through a detailed history of his career, because there are more talented and knowledgeable writers that could do him more justice than I could. However the audience has seen Kane go from a silent, disfigured, spirit of vengeance to the Director of Operations under Triple H and Stephanie McMahon's Authority.

Even though Kane is my favorite wrestler, I'm willing to admit that his character has taken a few missteps. The first that comes to mind is the infamous Katie Vick angle that showed Triple H wearing a Kane mask molesting a mannequin that was supposed to be Kane's dead girlfriend. The reason this article is being posted on this specific date (May 19th) is because for weeks Kane was being tormented by graphics and voices taunting him about the date. This date happened to be the release date of his WWE movie See No Evil. Kane attacked his co-stars, crew members, and even his tag team partner at the time, Big Show. 

It turns out that May 19th was the day of the fire that killed his adoptive family when he was a child. The whole thing was later showed to be orchestrated by an impostor Kane. The impostor came out to confront Kane wearing Kane's original attire and to his original music. The story was quickly scrapped however and Kane pulled the mask off the impostor, threw him out of the building, and the whole thing was never mentioned again. Another story saw Kane impregnating Lita to continue his 'legacy of terror' only for her to miscarry the child when another wrestler knocked Kane on top of her during a match.

When Kane is given a good story, he can be one of the most entertaining parts of the show. His World Heavyweight Championship run and feud with The Undertaker in 2010 was some of the best character work he has done throughout his career. Kane accused Rey Mysterio of attacking the Undertaker, preventing him from defending his championship at the Fatal Four Way event. Kane ended up cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase that he won that same night to win the World Heavyweight Championship. It was eventually revealed that Kane himself attacked the Undertaker, leading to a feud throughout the summer. 

His time spent with Daniel Bryan as Team Hell No was another high point that allowed Kane to show his comedy skills and charisma, which was a break from his mostly serious, sinister role he frequently played. Kane and Daniel Bryan were required to go to anger management programs and were often encouraged to 'hug it out'. 

Another story that I personally enjoyed was the fall-out of Kane's eventual unmasking. When Kane lost his mask it was revealed that the burns and scars he was hiding under the body suit and mask were only psychological. It also seemed like this was the first time he was forced to confront that fact. Losing his mask made him go on a rampage; he destroyed his tag team partner and friend Rob Van Dam and even set beloved announcer Good Ole' Jim Ross on fire. For the first time in a long while, he was a legitimately scary monster again.


To me it all comes back to his first appearance. The weeks of build-up, the music, the pyrotechnics, and the strength he showed in his attack. It all worked together perfectly. For Kane, it launched a long and successful career that continues as strong as ever today. 

For me, it completely sucked me into the world of professional wrestling and I've never looked back.
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