Join me on a cynical journey into the years of my mark-hood, as I ridicule and scoff at one of its most prominent moments: the unmasking of Kane.
Looking back, I don???t think there was a worse year to become a wrestling fan this decade than 2003. Triple H spent the twelve months (almost) as World Heavyweight Champion but only faced rusty, aging or poor performers from the old WCW. Angle was putting together a good string of performances since losing his hair (!) in 2002, but nagging injuries but a halt to that. Not to mention Austin and Rock both said goodbye here, leaving massive holes in the company??’s roster for a while to come.
And when I ponder as to what GOOD came out of this twelve months, not much sticks to be honest. Everything I enjoyed as a mark (Elimination Chamber II, Goldberg, Steiner and Nash etc.) has since been seen for what it was ??? crud. And everything that WAS good was stuff that didn???t appeal to me at all as a mark. Wrestling clinics like Angle / Benoit and Jericho / Michaels? Boring! Dramatic pieces a la Team Austin / Team Bischoff? The heels won, how could that be a good match?! *rolls eyes at younger self??’s stupidity*
So anyway, what I decided to do for this edition of ???MOAM??? is to have a wee bit of fun at my younger mark self??’s expense. It??’s not all crap and moaning but, especially when it comes to the transformation of Kane and the stories that he became apart of ??? well, you???ll have to read on.
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World Heavyweight Championship Title vs. Mask:
Triple H ?? w/ Ric Flair vs. Kane ??? RAW ???03
The themes here are urgency and desperation. Whilst Kane has the normal aspiration of winning the title, he has the added impulse of keeping his mask. From the beginning, the Big Red Machine fires (pun unintended) away at Triple H. He dominates, and doesn???t stop fighting even when Flair and a steel chair become involved. Kane literally keeps sitting up. His desperation / frustration are perfectly conveyed when he has The Game beat with no referee in sight. In anger, he tosses the official who eventually makes the count out of the ring.
But Triple H is also desperate. He low blows, uses weapons and employs the help of Flair and Orton. And ultimately it??’s HIS urgency that wins out, forcing Kane to expose his face for all to see. This was an acceptable television main-event, possessing some good dramatic moments and a hot crowd (as well as an iconic aftermath). Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of poor execution by both Kane and Ric Flair, whilst the short running time means the actual performance won???t linger long afterwards. Not essential, but neither is it a waste of time.
No Holds Barred:
Kane vs. Rob Van Dam ???SummerSlam 2003
Shall we critique the build for this? Kane??’s face is now naked, resulting in increased levels of anger. In a spiteful attempt to create empathy for what he has suffered, Kane sets Jim Ross on fire. Accurately described as an unhinged psychopath, the Big Red Machine is placed under house arrest. This means he can still work, regardless of the harm he caused to a colleague. Okay, a bit silly ??? It gets worse. Kane goes berserk, physically attacking company CEO Linda McMahon amongst others. Nonetheless, he suffers no reprimand, keeps his job (?!) and faces no legal consequence for breaking house arrest. I bet the writers had a great big ???LOL??? after that one.
Anyway, the performance here isn???t half bad. The liberating stipulation works effectively for both performers. Kane is unhindered by rules and thus can cause carnage, whilst Van Dam??’s desperate plight grants meaning to his spot-centric move set. They capitalise on this, with Kane inflicting the most damage whilst RVD takes to the air. Teasing an upset (as they should to keep things interesting), it??’s Kane??’s resilience that destroys his opponent. It??’s inevitable that Rob Van Dam is going to lose this war, his comebacks are fun but this story has a happy ending for the Big Red Monster.
Thus the performance integrates the theme of inevitability into its portrayal, a notion born out of Kane??’s transformation into an inexplicable, unstoppable beast. In this way, the build did its job well, despite decreasing everyone??’s IQs. Both performers take full advantage of the loose rules (though not in any amazingly original manner), with the only real detriments to the match being a slightly dead crowd and a tendency for sloppy execution. That and the pinnacle spot of the match escapes the attention of JR and King on commentary who, when realising their mistake, should???ve let out one massive ???D???OH!??? Above-average stuff.
RATING: ** ??
Last Man Standing:
Kane vs. Shane McMahon ??? Unforgiven 2003
Following the destruction of Van Dam, the goofiness between Kane and Shane McMahon erupts to a new level. The motivation is there ??? I???d hate someone for attacking my mother too! ??? but some moments during the build are plain silly. Burning dumpsters?! The only thing more ludicrous is the fact that Kane returns the NEXT week, with NO BURNS OR SCARS, just SLIGHTLY torn clothes. And how does the Big Red Monster escape the law (and maintain his occupation) after deliberately electrocuting Shane??’s testicles with jumper cables?! I???m disappointed that I missed the ???Attitude Era??? ??? Sounds like my sarcastic cravings would???ve been vented week in, week out.
If acclaimed director James Cameron ever had the opportunity to book / script a match, this would???ve been the end result. Kane is the WWE??’s Terminator, never stopping in his ruthless, remorseless pursuit of devastation. On the flipside, Shane is the fumbling yet persisting John Connor. He must battle with urgency, because a single mistake will probably conclude in ???termination??? (oh yeah I did!). This isn???t the greatest last man standing encounter I???ve ever seen (Cena / Umaga deserves that plaudit), but Shane McMahon and Kane do deliver a solid show.
Kane appropriately dominates, but never so much so it becomes plodding, with teased upsets interspersed amidst his offense to keep proceedings exciting. Shane??’s spots convey his desperation, as well as his daring, whilst he makes an acceptable ragdoll during Kane??’s sequences. Unlike Kane / RVD, some spots (particularly the conclusion) do pay-off, making this the more satisfying offering. The theme of inevitability persists, and is exacerbated well by Shane??’s groggy selling and spots. And when you???re the WWE??’s Terminator, that??’s perhaps integral to a successful performance.
RATING: ** ??
Kane vs. Shane McMahon ??? Survivor Series 2003
More of the same anarchic carnage as last man standing, only shorter and with a different premise. The loser is the individual hospitalised (via being unable to escape the ambulance prior to it leaving the arena), thus making the stipulation a glorified stretcher match. Plot and themes remain intact, featuring Shane??’s courage and fighting spirit versus the monster??’s Terminator-like resolve in destroying his ???target???. Remember how the Terminator (in the first film) survived numerous situations where it should???ve expired, never ceasing to stalk its targets? Imagine those situations as high-risk spots employed by Shane McMahon, and you have the narrative for this ambulance match with Kane.
One or two of the spots are staple Shane McMahon, but there??’s enough ???freshness??? in their portrayal to keep the less-motivated fan entertained. Some may dislike the rather simplified climax (compared to how the last man standing match ended) but it reflects how this brainless feud began AND is a believable reason for Shane being taken into intensive care.
For all my sarcasm in response to the transformation of Kane and his subsequent encounters with Shane McMahon (the build for this one had a purposely inflicted limo crash on Kane!), their hatred resulted in two spot-fests that are purely dumb-fun. A nod towards the silliness of the ???Attitude Era???? Perhaps. But it provided some good, stupid, brain-draining fun. Can???t complain too much.
RATING: ** ??
World Heavyweight Championship:
Goldberg ?? vs. Triple H vs. Kane ??? Armageddon 2003
Professional wrestling can be an enigma at times. In its world, if you attack the correct individual you can receive anything. Kane earns placement in this championship contest by assaulting Goldberg on several occasions. Hooray for justice and consequences for immoral behaviour ??? At least he didn???t BURN anyone this time!
This had potential to be train-wreck terrible, but instead it??’s a surprisingly decent triple threat. It largely conforms to the typical structure (heels team temporarily, obligatory table spot, rotation of one-on-one encounters etc.) however it possesses a good narrative bearing the themes of manipulation and plotting. Kane??’s the muscle, Triple H the mastermind. He orientates the double-teaming of Goldberg, being mindful to maintain the Big Red Machine??’s allegiance. Two heels dominating one face may not sound exciting, but Triple H??’s antics and the slow burn towards the expected back-stabbing sustains interest long enough.
At particular points, Triple H has to desperately apologise to Kane. The monster is a menacing presence, but also a gullible one. The Game picks his spots, allowing the powerhouse to do most of the damage to the World Champion. But gradually distrust explodes, especially when Triple H brandishes a steel chair. Once the match degenerates, the Cerebral Assassin??’s back-up plan kicks in, with his Evolution buddies creating an opportunity for their leader to regain the World Heavyweight Championship.
The focus is firmly placed on Triple H and his relationship with Kane. Ultimately, it??’s that which slightly elevates this performance from clich??d mediocrity. Its emphasised storytelling almost disguises the fact that overall it offers nothing new, and solely relies on a predictable structure.
RATING: ** ??
Kane vs. Undertaker ??? WrestleMania XX
Preposterous retardedness abound! Kane seemingly murdered his brother, Undertaker, at Survivor Series 2003 during a buried alive match, and because he exists in some detached, fictitious world he manages to escape imprisonment (once again!). But hang on? Supernatural freakiness begins to haunt Kane in the lead-up to ???Mania, suggesting that the Dead One is anything but. I pin this performance at WrestleMania XX as the point where Kane??’s momentum since unmasking was truly stunted. Unfortunately, I also believe this effect on Kane was unavoidable, as the unnatural mind games in the build HAD to evoke doubt and fear in the Big Red Machine to brew anticipation for the angle??’s culmination. Sadly it worked concurrently to emasculate Kane.
Fun, I guess ??? But talk about killing one??’s credentials as a monster. The best part of the performance was Kane??’s denial at the beginning. He??’s shocked, fearful and utterly desperate. At the same time however, the conveyance of fear and doubt destroys his monstrous aura. When ???Taker sits up, Kane begs and pleads as though he was an ordinary combatant. There??’s no surprise that in the coming months Kane struggled to recapture his intimidating presence, his rivalry with Matt Hardy even focusing explicitly on this. In fact, I would argue it wasn???t until his recent heel turn that Kane has sort of regained that presence. An unfortunate side-effect of his battle with Undertaker, but one that in all honesty couldn???t be avoided.
It doesn???t help that the match was shockingly short, and even bordered on glorified squash. Both performers merely run through their trademark stuff, providing an average match for such a prominent, and highly anticipated, event. I???d watch their match on SmackDown after WrestleMania XXIV over this ??? Beyond the admittedly great portrayal of disbelief by Kane at the start, and the remarkably chilling entrance of ???Taker, there isn???t much of worth here. Even the build ??? which at the time was impressive ??? has become muddled in predictability since as the prototypical template for any Undertaker feud, thus losing its appeal.
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I offer my apologies to those who found my sarcasm overbearing, but it??’s always fun to take the blow-torch to once cherished memories. Or not, maybe I???m just crazy cynical ???
The revitalisation of Kane in 2003 was fun and succeeded in renewing interest in the monster until his emasculating clash with Undertaker. It lead to some entertaining, if forgettable, shows involving Rob Van Dam and Shane McMahon, and in the years to come, takes upon eyebrow-raising hilarity when examining the feuds through aged (and hopefully wiser) eyes.
Anyway, I have a headache from rolling my eyes too much. Next time the daggers are going to re-emerge as I look at the awesomely bad run Goldberg had in the WWE, including an uncalled for squash of The Rock, the second worst Elimination Chamber ever and the most horrible let down in recent memory ??? his glorious fight with Lesnar at ???Mania XX. I can sense your anticipation.
Merry Christmas, and enjoy the New Year!
If for some reason you wish to contact me, send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just make sure you get my name right ??? It??’s Scott, the next person to call me Bob will be sent virtual slappage!