Surely one of the biggest surprises of 2012 is how Glenn "Kane" Jacobs has emerged as one of the most entertaining acts on the roster.
Indeed, his current team with Daniel Bryan, Anger Management, is producing great matches, priceless comedy skits and single-handedly managing to revive the company's struggling tag team division.
Kane, one of WWE's longest running characters, has undoubtedly had a rough couple of years, participating in one awful, nonsensical feud after another. In fact, fans could not be blamed if they lost faith in "The Big Red Machine" to be entertaining ever again because his output in recent years has been truly rotten.
In 2010, he battled with his on-screen brother The Undertaker for what felt like the 35th time. This being a Kane-Undertaker feud, it was filled with laughably over-the-top dialogue, fake lightening bolts, dark and gloomy lightening, and all the other stuff that accompanies cartoonish WWE angles.
Then later, he won the World Heavyweight Championship and headed into a now infamous feud with Edge. Per the angle, Edge (who was ostensibly the babyface here) abducted and tortured Paul Bearer, Kane's elderly dad, every week on SmackDown in a bid to get into his foe's head.
It was one of the worst angles the company has ever done.
Badly written, ridiculous and a complete mess from a psychological point of view (Why exactly was a supposed good guy like Edge behaving in such a despicable manner?), this was truly awful.
And that's not even getting started on the angle's Grand Canyon-sized plot holes. (Why wasn't Edge arrested by the police after admitting—and showing—on a weekly basis that he had kidnapped someone against their will? How was he getting Paul Bearer through airport security?)
But, hey, at least the booking team couldn't put Kane through anything worse, right?
Well, no. Earlier this year a newly masked Kane became embroiled in a feud with John Cena, which basically consisted of him beating up Zack Ryder every week and rambling on about how Cena needed to "embrace the hate." He also chased around Eve (doing her best impression of a B-level horror movie heroine) a lot.
Not only did this storyline flop badly, it killed off any of Ryder's credibility too. His career hasn't been the same since.
Not that Kane can be blamed for this. He's a decent, if patchy, wrestler who tried hard and has always delivered his (often convoluted and silly) promos with a professionalism and class they probably don't deserve.
The only thing you can possibly fault him for is being too much of a company man and not turning down any of these terrible angles when they're pitched to him.
So, how has Kane turned it around? How did someone famous for being involved in terrible, career-ruining angles actually wander into one that is pretty good?
Part of it is undoubtedly that WWE finally learned to stop taking the Kane character seriously and embrace the absurdity of him.
Filled with kidnappings, torture, patricide and crashed weddings, Kane's back story is ridiculous even by wrestling standards.
This is something the company seemed to acknowledge when, in a truly hilarious segment, they had the monster recount his long, complicated history as part of Dr. Shelby's group therapy session. (The looks on the faces of Shelby and the other patients after Kane has finishing divulging his past were classic.) This may go down as a turning point for the Kane character, with the company finally switching him to a full-time comedic wrestler. At this state in his career, this may be the best role for him.
Teaming him with Daniel Bryan was also an astute idea. The two wrestlers have great, realistic chemistry that shines prominently in their segments together. It's easy to buy them as wacky, mismatched partners gradually beginning to like and trust one another.
Besides, Kane has always been at his best when he's playing one-half of a mismatched tag team (see also his work with X-Pac in 1999). His character is so silly; he's very easy to interact with on-screen for the purposes of comedy.
It's partly due to their appeal that these two wrestlers have gotten over solidly with the ground and become fan favorites. The pair haven't really become nicer or done anything remotely babyface-ish, but that's of no matter. The crowds in the arenas have lapped up their act, often chanting "Hug It Up" at them during their promos and matches.
So, for the first time in a long time, Kane looks set to be a big babyface star, thanks to his rejuvenated act. Now, who would have believed that a year ago?