Kane's flirtation with the executive life has ended just in time to offer Daniel Bryan a monster to topple at Extreme Rules.
Monday's Raw opened with Kane showcasing that he has reembraced his destructive ways. With just one merciless beating, Kane has given fans reason to tune into his upcoming match with Bryan. Revenge and danger power this tale of good versus evil.
The Director of Operations once again became "The Devil's Favorite Demon" when Baltimore hosted Raw.
Newlyweds Bryan and Brie Bella met in the ring. Stephanie McMahon soon warned them that Kane lurked.
This was not the unmasked Kane in slacks, either. He was back to being a purveyor of ruin. Ominous threats had replaced the corporate speak he'd been using over the last few months.
Kane ambushed Bryan.
Brie scampered away in fear, leaving Kane to his work. He smashed Bryan's head against the ring steps and announce table. When medical staff attempted to put Bryan on a stretcher, Kane ripped off his neck brace and continued the attack.
It was a stirring sight, one that had fans chanting for Bryan and being sucked in by the violence.
With that assault, WWE has significantly bettered the Bryan vs. Kane match at Extreme Rules. As much bad blood as Kane and Bryan have had in the past, there needed to be something more vivid and recent to thrust this bout forward.
Bryan and Kane had collided during the big man's tenure under Triple H, but those confrontations didn't have the emotion or the edge that this one had.
The weak crony that Kane had become as part of The Authority was wiped from the front of the mind as well.
As the corporate version of Kane, he hadn't earned any dominating wins. The Shield won handily against him and The New Age Outlaws at WrestleMania. Going back further, Bryan defeated him on the March 24 Main Event.
He was no harrowing foe in either case. He was an ordinary obstacle. That changed on Monday's Raw.
After his thrashing had Bryan stretchered out of the arena, "The Big Red Machine" rebuilt his aura of destructiveness. Fans' freshest memory of him is his dismantling of Bryan.
When they meet at Extreme Rules, that's what will be in the audience's minds.
Kane is back to playing the monster, and that makes him a bigger test for Bryan. It turns their bout into a story of David versus Goliath, a knight tangling with a dragon.
As the Director of Operations, Kane answered to superiors. He now answers only to his own sick sense of morality.
A matchup that would have lacked spark with Kane still as an executive is now causing folks to get excited.
Jim Ross wrote that the segment "was a memorable start to the program and plants a vivid seed for their match at Extreme Rules. I expect this match to outperform many fan's expectations."
Pro Wrestling Illustrated and ProWrestling.net's Will Pruett had praise for it as well.
Kane as a monster unleashed on Bryan and out of the control of the authority instantly puts heat on their Extreme Rules match. Solid open.— Will Pruett (@itswilltime) April 22, 2014
Corporate Kane and Bryan meeting at Extreme Rules wouldn't be generating this kind of conversation.
The attack, as well as Kane reverting back to his old ways, sets up Bryan vs. Kane as a more powerful bout. Bryan will be in search of vengeance but will have to earn it against a suddenly more dangerous foe.
When CM Punk hunted after Paul Heyman much of last year, there was a sense that he only had to get through Heyman's protectors and then prey on the feeble, snake-like manager. For Bryan, earning that soothing sensation of revenge will be far tougher.
Kane showed on Monday's Raw what kind of devastation he can cause, something he hadn't done in a long while.
Most fans will still bet on Bryan winning at Extreme Rules, but the match promises to be more daunting for him now. Each time that Kane attempts a tombstone piledriver, fans will flash back to Bryan's head cracking on the ring steps.
Each time that the action spills to the outside, the expectation will be that Kane is going to use his environment as weaponry.
Expect a hard-hitting bout, for Bryan to struggle to make it past his opponent and for the WWE title contest to, as Ross predicts, exceed expectations. Credit that to WWE culling a character from the past in order to advance the present.
A monster now threatens Bryan's title reign in a match that burns with promise.