WWE Character Psychology 301 Case Study: Kane, Growth of the Repressed
Last night on Monday Night Raw, among all the compelling questions we were left with during the program was a short vignette involving a figure punching his fist through panes of glass, and dropping a lit matchstick onto what can only be described as "Kane's mask." Or, at least, one of his masks. His mask tended to go through some changes over the years leading up to the mask getting phased out.
Obviously, this brings up a plethora of questions about Kane. Whether this is simply a promo to hype his inevitable return and nothing more, or a way to introduce someone new that is related to Kane in some way, fans will have Kane in mind when seeing more of these, and you know we will be seeing more.
However, the biggest question that already seems to be arising is...does this promo mean we will see the return of "Masked Kane?"
Let me be blunt. Yes, there was a certain difference between the Kane that wore the mask and the Kane that didn't. But let's make one thing clear...
He Went Through a Growing Up Period with the Mask on
Kane debuted in WWE on October 5, 1997, at the Badd Blood: In Your House PPV. He went all the way to June 23, 2003 wearing the mask. Just about six years, so technically, he has spent more time out of the mask than he's spent in it.
However, since his debut and introduction to WWE by Paul Bearer, he's constantly been in the shadow of his older on-screen brother, The Undertaker, and not just in talent, ability and skill ways, but also in Kane's demeanor and attitude.
Granted, his power over fire, his shady upbringings, the fire that Undertaker "accidentally" started in the funeral home that led to their "parents" dying, all of it suggests that Kane matured well before most people do. But in the six years that Kane wore the mask, he could almost be compared to something of a child.
He was quick to temper, something of a loose cannon. He would chokeslam people with no regard for their feelings. He would act out violently without really thinking about the consequences. It was almost as if Kane's mind had stayed that of a teenager.
Katie Vick Is More Important Than You Realize
People say one of the worst angles in WWE history was the story about Katie Vick coming out. To be honest, I found it pretty compelling and deepened the tale of Kane's upbringing considerably.
Did we need to see Triple H wear a Kane mask and mount a female doll in a casket? Agreed, absolutely and definitively, not by a long shot. However, the impact of the story itself should not be ignored, regardless of the tasteless video segment, which I have refused to show despite my love for picking out key videos from WWE's history.
In fact, let me go on record to make it entirely official.
If you believe Kane should have the mask back, then you NEED to accept the Katie Vick story. It was a crucial piece in the puzzle.
Not to get too detailed, as Bleacher Report has its standards and I respect that, the way the story goes is that Kane was driving his girlfriend, Katie, when they got into a car crash, and Kane had sex with Katie Vick's body after she had died.
Triple H used this to taunt Kane in their rivalry, claiming Kane was a murderer and, by default, a necrophile.
This factors into Kane's psyche greatly. The incident happened when he was young, and as I'm unclear whether he wore a mask as a child, or dealt the best he could with the scarring that resulted from the funeral home fire, Kane's reaction to the story being told and the sadness and shame that came through his voice explain the need for the mask.
Did Kane Really Want to Unmask at All?
It was not a choice for Kane to remove his mask and show himself to the world, however despite being surrounded by vile, evil, cruel and mean personalities, there existed some better souls that wanted to befriend Kane.
Hurricane was one of them, they were tag team champions together, Big Show as well. Over the years, X-Pac and Rob Van Dam befriended him, too. Seen here is one of my favorite moments in WWE history, when X-Pac and Road Dogg convince Kane to abandon the voice box and let his own voice be heard by the masses.
It showed a warmer side of the monster. He was still feared, but demonstrated a sense of humor that even monsters can show from time to time. You play one part long enough, it will eventually run its course, and Kane's voice box had done that plenty.
In current day's terms, ask Cody Rhodes the value of updating your gimmick to something new, but relatable to the past.
The result of such growth for Kane, though, was more than just symbolic.
Wearing the mask ended up holding in much of the evil potential that Kane had in him. He went back and forth feuding with his brother, then teaming with his brother, causing destruction wherever he could. Eventually, it would catch up. Not everyone saw Kane as just another stepping stone to a championship.
Some wanted to get to know him and even help him grow.
One of the people who wanted to get deeper into the head of Kane, despite how violent he had become since losing his mask, was Jim Ross.
In a famous interview, JR, known at the time for asking all the tough questions, posed many queries to the Big Red Monster, and as seen here, was set on fire for his trouble. A bit of editing kept the real JR from getting hurt, but still, even in kayfabe, JR was ablaze.
Losing the mask ended up unleashing even more of Kane's wrath onto the world. Before, the mask restricted him, hid him, kept his image and identity isolated. Once the mask came off? All bets went with it.
Stalking Lita Wasn't the Best Way to Evolve, But...
It did help get Kane out of his shell. Maybe out of his shell wasn't where he needed to be. It always seems like a place people want to get to, but that's where he ended up. Out of it.
After Wrestlemania XX, Kane fell in love with Lita and proceeded to kidnap her and impregnate her. While that seems really out there for wrestling storylines, it's all fairly consistent with the character that had been developed for us on screen.
WWE Creative can't really be criticized too strongly for developing Kane as a psychotic monster, then letting that psychosis drive him to kidnapping and other things.
Kane's situation changed, however, when Gene Snitsky was introduced into the picture.
Snitsky's recklessness in wielding a steel chair in his debut match, seen in the video, causing Kane to fall onto the kayfabe mother of his child and miscarry (not in the ring, thank goodness), would end up putting an end to what thin relationship the two had and turn the Big Red Monster face in the aftermath.
Kane would pursue revenge against Snitsky for killing his child, then Lita would soon turn on him and get involved with Edge, who defeated Kane in a Stretcher match to write Kane off of television and end their feud.
Once Matt Hardy was healthy and rehired, he, Lita and Edge began their own love triangle battle, leaving Kane largely out of it.
A Time of Loving Support Had Finally Come, and so Did Someone Else...
Kane's face turn had made fans sympathize with him, and rightfully so.
The man couldn't be looked at as a psychotic monster for his entire career. Arguably, it kept things very fresh for Kane to finally find support in the fans, instead of setting announcers on fire while being paranoid that people were making fun of him.
Of course, his past wasn't done haunting him and as kayfabe injuries allowed him to be away from TV to film and promote his movie See No Evil, WWE worked his movie into an extremely brief storyline involving an imposter Kane, wearing a mask, attacking and challenging the real, unmasked Kane.
The two Kanes met at Vengeance 2006, where the Imposter won, however the next night on Raw, the two fought again. The real Kane dragged the imposter out of the arena and stole his mask, claiming it was his.
Unfortunately, this is about where the scares and violence and deep storytelling that once surrounded Kane had begun to slide for a time.
Being Beloved Can Really Break a Man Down
In the years that followed, Kane teamed with Big Show and Undertaker on different occasions, and even captured the ECW Championship, but largely stayed something of a face, maybe a slightly in-between character.
He was still a fearsome beast of a wrestler, however his lack of crucial victories over rivalries he was involved in seemed to weaken the Big Red Monster.
The support and affection fans gave him had worn him down. The fear he instilled in many of us initially had died. Many of us had become jaded to the shock of his appearances. This video, while entertaining in the moment, was arguably a considerable low point.
When you have a character like Kane, it's great to nurture his psychotic side. And eventually, having him become a sympathetic character is also great to see. We root for him to heal and get better, after all, Kane is mostly human. He didn't die in the kayfabe fire that scarred him as a child. He lived, albeit screwed up mentally as a result.
So for fans to pity him and cheer him, like his former friends wanted, was a healthy growth. For Kane to find humor and happiness made a lot of sense. We encourage loved ones who are going through rough spots to attend rehab and psychiatric evaluation so that they can live happy, normal lives.
Granted, Kane is a fictional character on a sports entertainment drama, so the last thing that would seem to make sense is for Kane to be healed and cured of his mental distress. However, WWE is an ongoing drama. It doesn't really have mid-season breaks. One character's season finale can be another's season premiere. Seasons really go by ends and beginnings to storylines, which are sometimes hard to decipher until long after they've completed.
Kane as a face for a while was truly a grand thing, but it couldn't last forever.
Kane's Career Had Been a Plot to Get His Brother All Along
Last year, Kane revealed to us on an episode of Smackdown that The Undertaker had been attacked and put into a vegetative state, leading the Big Red Monster to go on a roster-wide investigation into who the culprit was.
Possible suspects included Jack Swagger, a masked CM Punk, and Suspect #1 on Kane's list, Rey Mysterio. However, before the end of the investigation, Rey helped reveal that Kane had actually been the one to assault his brother and leave him comatose. After Undertaker had made his return official, selling that he'd woken up from the kayfabe coma he'd been in for months, Kane gladly accepted the blame and everyone knew the truth.
Kane's promos around this time were fairly brilliant. He'd linked together most of the key events in his stormy relationship with his brother over the years, and explained that he'd pandered to Undertaker's ego and acted like a weaker version in an attempt to weaken Undertaker at one of his highest points possible. Not to mention, we once again had an evil Kane, and although I appreciated what face Kane brought to the table, to see him make a further metamorphosis was refreshing.
With Undertaker being taken down recently, Kane would reveal that, in fact, he was now in control of Undertaker's powers. Kane would go on to defeat his brother at Night of Champions 2010. Kane was thought to be quickly nearing an end when a casket arrived at ringside to bring back Paul Bearer as Undertaker's manager, after Paul had previously been buried in cement at The Great American Bash 2004 at the hands of the Undertaker who sought to liberate himself from Paul Heyman and the Dudleys' control.
Bearer would then turn on Undertaker and join Kane's side at Hell in a Cell 2010 to help Kane to victory, and stay with him for the time being. Once Undertaker was buried with the help of Nexus at Bragging Rights, Kane would once again be accosted by Edge, who wanted Kane's World Heavyweight Championship that he'd won at Money in the Bank that year.
Edge's constant taunting led to yet another on-screen Bearer death, leaving Kane distraught and in no position to defend himself. Thus, Edge took the World Heavyweight Championship, once again leaving Kane weakened and alone.
Maybe Kane's Fun Days Are Over...?
Kane would bounce around Raw and Smackdown and while Nexus were still causing trouble and stealing the tag team championships, Kane would reunite with an old friend in Big Show, and they would claim the tag team belts for themselves once again.
They would fend off Nexus, as well as Wade Barrett's side project, Corre, at Wrestlemania 27, but once CM Punk helped take the belts off of Show and Kane, Alberto Del Rio and his ring announcer would sideline Big Show with a leg injury as a result of a car accident. Big Show's return from the hiatus saw them part once again.
After losing in the Smackdown Money in the Bank ladder match to Daniel Bryan, Kane vowed to kill any humanity he had left in him and would show that in a vicious street fight with Randy Orton.
He would go on to lose that match as well, and shake hands with Orton in almost a brief admission that his desire to fight his own human weakness had failed. However, after the match, Kane would be attacked by Mark Henry and put on the shelf.
He hasn't been or heard from on WWE TV since.
Although, Mark Henry, who has risen to become to the top monster heel on Smackdown, has used his conquering of the Big Red Monster to bolster his own "Hall of Pain," which has inducted such ames as Big Show, The Great Khali and Vladimir Kozlov, among allowing many other visitors to come and go.
What Could the Future Hold?
Kane's journey through WWE has been astonishing.
He's seen moments of glory and joy. He's seen moments of pure, uncut sadness and despair. He's made impacts on all of our lives and impressed us in countless ways.
Many people herald the Undertaker as a Phenom, as he's had some of the most memorable moments in WWE history. Kane may be a younger extension/imitation of that, but to underestimate Kane's value as an in-ring storyteller and character is a huge mistake.
Thus, what can we make from this new promo? It's only 30 seconds, but there's a lot to examine.
For instance, the mask is on fire. Are we to believe that Kane's mask getting set on fire is a way of showing us that the past is turned to ash and will never be again? Or will he once again wear a mask of flame to hide himself? Truthfully, while I don't see WWE going in this direction, there is some valid psychological evidence to suggest it would be logical.
Before his newest injury, kayfabe or not, Kane vowed to kill his humanity and was stopped by Orton. Donning the mask again could be an attempt to revert back to familiar moments in his life, much like a serial criminal, in order to feel some sort of peaceful satisfaction.
Most wrestlers need to feel such things in order to be focused enough to win matches, don't they? It would make Kane even more demented that he would revert back to some form of past or childhood as a result of countless failures, but it's certainly something that happens to thousands of people every day in reality.
Maybe that's exactly what Kane needs to reenergize his victory column.
Then again, what of the rest of the promo? Aside from the mask, the other images of Kane show either a hood or a towel over his head, but not necessarily covering his face. In the shadow that stretches across the wall at :10, it appears as if a large man is wearing a robe or cloak. I don't remember Kane ever wearing garments like that.
When he punches the glass at :17, we can see a glove on his hand, with buttons or studs around the wrist. It resembles Undertaker's old school gloves, but with Undertaker yet to return, perhaps Kane's wearing them instead.
Hopefully, this promo and the other promo shown last night with the child aren't one in the same person. That promo spoke of a familiar force returning to claim what was his on January 2, 2012, and is followed by the message "It Begins."
This promo, however, clearly about Kane. What we can gleam from his past suggests so much, and yet being so distressed along his life, it's so hard to tell what Kane could be in store for Kane upon his return.
Rumors reported on this site are suggesting he'll make his return at the Royal Rumble, however that is yet to be seen.
For now, we should think hard about what Kane could be up to and what he plans to do when he gets back.