As Kane's career winds down, the WWE fan's natural tendency is to take him for granted.
After all, there are fresher faces charging up the ranks. Other stars have flashier moves, younger legs and a future lined with promise.
As Kane proved again Thursday night, though, he's an invaluable piece of the WWE puzzle. He's a steady hand, a go-to veteran and, at this point, a wrestler used to elevate others. Fans saw that all on display in an entertaining Casket match against Daniel Bryan.
Going with Bryan vs. Kane yet again was far from a thrilling choice. Not only have we seen those rivals clash more often than Jerry Lawler makes a "dad joke," but we have watched Kane wrestle in WWE for 20 years now.
Of course, he is slower, older and certainly not as intimidating after trading his mask for business slacks. That hasn't stopped him from being one of the company's most dependable performers.
WWE has a wealth of programming each week, from Raw to SmackDown, Main Event to Superstars. It needs healthy, experienced men to compete night in and night out. Kane has done that and continues to do that despite drawing closer to 50 years old.
Since 1999, there have only been two years where he has not competed in at least 100 matches. He just missed that mark, too. In 2002, he appeared in 97 bouts. In 2011, he was a part of 96 matches.
That pace hasn't slowed in his mid-40s either. He has averaged 153 matches a year over the last three years. In 2014, WWE called on him 137 times.
Even at 47, he outworked a number of big names with that match total.
Total matches in 2014:
- The Miz: 133
- Big Show: 130
- Sin Cara: 129
- Randy Orton: 125
- Mark Henry: 72
One of Kane's biggest contributions now is that he is the wrestling equivalent of a baseball pitcher who eats innings. Management knows it can plug him in time and time again to round out the card.
Surprisingly, his body is holding up better than many of his younger peers, even with all that work.
Kane does not miss big chunks of time with injuries. He is far less familiar with the surgeon's table than men 15 years younger than him.
Take last year for example. In addition to CM Punk and Alberto Del Rio not being around, WWE had to make up for the fact that Roman Reigns was out after hernia surgery. He was far from alone, though.
The list of men who sat on the disabled list in 2014 is lengthy: Bo Dallas, Ryback, Darren Young, Sheamus, Mark Henry, Zack Ryder, Fernando, Santino Marella, Bad News Barrett and Bryan.
That's a lot of ring time to make up. And Kane helped do that by being the constant presence that he has been for years.
WWE also needs him to put guys over. Fans saw that in action most recently on Thursday's SmackDown.
Bryan needed a big win. The company had to want to give him a heroic moment after the backlash over him not winning the Royal Rumble. WWE called upon Kane again.
Kane is certainly someone whom Bryan has defeated in the past, but knocking off a former world champion and future Hall of Famer still has weight. How many of those does WWE have lying around?
And it's not as if the company is going to ask Cena or Triple H to lie down for Bryan's sake, not on an episode of SmackDown. WWE needed Kane to fill that role and he did, but not with his name alone.
He and Bryan put on a quality bout. It teemed with suspense as both men teetered at the casket's open mouth.
After some fun back-and-forth action, Bryan won, moving on to whatever WWE has planned for him.
Add that to a long list of good bouts. As we saw on SmackDown, Kane is still producing after all these years.
Over the last three years, he has compiled a nice collection of matches that Dave Meltzer has rated higher than 3.5 stars in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t ProFightDB.com).
|Highest-Rated Kane Matches (2012-2014)|
|Event||Match||Star Rating (Out of 5)|
|Money in the Bank 2012||Money in the Bank Ladder match||3.75|
|Survivor Series 2012||Team Ziggler vs. Team Foley||3.5|
|TLC 2012||The Shield vs. Team Hell No and Ryback||4.5|
|Elimination Chamber 2013||Elimination Chamber match||4|
|Extreme Rules 2014||Kane vs. Daniel Bryan||3.5|
|Money in the Bank 2014||Ladder match for WWE World Heavyweight Championship||4|
|Survivor Series 2014||Team Authority vs. Team Cena||4.5|
|Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via ProFightDB.com|
Several of those bouts involved a lot of bodies. He's the dependable bruiser WWE can throw into these types of frays.
And for the most part, he ends them on his back, watching someone else celebrate.
Bryan is just the latest Superstar to gain a boost from knocking off Kane several times. The Big Red Machine is at a stage in his career where he won't be challenging for any titles, but he has enough name power that a victory over him has significance.
Slaying a gray-haired dragon is still dragon-slaying.
When WWE needed a way to boost Reigns, to provide with him momentum en route to a SummerSlam battle with Randy Orton, it turned to Kane. Reigns got a decisive win in a Last Man Standing match against him on Raw.
During 2014, Kane also fell to Chris Jericho, The Shield, Big Show, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler and Cena. Someone needs to take these losses to better others. The big man did that plenty.
He compiled 125 defeats in 2014.
So many of his Attitude Era peers have either retired or are semi-retired. Kane remains a big part of the WWE plan. He hovers around the main event scene, continuing to produce quality matches even as his prime gets further in the rear-view mirror.
Fans may have shifted their affection to younger talent, but the company has to know just how important Kane is. He's the roster's glue, a valuable piece in the never-ending puzzle that is WWE booking.
All match statistics from CageMatch.net unless otherwise noted.