In lucha culture, the mask is everything. It’s the complete identity of the wrestler, and removing the mask is one of the worst things a foe could do. With that being said, Kane isn’t a luchador. But Kane’s mask meant just as much as a luchador’s mask did/does.
Kane wore a mask since he debuted on WWE, due to Kane being left in a fire when he was younger, wearing the mask to cover up the scars. In 2002, however, Kane was unmasked for the first time in his career.
WWF was fresh off the first brand split while Kane was in a feud with the New World Order. Before this feud took place, however, Kane ditched the electrolarynx that he used to talk through, when X-Pac made Kane say “Suck It” after the two had won the WWF Tag Team Championships. In the NWO feud, Kane began acting “more human” by speaking through his mask, and started calling his fans “Kanenites”. Kane ended up tearing his biceps, keeping him out of action.
In the summer of 2002, Kane returned to the Raw brand, sporting a new outfit and a new half mask. Kane won the World Tag Team Championships with The Hurricane, and a week later, won the Intercontinental Championship from Chris Jericho, despite an interference by Triple H and Ric Flair. Kane was then forced to defend the World Tag Team Championships solo in a four-team, Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match, due to his partner, The Hurricane, getting attacked prior to the match by none of other than H and Flair.
With the attacks, Kane would enter a feud with Triple H, who was World Heavyweight Champion at the time. The two would have a match at No Mercy, where both Kane’s Intercontinental Championship and Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship were on the line. This is where we got that insane, ridiculous Katie Vick storyline. We actually touched on that segment in our 10 Wrestlers Who Should be in Prison article, which you should definitely check out.
Triple H beat Kane at No Mercy due to the ref being knocked out which allowed Triple H and Ric Flair to team up on Kane with a sledgehammer. After No Mercy, Kane beat Triple H in a non-title casket match, and also participated in the very first Elimination Chamber match for Triple H’s World Heavyweight title.
A tag team would be formed between the Big Red Machine and Rob Van Dam. The two won the World Tag Team Championship, but ended up losing them to La Résistance at the Bad Blood PPV. After the loss, Triple H came out and offered Kane a spot in Evolution, as the group was looking for a fourth member.
But Raw co-General Manager Stone Cold offered Kane an opportunity to face Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship if he rejected Triple H’s offer. Co-General Manager Eric Bischoff, however, made the stipulation that if Kane loses the match to Triple H, he would have to take off his mask for the first time in his career.
Kane accepted the offer, challenging Triple H to a title match next week at WWE’s home, Madison Square Garden. Kane dominated Triple H early on into the match, but with Ric Flair distracting the referee, the World Heavyweight Champion was able to gain the upper hand. Triple H hit Kane with everything he had, but with every knockdown, Kane sat up with the crowd growing hotter and hotter.
Following Earl Hebner eating an errant big boot that was meant for Triple H, Ric Flair attempted to hit Kane with the Heavyweight title. Kane ducked and grabbed the belt himself, smacking Triple H right over the head with it. Kane pinned Triple H, and with Hebner still knocked out, a second referee slid into the ring for the count, but Triple H got his shoulders up before 3. Kane then grabbed the second referee, and tossed him over the top rope, to the outside.
After getting rid of Ric Flair, Kane set Triple H up for a chokeslam. As he lifted Triple H up, Evolution member Randy Orton ran into the ring, hit Kane with a low blow and followed it up with an RKO. Triple H pedigreed Kane, securing the win, the retention, and forcing Kane to unmask.
After the match, Evolution began beating down Kane. Kane’s tag team partner Rob Van Dam came to the ring and helped Kane clear the ring of Evolution. With RVD sitting in the ring, looking up at Kane with a curious look, Kane began struggling to take off his mask. Finally, it came. Kane tore off the mask before quickly looking in the direction of the hard cam. What we saw was an almost balding, but curly-headed Kane, with black “ash” around his face. Kane snapped and chokeslammed Rob Van Dam before leaving the ring.
Following the unmasking, Kane would go absolutely insane. In an interview with Jim Ross, Kane attacked Good Ol’ J.R., and lit him on fire. Later, he attacked Linda McMahon, by hitting her with a tombstone on the hard metal stage. That tombstone led to a feud between Kane and Shane McMahon.
Kane went on to beat Shane in a Last Man Standing match at the Unforgiven PPV, and in an ambulance match at Survivor Series. In that Survivor Series event, Vince McMahon was facing The Undertaker in a Buried Alive match, where Kane interfered and helped Vince bury Kane’s brother. Kane then competed in a triple threat match for the World Heavyweight title between Triple H, and the defending champion, Goldberg. Triple H would win the match and the title.
Kane then competed in the 2004 Royal Rumble. During the match, the bell from the Undertaker’s music hit, which distracted Kane, allowing Booker T to eliminate him. Over the next few weeks, Kane insisted that his brother was dead, but would be met with “paranormal” incidents, like a rainstorm start directly over him while he was standing the ring. The Undertaker returned at WrestleMania XX, with Paul Bearer at his side, defeating Kane.
I remember Kane being unmasked like it was yesterday. I remember how terrified I was when Kane did that dramatic turn to the hard camera and dominated RVD. Then, when he lit J.R on fire? Kayfabe was obviously real back then, and I was definitely worried that Kane was a mad man, running around killing people. Kane would be masked and unmaksed multiple times in his career, but what do they say? You always remember your first? And the first unmasking sure was very memorable.
What do you remember about the Kane unmasking? What are some of your favorite memories from it? Be sure to let us know, and also let us know what you would like us to cover on the next Wrestling Retrospect!
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