Like most Wrestlecrap inductions, this one is about Kane, who, with seven Wrestling Observer awards for Worst Feud under his belt, is one hell of a good sport when it comes to bad storylines.
However, unlike most bad Kane feuds, which are typically over-the-top affairs involving dummies, necrophilia, weddings, and miscarriages, this one was noteworthy for its underwhelming banality, hinging on coarse fabric and lengthy exposition.
After dropping his ECW title and getting drafted to Raw, Kane was thrust into a four-way match on Raw to crown a new number-one contender for the World Title. Unfortunately, Kane lost the match and snapped at the announcers, shouting, “Is he alive or dead?” and dragging Michael Cole into the ring before assaulting Jerry Lawler.
So who was this “he” of unknown vital status? Vince McMahon was a strongly possibility, having recently been crushed in comical fashion by the Million Dollar Mania set…
…but there was also a chance it was The Undertaker, and that after 18 years Kane was just now starting to comprehend his brother’s gimmick.
The next week, Kane started toting along a small burlap bag to the ring, and conventional wisdom said that his old mask was inside it.
The “he” who was ambiguously dead was therefore the old, masked version of himself, now known as “The Demon Kane.”
Kane continued to go on random rampages, taking out fellow wrestlers and the occasional camera man, although he did have the courtesy to scream an apology to Cole and Lawler.
And all the while, he carried that little bag around like a security blanket.
Fans suffered through these repetitive segments consoled by the prospect of Kane donning the mask once again until the angle appeared to come to an abrupt end, with a Kane calmly informing the audience that “he’s dead.”
As it turned out, this promo was just a meaningless development in the one-man feud, as Kane was back the next week with burlap bag in hand. One man had the courage to stand up to Kane, however, and his name was Jest Harvey — I mean, Mike Adamle.
Adamle insisted that Kane hand over his burlap bag for the sake of the children and the educational system. See, it was back-to-school season, and the Raw GM didn’t want kids imitating Kane and scaring their teachers and classmates. Remember that this was Kane, the same person who had repeatedly tried to murder his brother, raped Lita, and hooked up Shane McMahon’s testicles to a car battery, but the straw that broke the Adamle’s back was Kane’s burlap bag and the thought of kids carrying their own burlap bags in the classroom. What a way to kick off the PG Era!
All I can say is that it’s a good thing the Parents’ Television Council wasn’t still hounding the company and blaming Raw for everything from kids’ “wrestling deaths” to the Columbine massacre, lest they pin the nationwide “burlapping” epidemic on Kane and WWE as a whole.
Adamle, channeling (and misquoting) his idol Ronald Reagan, told Kane, “Hand me that bag” the same way the Gipper told Mikhail Gorbachev, “Tear down this wall.” And while most people would not put the surrender of a small sack on the same level of importance as the re-unification of Berlin, it would be Adamle’s biggest accomplishment as Raw General Manager.
Adamle offered to help Kane with his psychological issues and laid out the story that he and everyone watching had already figured out: that the “he” who might be dead or alive was Kane’s masked alter-ego. That would have made much more sense than any other explanation, but Creative felt that would be too predictable and apparently switched the big reveal.
Thus, instead of pulling his own mask out of the bag, Kane pulled out Rey Mysterio’s. See, Kane, who resented Mysterio for hiding behind a mask, had brutally beaten Rey — off camera of course.
Normally in wrestling, the beat-downs that drive feuds occur on television, where they can be viewed by fans and replayed in an effort to create interest, build tension, and promote upcoming pay-per-view matches. This time around, WWE went with the Red Green approach, where all the action happens off screen, and the characters report back to the audience about the crazy scene they *just* missed.
Thing is, the audience didn’t even *just* miss the alleged beating of Rey-Rey; in fact, they were about six weeks behind on the shocking news. Worse still, so were the announcers and the rest of the WWE Superstars, who never even noticed that Rey had missed six weeks’ worth of shows.
Think of how lame Shawn Michaels’s first heel turn would have been if he had just shown up on Superstars one day and said, “Oh, by the way, I threw Marty Jannetty into a window last month.” I can’t imagine it would have made for memorable television had Roddy Piper simply declared that he had smashed Jimmy Snuka with a coconut when no one was around to see it. And would anyone care about Brock Lesnar’s match with The Undertaker this Sunday if he had ended The Streak in an empty-arena dark match?
Plus, this beat-down took place in the parking lot at Raw (between Rey’s victory over Santino and Kane’s loss in the main event), yet no one noticed Rey lying brutally beaten as they walked to their cars. Maybe they didn’t recognize Rey without his mask, assumed it was just some fan bleeding to death on the asphalt, and went about their business.
You’d think that Kane’s attempted murder of Rey would have been caught by one of the cameras set up in the parking lot in case one wrestler tries to murder another. After all, when JBL tried to murder John Cena the week after the supposed Rey-Rey incident, multiple cameras were right on the scene to capture it in full.
Over the following weeks, Kane tried his best to carry a feud that basically boiled down to, “Take my word for it: this did happen.” He also had to rationalize how, when he beat up everyone in sight and maniacally asked, “Is he alive or is he dead?”, he was actually just obsessing over Rey Mysterio. First, Kane didn’t know whether Rey was alive or dead after beating him so badly. Now, Kane knew Rey was alive physically, but dead “in spirit.” Well, that doesn’t count, Kane.
Finally, Rey returned for the Unforgiven pay-per-view, showing no scars from his life-threatening beating (or his nagging biceps injury that had allowed him only one match since February), for the convoluted Championship Scramble match against four other men, including Kane.
The feud dragged on for the next few months, with Kane getting disqualified — twice — before getting pinned by Rey in a no-holds-barred match — also twice. Once, Rey’s mask was on the line, which guaranteed a Mysterio victory, since WWE wouldn’t dare take away a popular masked man’s mystique and marketability by making him just another boring grappler.
After all, they’d learned their lesson from that unmasking debacle with Kane. What ever happened to that guy?
Along the way, Kane and Mysterio wrestled countless tag team matches against each other, culminating in Rey beating Kane with one move to eliminate him from Survivor Series.
Despite Rey ostensibly seeking payback from the evil psychopath who had pushed him to the brink of death, every match saw the luchador do the same fancy, high-flying moves as always.
Look, I understand that it would be hard for Rey to convincingly pummel the seven-footer with his fists, but when someone tries to kill you and nearly takes away your livelihood, your revenge fantasy probably won’t involve flying head-scissors and surprise double-leg cradles.
Amidst the fan apathy toward this tiresome and nonsensical feud, there was one moment that did pique the audience’s interest.
That was when Kane appeared in a pre-taped promo wearing his old mask, just in case anyone on Creative still thought that swerving the fans and putting Kane on the losing end of a feud with a man half his size was a better idea than putting him back under the mask.