By TragCom [ ]

All of a sudden the lights go you search the darkness for some illumination, a red glow permeates the arena and the organ music begins to play. As the mood begins to grow more ominous, the pyros hit and you begin to time for the Hellfire and Brimstone!

Well, it's a new year and we return to the motheaten old couch on Umatilla Street for my Monday night dose of smashmouth entertainment. Gone is my Monday Night Football, eliminated are my beloved 'Frisco 49ers and my guilty pleasure Seattle Seahawks from title contention, so there are no distractions to cloud my mind from more fictional pleasures. As we settle in for the Royal Rumble home stretch, y'all, there's some good stuff on the horizon. That is, there's potentially some good stuff on the horizon, provided the staff of the WWF doesn't blow what could develop into a beautiful angle (insert Invasion here). I'm getting a big kick from Ric Flair and the new blood, from HHH's return (what little there has been thus far), from some familiar faces making their return to the WWF stages, and from a relatively fresh set of faces getting a grip on some gold. So what could there possibly be to be concerned about? Well, I guess the WWF could blow the angle, Kevin Nash could give the WWF a big Stone Cold Salute and go to the WWA at the last minute, or we could see the most electrifying man in sports entertainment take his turn going down to a long-term, possibly career threatening injury (note to the millions: I love Rocky's work and wish him nothing but continued success, but after Stone Cold and HHH...). All of that said, it won't likely happen, but the WWF likes to surprise us, and not always in a good way (kiss my ass club, anyone?).

Thinking about last year's Royal Rumble, I reflect on one of the more transporting experiences I've had watching WWF television. During the Rumble match last year I was busy having a ball laughing at Drew Carey stepping up to the plate and entering the ring, inevitably to be sent packing. Then, to my surprise, the organ music hits, the pyros blow and out comes the Big Red Machine. And do you know what...they use him for a comic bit! Holy cow, the big man does comedy! Sweet! Anyway, I'm trying not to laugh and snort at the same time and out comes Raven and the match commences. Time goes on, and over an hour later, far removed from threatening to chokeslam the affable Clevelandite Carey, there's the red and black still kicking ass and taking names. Yeah, he got bounced, but hell, there was the otherworldly force, the Big Red Machine, beating the hellfire and brimstone out of all comers...Gawd it'd been a while. From then on out, I couldn't have cared less who won, who lost, who took the title...I got to see my man whoop some old school ass. So why the reminiscince you may ask? Why yearn for time gone by? Hell, I think that there might be a segue...


I got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago asking me a fairly simple question in regard to part of my Epitaph. I left it out there to all those out there in cyberworld to not forget to "mark out once in a while" and have a good time, thinking that all of those out there reading the column were in the know about basic wrestling verbiage, terminology, lingo, etc. Well, as my old math teacher used to say, "when you assume, you make an ass out of U and Me." And trust the loyal site readers to call us columnists on their s**t. Well, let's talk briefly about marking out (everyone for whom this is old stuff, skip directly to the next paragraph). Do you remember, dear readers, the first times you collectively got into wrestling? Back before we knew what blade jobs were, what pushes were, that heels and faces were deliberately set up, that catchphrases were penned by writers, and even though we knew it wasn't really athletic competition we hung on the outcome of every match, laughed at the put downs, grimaced at the heavy blows and submissions, and held our collective breaths during a big aerial spot? That was great stuff, and I know for a lot of us that have gotten more and more into the world of sports entertainment, learning its ins and outs, those innocent moments of joy, of bouncing up and down on the couch, have gotten fewer and farther between. Those moments where we as wrestling fans forget the backstage politics, forget the nature of the business itself, that is marking out, my friends. Those times where despite the logic in the storyline progression we thought the unthinkable might happen, and the big bull we stood behind for years might just make that climb to the next level, that's what I'm talking about. I know for me those times are fewer and farther between. So what is it that can still send me into orbit? Well, let's just say there's a big clue in the paragraph above...

Let's talk about the Big Red Machine...yeah, that's right, it's time for my totally self-serving article about my favorite wrestler, Kane. Yep, let's hang any professionalism out the window and have fun gushing about one of the WWF's most loyal, popular, and durable superstars. This is totally where I get to mark out and act like I'm twelve years old again and remember for a moment what it was like to just have a gas with wrestling again. I started following the human french fry shortly after the Chyna debacle, when the WWF was trying to see if the former heel/demon could get over with fans. Once I started feeling sympathy for the big guy and his plight ('cause how boring is an indestructible, emotionless, never-jobbing automaton...look at...well...there's a couple out there) it was all over for me from there. I watched RAW in amazement when he marched in with the title belt, I waited for him to recover the belt sometime over the next year...then years...then more years. I saw him be a never-quite-foil for the Corporate/Ministry, the unwitting participant in inferno matches, fall in love again, gain a best friend in X-pac, nearly become a member of the new D-X, then get spurned and go on a multi year campaign of putting over every wrestler in need of a push, getting only brief, inconsequential reigns with all but one of the minor belts (excluding of course the women's and lightheavyweight) to break the monotony. Over that time, the sheer excitement at watching Kane come down the ramp and ignite the red flame grew to respect for one of the Federation's most trustworthy hands. So why him...why not follow the throngs and get behind the Rock, Stone Cold, Mankind, the Hardys, the Undertaker, HBK, or any other number of more typical fan favorites, to use Jim Ross' term?

Well, let's look at the physical product. In terms of physique, Kane is the prototype for the big men that Vince McMahon so covets. No one in Federation history has ever combined the height, build, and profile in so complete a package as Kane. Kevin Nash? Not nearly the physique. Hulk Hogan, Goldberg, or Sid Vicious? Great physique, but not as tall, nor intimidating. Undertaker? Young 'Taker = solid on all these points, Kane just goes one step beyond; older 'Taker...height, yes, but the physique went bye bye. Andre or the Big Show? You see where I'm going with this. Physically speaking, the man's just got the goods. Now let's add the unique costume. Kane's always had some of the top packaging in the game...a throwback to the fantasy characters before the WWF's Attitude era took over. The mask and contacts scream unrepentant nastiness in a way they've tried to replicate but have never been able to. Hold the phone there, you might say, how does costume factor in to why he's a physical marvel? It's all in the subtleties, baby, I respond. Not only does he wear the pieces, but matches them up brilliantly with his character, how he carries himself. The man is freakin' creepy, let's just say. There're no lapses in Kane, no hints that the big man isn't the tormented, scarred soul we've come to expect. Even down to the titlted-head thing when things go a little odd, Kane is the twisted headcase a person in his position would be. In more ways than Lex Luger could be in his wildest dreams, Kane's the total package.

In ring is no let down for Kane from my seat. While one might question his mat wrestling abilities, Kane is near to a technician in my book. He's got a variety of moves, a mix of power moves one might expect from a classic big man down to aerials better suited to a lightheavyweight. He's got a couple of devastating finishers that, though less than original, have become signature. He's also got nearly every big-man move in the game: a one-armed sidewalk slam, a standing choke, a monster suplex, a solid boot, a nearly effortless press slam, and a strong, though rarely used, powerbomb...heck, his Last Ride is more believable than 'Taker's. What sets him apart from the other big men is his willingness to take risks. Everyone's seen the lariat from the top rope...yeah, 'Taker's is a bit better, but that's not what I'm referring to. What I'm referring to is the superplex he's added to the repertoire, among other things. Kane allows himself to give and take top rope maneuvers...yes, that's right, TAKE top rope maneuvers! Can we imagine Kevin Nash take a top rope throw across the Can we see 'Taker or the Big Show go over the top on a superplex?...uh, uh. Now, can we see Hogan execute a hurricanrana, as Kane did to Albert earlier this year?...keep dreaming. I'm sorry, you gotta be able to give as well as take in wrestling as it stands now, and Kane takes just as well as he gives.

Now, what about the X-factor? No I'm not talking about finishing maneuvers any more, I'm talking about that certain whatever that gets a wrestler over with the fans. That's a big hell yeah. The guy came on the scene as a main eventer, went straight into a storybook feud, and has ever since generated some of the most consistent heat, face and heel, over the past few years of anyone in the company (just look at the last SmackDown). Face it, the guy's got one of the most unique personas in the game, and carries it off without a hitch. According to e-mail from rajah readers, the guy goes to the arena either en masque or with a towel over his head to keep up the character for the fans. Add to his consistency the fact that it's flat intimidating. He can go months without being in the title picture, not face a main eventer for weeks on end and yet still come into a match as appearing to be a mountain to climb as tall as Hogan in his prime. So why hasn't he carried the strap...what are the knocks on the big man? "He can't carry an interview." He never has had to...and when he has spoken, he's been as solid as anyone. "He wouldn't be able to sustain a long program." Umm...the original 'Taker/Kane feud was one of the most successful long feuds of recent memory, but who's counting... "He's nothing but a 'Taker clone." Whoa, whoa, whoa...back the hell up! Yeah, he was marketed early on as a reflection of the Undertaker, but as things stand now not only does he wrestle a vastly different match than the Dead Man, but two of his most successful programs took place without a 'Taker in sight (Chyna/HHH/Kane and X-Pac/Kane). Hell, he managed to give one of the most colorless superstars in the WWF (X-Pac) some life...and X-Pac hasn't been able to generate interest since. So what does it come down to? I think it was Pete in his last Breaking Kayfabe who brought up the SCSA/HHH/Rock/Taker hold on the PPV scene. It's been what, 3, 4, 5 years since one of the big four hasn't been in the main event? Once those guys start to fade, maybe someone else will get title notice, but until then...

What can I say, the guy's the bomb! Kane's got everything one looks for in a top-tier contender and in a professional. He's exciting, safe, and technically sound in the ring. He's got one of the most over characters in the game today. He's a professional, in that he'll do whatever needs to happen in pushes for himself, but more noteworthy, others. He's a top locker room presence and, again according to e-mails from other Kane fans, one of the more accessible to the masses. What can I say, other than Angle and Jericho, no one's going to break the title ceiling until the big guns move on to other things. So patience, fellow Kane fans, the time will come. For those not indoctrinated, pay attention, the moment will come when the corner post flame spurts glitter off Federation gold.

Top Five:

Given the bulk of this column has revolved around the masked man, the Big Red Machine, I thought it only appropriate to continue on in that vein with the Top Five. This edition finds us looking at the masked men of the WWF:

1) Mankind: You thought I was going to list Kane here, huh? Nah, in all reality Mick Foley's alter ego was more over than Kane, indeed standing in place as one of the most memorable in the annals of wrestling. 'Nuff said.

2) Kane: Umm...did you not read the Focus? Scroll up...

3) Vader: Maybe not the most exciting by today's standards, but Big Van Vader was a force in the WWF for a good while, carving a niche as a main eventer from his introduction into the WWF and wrestling all of the big guns.

4) Doink: Uhh...he had a following in his time! Anyway...

5) ? All right, so I didn't put a whole lot of thought into this before I took off on it. I hereby solicit suggestions to round out the list. Who belongs on this list? Let me know, and if I agree with you, we'll make sure the world knows you know more than I do!

Points to Ponder:

A. With so many wrestlers in the midcard and lower ranks not on TV on a regular basis, why is the Tag Team division so non-existent? (Hello, how perfect would an old-school Val Venis/Godfather team be?)

B. Two of the biggest superstars (Angle/SCSA) in the WWF engaging in old school mat wrestling...and people stuck it out?

C. Kane doing the job for the Big Show, and solely in a spot? Angle in an ankle lock redux? Is there anyone he won't put over?

D. Are Tazz and Spike really the way to get the tag belts back over again?

E. Isn't it nice that over the past week the vast majority of storyline progression has occurred in the ring area?

F. Isn't it amazing how big a pop the Bossman (not the Big Bossman, mind you) got upon his return? Do we see possibilities for others not on TV for a while?


All right, y'all, I admit it...this was easily the most self-serving column I've written since I introduced myself to you all a few months ago. It's ok, I can take it. I needed to get it out of my system, given the me-me-me mentality of most superstars, I had to give props to the guy who's had to put more people over in the past year than any other wrestler. Let's face it...if the Big Show gets a title reign, Angle gets two, and Jericho gets the first undisputed title, then it's time for Kane to get his run. Even if it's a transitional belt reign for only a couple of months and one PPV, so be it. The guy's earned it.

Anyway, I hope that this frees some of you up to get excited about wrestling again. Most "smart" fans don't let themselves do that and laugh at you for marking out like a 12 year old. To them I say this..."Remember why you got into this s**t in the first place and lighten up!" To the rest of you, have fun...go crazy!

Until later


Wham! Chokeslam from Hell! Hold on...Tombstone! 1-2-3...It?s Over!!!