WWE superstar Kane talks about his ’97 Raw debut in KC, See No Evil 2, Undertaker, Paul Bearer and more

Seventeen years is a long time at any job. It’s an especially long time in the rough and tumble world of professional wrestling.

In October 1997, WWE superstar Kane debuted at the Bad Blood pay-per-view in St. Louis. Wearing a mask and a red and black body suit, the Big Red Monster tore the door off the Hell in the Cell structure, gave his “brother,” the Undertaker, a Tombstone piledriver and forever cemented his place in WWE lore.

Almost two decades later, Kane is still battling in WWE rings, and he’s scheduled to compete in a main-event, tag-team street fight with Randy Orton and Seth Rollins against Dean Ambrose and John Cena on Monday Night Raw, which broadcasts live from the Sprint Center. 

The Pitch caught up with Kane to talk about the past, the future and his role as Jacob Goodnight in See No Evil 2, which releases today on video on demand and on Blu-Ray and DVD October 21.

You made your Raw debut in Kansas City on October 6,1997. Do you remember that night?

Yes, I do. At the time, there was a tag team that no one had heard of called the Hardy Boys, and I came down to the ring and I can’t remember exactly what it was but I think picked up Jeff over my head and threw him onto Matt on the floor. Then, of course, Matt and Jeff would go on to have great success, too. It’s a full-circle kinda thing, right?

What was going through your mind before you made your initial debut?

Don’t screw it up. That’s immediately what I was thinking because that was a really big deal. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, that was their first big match. They’d never wrestled each other before in a match like that. Of course, it was the first Hell in a Cell match as well so it was was a fair amount of pressure on me to get the job done right. Looking back, it turned out just awesome. It’s one of those moments: You have Vince McMahon is screaming, “It’s gotta be Kane” and I’m walking out to the ring with Paul Bearer. And WWE had done such a great job of building that story line. Paul Bearer started talking about Kane months before, but you don’t see him until the pay-per-view an everybody had forgotten about him and concentrating on Undertaker and Shawn. And wham, there’s Kane. It was just a wonderful time, and it might have been the best debut in WWE history, actually.

Did you have any idea when you were given the Kane character how big it would become?

Probably not. I can’t look back now and say I thought one thing or another because I was just concentrating on doing the best that I could and having the most success that I could. I think a lot of people were very skeptical. The thought that this, which it was, frankly, was just an opponent for Undertaker and it’d be sort of a one-off deal. I think people were surprised that Kane had the initial success that he did, even after segueing away from Undertaker.

From there, you have all of the various incarnations of losing the making and then putting the mask back on and now wearing a suit. I guess, I would be surprised, especially of the staying power and the ability to do different things. I think that’s the key to long term success in the WWE is that you have to be able to reinvent yourself because no matter how great your character is, it’s going to get old. That’s just the nature of the business.

When you were under the mask and not talking, you were very good at portraying emotion in the character through body language.

That made me much better of a performer. From what I understand, being an arm chair psychologist, actually, body language is about 75 percent of how we communicate. Verbal communication is very small. Body language is huge. Being under a mask and having to learn to use my body to get across that emotion, I think that made me even better when I took the mask off because for a few years, the mask became sort of limiting. You couldn’t see my face. You couldn’t see the rest of the emotion that was going on. So once I took the mask off, I was much more cognizant of using my face then probably a lot of the guys are because they take it for granted. So I do think the mask made me a better performer in a lot of ways.

Was there any reluctance to losing the mask? Or were you confident that this was the next chapter for the character?

I was confident that it was the next chapter of the character. The only people who were
though were me and Vince McMahon. No one else wanted to do it because they figured if it wasn’t broke, don’t fix it. But, again, by this point, I had worn the mask for, gosh, five, six years, and I felt for as great as it all was, I could do other things. And it was stifling my creativity, for a lack of a better term.

So a little trepidation because it’s change, but I was confident that I could do it. It was funny because one of the guys, who, he wasn’t wrestling at that point, but I had worked with him when I had the mask on, but he calls me and he’s like, “Man, when they took the mask off, I was like, ‘Why are they taking the mask off?’” and then he’s like, “After watching you, why did we ever put a mask on him?” So I was pretty confident that I could pull it off.

Was it sort of a relief not to have to wear it anymore?

People ask me which do I prefer and it doesn’t really matter to me. The mask has its advantages. It’s mysterious and certainly unique and that’s important. But without the mask, you have more facial expressions and you have a much more direct way of conveying emotion. It was one less thing to keep up with in my gear bag, this is true [laughs].

Also, it was a lot more comfortable. People ask me if I could breathe under the mask. Breathing was never a problem, but it got really hot. Nowadays when I do autograph sessions and I wear the mask, I’m like, Gosh, I can’t wait to get out of this thing. I’m just dying under here because it’s so darn hot.

Do you think we’ve seen the final chapter of the Kane and Undertaker relationship?

One of the things in WWE is you never say never and you never know what’s going to happen. You never do know what the future holds. One of my great moments in WWE that I remember was the 1,000th episode of Raw, which was in St. Louis, when Undertaker and I reunited for one night. You may see more stuff like that in future. Who knows?

Your wrestling career has spanned more than 20 years. Do you plan to keep going for a while? What does the road ahead look like for Kane?

I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m still having fun, I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had any really bad injuries. I stay in good shape. I can still perform at a high level. I get in there and hang with guys that are almost half my age. And, in fact, I feel like they have to hang with me rather than me hang with them. So as long as I can do that, I’m good with WWE as long as I’m having fun and as long as that I’m preforming at a level that is acceptable to me.

If you could write your final chapter in WWE, what would it be?

It’d be a big match at WrestleMania. I don’t know against who or anything like that, but I think that’s what everybody would like to do.

Do you have a vision for next year’s WrestleMania or a dream opponent?

Not really, and I guess I better start thinking about that because it’s not that far away. It feels like we just did last year’s. We’ll have the Royal Rumble in January, and it’s right around the corner, and that kicks everything off. I don’t really have a dream match for this year.

I read in another interview that you mentioned it’d be cool to wrestle Sting.

No, that’s the answer to what I thought about that. Of course that would be cool. It’d be awesome. But who knows if that’s going to happen. There’s a lot of speculation out there. People want to see Undertaker and Sting, which I think would be awesome.

How satisfying was it to tombstone Pete Rose?

[Laughs] I actually grew up not that far from you. I grew up near Hannibal Missouri. I was a lifetime Cardinals baseball fan. So that was great. What was great was Pete goes out and tells the fans there that he’d left tickets for Billy Buckner, but Buckner couldn’t bend over to pick them up. Pete Rose would have been a great wrestler had he not been such a great baseball player. The cool thing about that too was we ended up doing a lot of stuff together. Pete was involved in two more WrestleManias after that. We did some commercials and stuff. So my career has been intertwined with Undertaker and somehow Pete Rose. It’s pretty wild.

It’s been eight years since the first See No Evil film. What was it like to reprise that role after such a long time?

I didn’t think it was going to happen. After a couple of years, I was like OK, they’re not going to make a sequel to this, which really sort of surprised me because See No Evil had a bit of commercial success. I think the WWE film division was going through some changes, and it’s sort of interesting because the philosophy of WWE Films has changed through the years. And now the head of WWE films is Michael Luisi, who is a Hollywood veteran, and he has a very specific vision and system and I think it’s working very well. We do these movies — we shoot them in 15 days — and he concentrates on genre movies and puts the guys in good roles.

It’s been a very successful formula. That was why the movie came about so late was because of Michael and his vision for WWE films. But for me, at first, there was a little trepidation. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself back into and all that sort of stuff. And, I had just grown my hair back and I had to shave it, and I wasn’t really happy about that. [laughs] But again, we had this completely different system now. It was going to be a really fast shoot in Vancouver. A lot of things were different. But once I got there and I met the cast and crew and sort of got everything rolling, the more comfortable that I got. Finally, by the end of it, I was like, This is a lot of fun.

What was it like working with the Soska twins?

They’re awesome. They’re great. If you ever have the chance to meet them, you will be hugged. [laughs] They’re just bubbly and they bring so much energy. At the premiere last night, which is so funny, they’re there with me — an over-the-top personality because of my wrestling stuff — and they still take everything over because of their personality.

They are the next big thing in the horror genre. I think everybody agrees with that at this point. I told them on numerous occasions not to forget about me when they become big-shot Hollywood directors because that’s where they’re headed. They’re great on set. They under movie making and they have a passion for it.

Last night was the premiere of See No Evil 2, and it’s actually the first time that I’d seen the completely finished product. It’s awesome. It’s visually stunning. That’s all because of them because they know what they’re doing.

What’s really interesting is when I found out they were directing the movie and they signed on, I was like how are you going to work with two directors? What was really cool was, even though you’re working with two people, it’s like you’re working with one mind. Jen and Sylvia are so in tuned to what each other’s thinking that if you go and ask them a question, you’ll get the same answer from both of them.

And one of them will be on the floor directing the action while the other is watching the monitor, and it’s really sort of eerie because you do a scene, and do a take, and the one on the floor will say, “OK, we’re going to tweak it in this way.” The other one watching the monitor doesn’t say anything, and the one watching the monitor says, “OK, that’s good. Let’s go.” You’re like, OK, do they have ESP or something here? It was really awesome and they became two of my favorite people in the entire world, too.

How is this incarnation of Jacob different than the last? How do you bring him back from the dead because he had a pretty definitive death in the first film?

He’s pretty tough. [laughs] He’s really tough. In this one, he wears a mask. We did some prosthetics. He lost an eye in the first movie. He looks even scarier than he did in the first movie. We also explore Jacob’s mind more and what motivates him and his relationship with his mother. Even though she’s no longer around, she’s really a character in the movie because she’s still the dominate thing in Jacob’s psyche because she’s motivated him to do all of the terrible things that he does.

They wanted to do the mask to give the character a more iconic look. And then also, they other things to accentuate my size more. Most of the cast is very small. … That was all done for a reason to make Jacob look even bigger than he is in real life.

Finally, the story you told at the WWE Hall of Fame induction of Paul Bearer, recalling him faking sick and making you drive the Cadillac while wearing a ski mask was hilarious. What other road stories do you remember from traveling with Moody?

Unfortunately, Paul would break a lot of furniture. It always seemed like he’d do it at the most inopportune times when everyone was watching he’d sit in a chair in the locker room and the chair would break and Undertaker would rib him mercilessly and Paul would get really mad at him or really hot about it. That’s pry as far as funny stuff, one of the other things that I remember.

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