One of the secrets to any wrestler’s longevity is to have the ability to evolve and Kane is no exception to that rule. Throughout his time, the Devil’s Favorite Demon has undergone more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert, some subtle, some drastic, some for better and some for worse.
Since 1997, Kane has played a major role in the WWE and now that his real-life alter-ego Glen Jacobs has been elected as Mayor of Knoxville, it appears his illustrious career inside the ring may be coming to an end, at least on a full-time basis.
So let’s take a look back at the future WWE Hall of Famer’s various iconic looks throughout the years and try to detect the various changes and why they came to be.
The Debut of Kane
Glen Jacobs has had his fair share of failed gimmicks in his first two years wrestling for WWE. Despite characters such as Mike Unabomb, Issac Yankem DDS and Fake Diesel never truly getting over with the fans, Jacobs’ size and in-ring ability would keep his foot in the door until the Undertaker needed a new opponent.
Before his debut, Kane received months of build-up from Paul Bearer alluding that the Undertaker had killed his own family in a fire but his brother survived. Not content with settling this family feud in the court of law, or on an episode of Dr. Phil, Kane was coming for The Phenom.
Before his pyro ignited his entrance for the very first time, Kane benefited from the reputation that preceded him. As audiences came to learn, Kane was a pyromaniac who suffered horrific burns and scars both mentally and physically at the hands of his adolescent sibling, The Undertaker. It was this mystery and expectation that made his debut all the more impactful. What would this monster look like, if he even existed at all?
Those questions were answered at Bad Blood 1997, when Kane took center stage for the first time, making his way to the ring during Taker’s bout against Shawn Michaels during the inaugural Hell In A Cell. He famously ripped off the structure’s door and tombstoned his brother, making WWE history and getting Kane over as a top guy within five minutes of the character first walking through the curtain.
Originally planned as a “one and done,” fans were enraptured by the gimmick, and a lot of that was down to his look.
Partially inspired by horror movie characters such as Halloween’s Michael Myers, Kane was covered up almost completely by a red bodysuit albeit one bare, ungloved arm. He had a black flame design upon his chest and going down his right leg, and stitching on the other leg which emphasized his uncovered left side, giving the illusion that this was the only part of his body left unscathed by his fiery origin. Then, of course, there was the mask.
Designed by an S&M company and crafted from hard leather, Kane’s mask echoed the red and black flame design of his suit, and a discolored contact lens in his right eye was the final detail in creating a face of a monster.
Jacobs had no real problems with the mask, stating that breathing surprisingly wasn’t an issue. The only real trouble he had was with the masks sharp edges, as he recalled during an interview on Chris Jericho’s Talk is Jericho podcast.
“The mask was leather and it was molded so it was hard when I first got it. I remember one time that I had a match with someone. I gave him a powerslam and our heads hit. I looked down and there was blood on the mat. I was wondering what he was bleeding from. I didn’t realize it was me. The thing was it was the little corner of the mask that was sharp. That was the only incident that I really had.”
Kane’s was perfectly marketable, by being both scary and “cool.” Perhaps too cool, as Jacobs had reservations about the original design thinking he looked less like a mental patient and more like a superhero, however, Vince McMahon thought it was perfect. By this point, the chairman had become fully invested in the gimmick, and he assured Kane that maybe it was part of the character’s psyche and that he was making up for his disfigured face by looking as cool as he possibly could.
Kane In A Cape
As cool as Kane looked, maybe putting him in a cape was one step too far in the superhero direction. At a house show before his television debut, Kane made his entrance with a red and black cape adorn round his shoulders. The company was trying to break away from the cartoon gimmicks of the Hulkamania and New Generation eras as it pushed forward towards it’s newly found “Attitude.” With this in mind, perhaps having a monster demon masked man with a cape draped over his shoulders like a tired James Brown after a long gig was a bit of overkill.
Also as you can see in this rare video footage, fans kept trying to grab at the garb, which was probably another deciding factor in ditching the look.
Watch rare video footage of Kane debuting at a WWE house show wearing a cape:
Kane and his Two Long Sleeves
King Of The Ring 1998 will always go down in history for Mankind and The Undertaker’s legendary Hell in a Cell match, but almost poetically echoing his debut from that hellacious structure, it would also see the first noteworthy change up in Kane’s attire. The black flames across his chest became longer, gone was the stitching on the right leg, now incorporating a symmetrical flame design with his right, and his left arm was now completely sleeved, sans a glove.
There are a few possible reasons for this change in look. Kane’s match that night was a first blood match against Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWE title. If Kane lost, he vowed to coat himself in gasoline and set himself alight. Maybe covering the only part of his body that was still exposed was his kayfabe way of ensuring that his statement, which was bold even for a Connor McGregor pre-fight ramble, wouldn’t happen.
Another reason for the sweatshirt style redesign is an angle that would take place a few weeks later. On the June 6th edition of Raw, Kane would take on Mankind in a number one contendership bout for the world heavyweight title. After besting his foe, Kane would take off his mask revealing that it was actually The Undertaker in disguise! The new long sleeves covered The Deadman’s recognizable arm tattoo’s and keep fans oblivious to the ruse.
The Undertaker in disguise as Kane:
Kane – Cut From A Better Cloth
At some point in October 1998, Kane would revert back to his old gear, one sleeve, and stitching, whilst maintaining the new elongated flame design. It was around this period that children in playgrounds would theorize that “They changed the actor who plays Kane!” This was not true, obviously. It was still Glen Jacobs under the mask, the new/old costume was just cut for a better fit.
In June 1999, around the time Kane started teaming with D-Generation X, his “original attire” would undergo one more change. Keeping the one sleeve, his lower tight design went back to the symmetrical flames sand a new sheer material on his top would replace the all black leather look, making the outfit cooler and easier to breathe in.
Rumor has it that this new suit was originally going to be green, enforcing Kane’s alliance with DX, but this has never been confirmed by sources in the know.
Kane would continue in this guise for over a year, occasionally alternating from early 2000 onwards with inverted colors where the black and red would switch places (this humble writer’s favorite incarnation of The Big Red Machine).
Kane: “See My Vest!”
Kane’s first major redesign came at SummerSlam 2000 in a match against the now American Bad Ass Undertaker. This new look kept the original mask but his body suit would change completely.
Kane now wore a black vested one piece with red flames, noticeably exposing parts of his body once presumed burned but with no acknowledgment from the characters or the commentators. The fact that the story to this match saw Taker trying (and succeeding) to take Kane’s mask gives speculation that maybe this new costume was to complement a new unhooded look. Whether the company changed their minds or a full unmasking was never actually on the cards, Kane would be back in the headgear in a championship match against The Rock the following night on Raw.
In July, during the midst of the company-wide WCW/ECW invasion angle, slight modifications were made to this design, noticeable on the red flame area.
Then, for one night only at the 2001 Survivor Series, Kane would reverse his colors once again. Thankfully this was a one and done deal as it looked, for lack of a better word, awful.
Kane – A Hero In A Half Mask
In his five years with the company, Kane’s character went from a voiceless burnt monster to a growling masked anti-hero and everything in between. After a prolonged absence from torn biceps, The Big Red Machine gave audiences something they had never seen before: a babyface smile.
Kane had been doing more and more “comedy” work before his injury, and this new half mask enabled him to speak clearer, be more expressive and connect with fans on a new level. This notion was cemented by his first course of action upon his return, saving Booker T and Goldust from flag burning beatdown at the hands of the Un-Americans, and then busting out a Kane-a-roonie.
The flames had also left his outfit and it their place were red straps, severing ties from the demonic era and heralding in a new kind of hero.
The Unmasking of Kane
The happy times could only last for so long. On the June 23rd, 2003 episode of Monday Night Raw, Kane was given a title shot against Triple H, the stipulation being if that he lost he would have to unmask. Proving unsuccessful in his attempt for the gold and after some coaxing from his buddy and then tag team partner RVD, Kane did the unthinkable and tore his legendary image from his face. This would send him into an emotional rage, prompting a heel turn on his buddy and the start of a new era for the character.
At first, he pretty much wore the same gear, sans mask and with a shaven hair, plus tiny changes to the straps and buckles. He would drape a black towel over his head for his entrances and go back to the being the evil no-good monster he was before, this time with the freedom of speech and expression. Speaking on his unmasking in an interview with The Pitch, Kane had this to say.
“I was confident that it was the next chapter of the character. The only people who were [confident about the unmasking] 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.
Kane continued, “So [there was] 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.”
Only Kane and Vince McMahon were behind the original idea of Kane unmasking. Everybody else had the opinion, “If it wasn’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Later that year, he would get rid of the vest top and wear more traditional black wrestling tights with red, wrapped barbed wire decals.
This would be Kane’s longest running look, keeping the same basic image for over seven years. In 2010 it would alter slightly, changing the wire with a red heart monitor like rhythm strip and splashes of grey.
Kane – Back In the Mask
After a cracked fibula and five months off, Kane returned on the December 12th Raw in 2011, not only back to the WWE, but back to his mask.
Despite spending the vast majority of his career at this time with his face exposed to the world, the masked era remained a fan favorite and wanted to see a return to that character (and no, the Luke Gallows imposter Kane angle didn’t count). After many videos featuring a burning mask and touting “Kane Resurrected”, the fans got their wish, but rather than return to an original look the character had evolved yet again.
His new mask had red leather/burnt flesh like features, with wrinkles and creases, and his “hair” was sown into the garment. Kane’s new costume covered his top half once again; this time with a stitch design that matched those of medical autopsy incisions.
He would also wear a metal helmet, which resembled that of the titular monster from “The Predator” movies during his entrances for a short while.
On his trouser leg was the return of the flames, alternating between yellow left leg and later a red right leg design with larger stitching on top. Maybe this was a costume change, or maybe big Glenn just started wearing his suit inside out.
Kane’s Political Agenda
Over the course of the next few years, Glen Jacobs would become more and more politically active, announcing his running for Senate for 2014.
Another two-month hiatus meant another return, which would mean another costume change, but this time one that would suit Jacobs new real-life governmental roles. Kane turned heel and aligned himself with the villainous Authority. He gave Stephanie McMahon his mask and wore a suit and tie, wrestling in dress bottoms and shoes.
Kane would flip between his Demon and Corporate Kane personas, much like Jacobs from that point on would flip between his wrestling and political careers.
Kane’s Final Form?
Now that he is the Mayor of Knox County, Glen Jacobs has become semi-retired, stating he will no only be making occasional appearances for special occasions (at this time of writing he is currently feuding with D-Generation X alongside his Brother of Destruction The Undertaker, with WWE reportedly granting a sizeable donation to Knox County charities for his appearances).
He is back in the mask, with prominent red flames once again crawling up his black one-piece costume. A culmination of everything he has been for the last 21 years, and a fitting guise for what may be his final look.
A destructive monster for the darkness of evil, or an unstoppable force for the light of good, Kane has always dressed for the part. Ever changing but always legendary, if this is the Big Red Machine’s last run, he leaves behind a proud legacy and iconic imagery for fans to enjoy for years to come.