Monday, June 10, 2013

Kane: WWE's Only Babyface

The unlikeliest babyface ever, but still a babyface
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There are babyfaces, and then there are just dudes that the crowd cheers. Babyfaces aren't always goody-two-shoes. If you encounter someone who wears a completely white hat, they are probably not to be trusted. However, a good guy should generally be a good guy, right? That paradigm shifted when Steve Austin became popular in the WWF, and at least that company never seemed to look back. There have been exceptions to the rule at time, but true babyfaces have been hard to come by in WWE. Even the heels who do embody traditional face ideals have traits that make them stand out as bad guys.

While I have my own concerns about alignment, I don't necessarily see this as a problem if that's what the majority of people who pay for the product want. I just think it's worth pointing out, especially when there's a guy on the roster who is a true babyface. Right now, there is one wrestler in WWE that I think embodies the traditional babyface ethic, and surprisingly, it's the guy who started his life in the company burning people to get his jollies and really didn't stop his sociopathy anywhere close to that.

Kane is not known for compassion, friendship, or even decency. Yeah, he was one of the most famous victims of bullying when his alignment found him to be "cheered bad guy" rather than true heel, but there was always some sort of underlying feeling that he had it coming in a karmic sense. I mean, here's a guy who threw away friendship, or at the very least partnership, with The Big Show over the release date of his slasher flick. He's not at all the kind of person that I would end up feeling sorry for because I really empathize with him.

But here we are, in the seemingly waning days of Team Hell No, and Kane has turned into a tragic figure, a true friend, and a real stand up guy. He is there for Daniel Bryan no matter what self-doubts he's going through. He goes to bat for him when someone is trying to pick on him in an injured state. He understands the circumstances even if Bryan's the one who took the pinfall. And his thanks? Constant accusations of disloyalty and even worse, being called "just Kane" when asking why Bryan trusted Bret Hart, a dude he rarely ever talks to over him despite the fact that they said the same thing.

Even his dastardly past plays a role into how good of a good guy he's become. He's not afraid of owning his misdeeds, as on several occasions, he's admitted that he's done some pretty horrific stuff, almost matter of factly. It's used for comedic effect, but at the same time, one constant of humanity is that if someone is in a public position, the tendency is that enemies of that person wish to dredge up unsavory stuff from their past. Politicians are good for denying it, but public figures who tend to own their mistakes and show remorse for them seem to have better Q ratings so to speak.

There are two amazing things to me about this. One is how jarring it is to see the least likely character in WWE be its only real good guy. There are far more people who are more photogenic, clean cut, charismatic than Kane is, and yet they all are big pieces of doggy doo as characters. For example, John Cena is an awful friend who casually makes homophobic remarks to people and has not once atoned for either one. Sheamus picks fights with people for the hell of it. Miz will in one second talk about his anti-bullying work and in another, beat up a dude post-match just so he could throw the other guy's valet on top him to count a cheap "pin." Even Bryan is a neurotic jackass who doesn't know how good he has it, and thus carries on life with an imaginary chip on his shoulder. These are among the most popular people WWE has on its roster.

Yet it's Kane who rings the most sincere. It's not just the absence of babyfaces that makes Kane unique. It's also the way he plays his character. There's earnestness in his voice. His body language is on point. His mask can't hide his facial expressions. The man behind the wig, mask, and horrifying character backdrop is putting his entire being into this character, and it's just brilliant.

Obviously, the bottom won't stay stable on this forever. Team Hell No almost certainly has to break up, and when Kane doesn't have the rock of friendship with Bryan to fasten his anchor to, how long will it be before he's back to torturing people, setting stuff on fire, and committing other grotesque atrocities? Regardless, it's refreshing to see WWE promote an honest-to-God babyface on their roster rather than a warmed-over antihero who just happens to be popular enough to get cheered. The fact that it's Kane, the least likely candidate for that kind of mantel, makes it all the better.