(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: The Undertaker vs. Kane – WWE WrestleMania XIV
By Alex Podgorski on 20th November 2023
Few wrestlers in WWE are as revered and fondly regarded as The Undertaker and Kane.
Those two had one of the most iconic feuds to ever take place under a WWE banner. Millions of fans from around the world remember the incredible, supernatural, larger-than-life story that these two were part of. Everyone remembers the characters. Most people remember the promos. Some even recall the few moments they did some wacky and over-the-top supernatural stuff.
But how good were the actual matches between these two famous “brothers”? For all the talk, hype, and build, did their biggest matches actually deliver on what was promised? Read on to find out.
Previously I was writing for a site called TJR Wrestling and now this series is coming to Blog of Doom. For now you can check out the series in its entirety here.
If you’re reading this right now then I’m presuming that you fall into one of the four following categories:
1) You’re feeling nostalgic and want to revisit the glory days of yesteryear when wrestling monsters were actually booked properly and lived up to the hype and the intrigue;
2) You love reading about wrestling and want to read different opinions about your favorite wrestlers and matches (in which case, WELCOME);
3) You’ve never heard about wrestling before and are learning about this medium for the first time; or
4) You’re a younger fan and you got into wrestling long after the Attitude Era ended (if so then I really and truly pity you since you missed out on so much greatness from that time)
Regardless of which category you fall into, let’s dive into the complex ~LORE~ behind two of the most famous gimmick wrestlers in modern history.
Two years earlier, Paul Bearer turned on Undertaker after managing him for 5-6 years. After that initial betrayal, Bearer aligned with other monsters like Mankind and then Vader. But after both of those men failed to take out his former charge, Bearer threatened to reveal Undertaker’s secret: that “KANE IS ALIVE!”
In the weeks and months that followed, Bearer began unveiling the curtain and revealing much more of who the Undertaker really was. Instead of being the pro-wrestling version of the Grim Reaper or Death itself in human form, Bearer revealed that Undertaker was in fact an ordinary man (or, as ordinary as professional wrestlers can be) who hadn’t outgrown his goth phase with an ordinary upbringing that, at some point, became extraordinary.
‘Taker’s parents owned a funeral home that Bearer worked in and it wasn’t uncommon for Bearer to see a “little red-headed punk” running around. But accompanying that punk was another, younger child named Kane. Kane looked up to his older brother but Bearer insinuated that the older brother didn’t always love his little brother back.
Then at one point, a fire broke out in the funeral home that destroyed the entire building and killed both of Undertaker’s parents. For decades Undertaker had presumed Kane died in the fire as well but Bearer revealed the truth: he had rescued Kane from the fire but not before it left the young child scarred both physically and psychologically. (In a later promo, Bearer revealed that Kane was actually Undertaker’s half-brother because Bearer was the one who sired him after being seduced by ‘Taker’s mom while her husband was away on business).
So Bearer had a paternal instinct to protect his son and to exact revenge on the person that ruined the child’s life. Undertaker, meanwhile, admitted to most of Bearer’s story, but argued that it was Kane who had been playing with fire and gasoline and was the one who started that fire.
The build towards Kane’s eventual arrival was put on hold midway through 1997 as Undertaker shifted his focus towards Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and D-Generation X. As then-WWE Champion, Undertaker got involved in their feud and fixated on Michaels after he cost ‘Taker his title at that year’s SummerSlam. Undertaker became a regular target of DX’s antics and cheap-shots, until he managed to get Michaels alone in the first-ever Hell in a Cell match. That was and still is widely considered a classic, especially since it concluded with Kane debuting in WWE at long last.
In the span of two minutes Kane had the most impressive debut of any wrestler. In that time, he ripped a cell door off its hinges, broke the Undertaker’s stoicism and left him in shock, showed his own supernatural power by making fire burst from the corners of the ring, and spiked his brother with a Tombstone Piledriver so powerful it left Undertaker motionless for a minute and did more damage than everything Shawn Michaels had done over the prior 28 minutes.
And yet Undertaker refused to fight his own flesh and blood. Even though Kane appeared to be driven by a singular focus on getting revenge, Undertaker didn’t want to hurt him. As such, Kane attacked anyone else he could find with both his monstrous power and his supernatural abilities, at one point setting some random WWE employee on fire with a lightning bolt.
Still Undertaker refused and tried to continue his own career as if Kane wasn’t a factor. But Kane kept butting in, and then at the 1998 Royal Rumble he helped Shawn Michaels beat ‘Taker in a casket match. After that match ended, Kane poured gasoline on the casket (which still had Undertaker in it) and set it on fire.
Kane and Bearer presumed that fire had annihilated the Undertaker; but like in almost any morality tale involving the devil or the supernatural, no one’s ever really gone forever. Sure enough, Undertaker came back, more fired up than ever before and was no longer willing to put family aside. The war was on. The Brothers of Destruction would fight after almost a full year of teasing, storytelling, and gradual build.
This match originally took place on March 29, 1998.
Before the match begins baseball legend Pete Rose comes out and does a by-the-numbers heel promo running down the Boston crowd for their lack of baseball success. He’s soon interrupted by Kane who spikes him with a Tombstone Piledriver, which pops the crowd something fierce. Shortly afterwards, the lights dim and the Undertaker’s druids come out carrying torches as Carl Orff’s O Fortuna plays in the background. As the cheering grows louder Undertaker makes his way out under his usual music and the visual of him walking past those lit torches helps give this an ominous and supernatural feel. It’s not quite as spine-chilling as his entrance at WrestleMania XX, but it’s pretty close.
The bell rings and the two brothers have an intense nose-to-nose stare-down. Undertaker lands a few punches but Kane no-sells each one. Kane choke-tosses ‘Taker into a corner but he fights out with ease. Kane reverses a corner whip but ‘Taker blocks a corner charge. He goes for Old School but Kane hits a short-arm clothesline, only for ‘Taker to sit up almost instantly. Another short countering exchange ends with Kane scooping ‘Taker up for a Tombstone, only for him to change his mind and tie Undertaker in tye tree of woe. Kane chokes and punches some more and then lands more hard corner Irish whips. He lands a slingshot suplex that leaves Undertaker draped across the top rope and then Kane lands a flying clothesline that sends Undertaker to the floor.
Kane lands more basic strikes and chokes while further no-selling what few strikes of Undertaker’s that land. Another Irish whip ends with Undertaker jumping onto Kane’s shoulders, which in turn becomes an electric chair facebuster. Kane drops Undertaker onto the security railing and then smashes him with steel steps as Paul Bearer distracts the referee. Moments later, Bearer kicks a prone ‘Taker as Kane intimidates the ref in the ring.
Kane suplexes Undertaker back into the ring and forces Undertaker into a corner. ‘Taker covers up like a boxer on the defensive, and when he bounces out of a corner with a clothesline it does absolutely nothing to Kane. ‘Taker tries to get another running start for his flying clothesline but Kane catches him and hits a big chokeslam. The referee counts one, two, and – Undertaker kicks out.
Kane applies a LOOOONGGG chinlock which ‘Taker escapes, only for Kane to retaliate with a running clothesline and an elbow drop. Kane goes back to the chinlock but this time ‘Taker lifts him and drops him crotch-first on the top rope. Unfazed, Kane takes several shots to the head until a boot drops him from the apron. Undertaker gets a big running start and does his suicide dive…past Kane and through the announce table.
Back in the ring, Kane hits a diving clothesline for a two-count. Another strikes exchange ensues and then Undertaker tries a Tombstone. Kane reverses it and hits his own instead. One, two, ‘Taker kicks out. More punches from both men and then a clothesline drops Kane. Undertaker hits a chokeslam and then lands his own Tombstone. One, two, and – Kane kicks out. Kane becomes the first person to ever kick out of the Tombstone Piledriver. Undertaker hits a leg drop followed by a second Tombstone for another two-count. ‘Taker dives a cross the ring with a flying clothesline of his own and then spikes his brother with a third Tombstone. One, two, and three! Undertaker beats Kane and advances to 7-0 at WrestleMania!
Winner after 16:58: The Undertaker
It’s unfortunate but this match didn’t live up to the hype. Months and months of intriguing and unpredictable storytelling led to a bog-standard brawl that went way longer than it needed to. This should’ve been an eight-minute war without downtime or rest-holds with both men going full throttle in trying to destroy each other like the wrestling version of a monster flick.
Instead, it dragged on and on and had few moments of genuine excitement. While the action fit the wrestlers’ gimmicks, they could’ve skipped on the constant punching sequences that kept getting recycled over and over without making any significant headway. Though this match wasn’t bad per se – it’s easily the best Undertaker WrestleMania match up to that point from a pure storytelling perspective – it was hamstrung by its own length and that, in turn, affected the action we saw in the ring.
These two had a challenging set of goals for this match. Through their moves and selling they had to make people believe that Kane was nigh unstoppable and that both men would struggle to beat the other enough to win. They also had to sell the idea that both men were supernaturally tough, which is why both of them punched and kicked each other so many times without any effect. Neither man could risk showing vulnerability given their characters so what we were left with was lots of plodding action and only a small handful of truly exciting moments.
Story-wise this lack of movement made sense; after all, who wants to see wrestling’s resident death god and his masked Jason Voorhees impersonator of a brother show deep emotion and sell like real human beings? And yet, this match didn’t need to go seventeen minutes. There was plenty of dead air in which nothing happened and it felt like the match was on pause. Kane’s chinlocks went way too long and stretched things too much. Offensively Kane didn’t do much beyond punches, kicks, and the odd dive off the top rope. He had been built up as this monster that was equally as powerful as Undertaker yet he hit one or maybe two power moves throughout the match. The middle portion of this match dragged and went nowhere while the first act was exciting and the ending was great. It was as if both wrestlers knew how to start and end the match but had few genuinely good ideas about everything in between.
If the goal was to make it look like Undertaker barely survived his brother and had to go farther than ever before to put his opponent down then it would’ve made more sense to see Kane use his freakish power (seriously, even in that full-body suit Kane’s arms are HUGE) to throw his older brother around and manhandle him. We got a small glimpse of this when Kane tossed ‘Taker into a corner but that moment was forgotten before it could sink in with the audience. Why couldn’t we see more of that? Why couldn’t Kane show off his incredible power some more to make it even clearer that Undertaker was disadvantaged? If the answer was that both men were somewhat limited in what they could do and thus couldn’t be expected to throw big power moves, then why give them way more time than necessary?
Final Rating: **3/4
One need only look anywhere on the internet to find that the story leading up to this match was WAY better than the match itself. You don’t have to look far to find comments to the effect of “I loved this story”, “I got chills during that promo”, “greatest wrestling characters ever” and the like.
Do you know which keyword isn’t found among those comments? “Match”.
All the build, special effects, interesting lines, and creativity build up the first-ever singles match between The Undertaker and Kane and it was a disappointment. A few others to have reviewed it for this site have called it “boring” and they’re not entirely wrong.
And unfortunately, this was far from the last time that WWE put so much time, effort, and creativity into building up a big match or show, only for the final product to under-deliver once the company had the fans’ money and attention.