It’s Day Two of #KaneWeek, a celebration of all things Big Red Monster and the ninth installment in our patent-pending Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. Yesterday, we started with A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better. Today we give you the finer points of the Dr. Isaac Yankem oeuvre with some Essential Viewing. We mix things up tomorrow with some Hidden Gems from that very same catalog along with a GIF parade. After Hump Day, we’ll make our “Amazon on Steroids“ dreams come true with Juice Make Sugar Recommends… before finishing everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a Hellfire-and-brimstone fueled civil war.)
Kane posed a weird question for us as a Wrestler of the Week: is it #KaneWeek or #GlenJacobsWeek? Unlike, say, Antonio Cesaro, although his name has changed, “Antonio Cesaro” isn’t as much a character as the name of Claudio Castagnoli in the WWE. Telling the essential story of “Antonio Cesaro” isn’t the same as telling the story of “Antonio Cesaro, WWE superstar”. The idea of an Antonio Cesaro isn’t any more exclusive to WWE than AJ Styles is for TNA: the guy is the character, we just know him by a different name.
It’s not even the same as #BullyRayWeek, where someone — Mark Lomanco — had a character, developed that character and then moved on through the wrestling world using that character with basically the same name give or take a last name.
But, Kane isn’t Glen Jacobs in the way that The Undertaker isn’t Mark Callaway. He is a wholly constructed character that can’t really exist outside of the WWE’s (pardon the pun) universe. Does it take something away from the conversation to discuss “Glen Jacobs” when talking about Kane?
Which brings us to the original problem: is it #KaneWeek or #GlenJacobsWeek? It’s of course #KaneWeek, because “branding”, but if our goal with Wrestler of the Week was only to tell the story that WWE wants you to know, then I think it would be #KaneWeek, and we wouldn’t have spent any time yesterday talking about Dr. Isaac Yankem. But that isn’t the goal. The goal is to learn about the history of these men, not just their characters.
Which is you have to include things like Glen Jacobs appearance at SummerSlam, against Bret Hart:
While not a masterpiece, like a young center who hasn’t quite figured out his low post game, some of the high flying work of Jacobs at this point in his career shows the flashes that would lead them to believe that he could successfully become the “evil” offshoot of the most popular single gimmick in history. This, of course, took a while, and before he could make it to his his first appearance at Badd Blood (which we will get to later), he had to deal with a character that managed to be even damaging than the personal dentist of one the most hated heels in the company: a Kevin Nash impersonator.
For those who blocked out the Fake Diesel run, a few things need to be said, including one from a personal level. Fake Diesel, and his even worse-looking partner Fake Razor Ramon, nearly ruined wrestling for me, creating issues with my understanding of characters, acting and the very foundations of kayfabe. If Diesel and Razor were just characters, did that mean that everything that happened to them was planned out? While it made it clear Jim Ross was lying, and these weren’t the same guys, it never felt like something that needed to be addressed, and came off in the same way that someone becoming the CM Punk “character” instead of Phillip Brooks would.
Thankfully for us, and for Jacobs, this run lasted only a few weeks as everyone had the same reaction I did: this is terrible and needs to stop. With a need to extend the life span of the Undertaker and keep him fresh without changing his character, giving him the title or making new main eventers, they decided to give him the a top-of-the-card type of storyline that he had last genuinely had during his time with Hulk Hogan during the fall of 1991. Even his main event work with Sid for WrestleMania 13 hadn’t really done what they were hoping, leaving them looking to rebuild him into an even darker (and eventually more sinister) entity than he had been previous.
Enter Kane. (Literally:)
After months of claims from Undertaker’s estranged manager, Paul Bearer, Kane arrived with what was essentially a fully formed backstory, and along with the presumption that A) he was as “powerful/big” and B) he was looking for some kind of existential revenge. With means, motive and opportunity, Kane entered our subconscious the way Voldemort did, with an immediacy that required attention.
It was a textbook example of how to make a star instantly, allowing the worker to only need to match expectations to get over. No relationship was required to be built, as this one simply just built on everything we originally knew about the Undertaker. But what allowed Kane to be Fraiser (Cheers) and not The Golden Palace (The Golden Girls) was that they took everything that worked as the subtle charms of the Undertaker — like his “supernatural abilities” essentially being “able to sit up without using his hands” and “turn the lights on with his hands” — and supercharged them for Kane, allowing The Undertaker to not just have a blood reason to feud with his brother but an moral obligation to save the people that Kane was, among other things, setting on fire. Like this poor guy:
This lead to their match at WrestleMania XIV, which while — as will be the case for most of the matches that told great storyline stories for Kane, the ones that “we’ll remember him by” — were technically speaking, nothing to write home about. But it is the genuinely the closest we have ever been or, at least the closest we have ever felt in the moment, to the end of The Streak. From there, Kane would weave in out of the life of The Undertaker for the next few years, going through ridiculous storyline after ridiculous storyline.
Because Andy covered much of this yesterday, the only thing really “essential” to see from this era is the Katie Vick video. And because it’s so over the top and embarrassing, it’s nearly impossible to find, with only this muted version available on YouTube. Below it, we’ve put a video from an interview Triple H did with Opie and Anthony explaining how ridiculous shooting that was, which, if nothing else, should make you appreciate the stupid things wrestlers are willing to do for your entertainment.
While he would have better luck in recent years, it’s not like Kane hasn’t had to deal with his fair share of ridiculousness, like LOSING TO HIMSELF in a feud, but all of that practice working in that part of the wrestling world seems worth it when it produces things like the surprisingly funny — at least for the WWE “Anger Management” sketches that would not only help make Daniel Bryan into a main eventer, but helped cement Kane’s case as a “first ballot” Hall of Famer.
From their time in group therapy
to one of the most brilliant pieces of physical comedy in wrestling history
the work showed the versatility of both men and the ability to, as Andy said, “roll with the punches”.
And, ultimately, that will be the legacy of the character of Kane and more importantly, the performer, Glen Jacobs. While a great worker — which something we’ll get to tomorrow with some hidden gems — the story that Jacobs has told in, around and out of the ring is the one we will remember him by.