The lights go out. The arena turns dark. The pyro roars. The music blares. And the red glow glistens across the stage and in the ring. Everyone knows who is going out from behind the curtain.
That’s gotta be Kane.
“The Big Red Machine” was one of the spookiest characters in all of professional wrestling at the height of the Attitude Era in WWE, then known as the World Wrestling Federation. When Kane came to the ring, fans knew he was going to raise hell and bodies were going to be strewn across the apron.
Glenn Jacobs, the current mayor of Knox County, Tennessee who is mostly known for his time as the wrestling star Kane, made his debut as the masked character at Bad Blood in 1997 after weeks of buildup and being billed as the brother of The Undertaker. He was packaged as a pyromaniac who survived a traumatizing incident involving The Undertaker, who was being billed as Kane’s half-brother.
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At Bad Blood, The Undertaker squared off against Shawn Michaels in the first-ever Hell in a Cell match. Kane made his debut the same night and ripped the cage door off its hinges to get into the ring and put the fear of God into The Undertaker and the rest of the WWE Universe.
Jacobs told Fox News Digital in a recent interview he was “pumped” to be repackaged as Kane after a handful of failed gimmicks during his first run in the company. He was initially put off by the first ideas of the character until he helped make it his own.
“I was pumped because it was The Undertaker’s brother and you cannot ask for anything better than that. That’s literally the Holy Grail of characters in WWE,” he said. “When I first saw the character in the conceptual art, that did throw me a little bit because that’s not what I had in mind for the character. That’s not what Undertaker had for the character and some other folks that I had talked to. We all thought it would a lot grittier and have like a Michael Myers or a Jason Vorhees look – you know, someone that had been institutionalized and escaped or something like that.
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“Vince McMahon’s idea was Kane was really hiding his failings and compensating for all of the things that made him weak and all that kind of stuff by being a superhero and the operative word with Kane was not evil, actually, it was cool. You wanted Kane to look cool and be cool. And that was one of the times I realized Vince was a genius because he had taken what was some superficial psychology on our part and gone a lot deeper into it and into the mind of this character already deeper than I had. If we’d done the Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers look it would’ve been OK, but that’s been done before. But the Kane character and the Kane look was completely different than, I think, anything that ever really been done.”
April 1997 really started the buildup of Kane coming to a head with The Undertaker. Legendary manager Paul Bearer helped the hype when he threatened to reval a secret The Undertaker had been keeping for years and later told him that Kane was alive and that he was coming.
Jacobs explained he knew the character was going to work when his music hit and the fans were stunned in silence.
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“It was at that moment coming out and getting that sort of reaction and really a connection with the audience because there’s that moment of silence when everybody’s trying to figure out what’s going on,” he said. “And then there was like this collective. … Vince is screaming it over the headsets but I think that everybody was already affected, ‘That’s gotta be Kane!’ right?
“Just to have that moment and that kind of connection, then you realize … That was the first time in my career that I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is what it’s really like to be a WWE superstar. I knew it was going to be a big deal right then. OF course, I didn’t realize it was going to last for over 20 years and I’d be able to do all the really cool things that I was able to do. But I mean, again, initially knowing that you’re going to work with Undertaker, you knew that it was going to be successful. It just a matter of how successful and how long it’s going to be, how long it was going to carry on for.”
Jacobs had to go really through the nine circles of hell to get to the top of the WWE. He was Unabomb, Isaac Yankem, DDS, and was packaged as fake Diesel after Kevin Nash left the company to join World Championship Wrestling and launch his career with the NWO.
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Jacobs told Fox News Digital that his passion for the business and to do what it took to make it outweighed the disappointment there was in the other characters not working and in that he shared a valuable life lesson.
“First of all, being a WWE superstar in any capacity is a great occupation. It really is,” Jacobs said. “Even though I may not have been exactly what I wanted to as far as creative, nevertheless, I’m doing something that I really enjoyed doing and that not many people have a chance to do.
“And also, I realized that I could prove my value to the company just by showing up to work every day, working hard, having a good attitude, doing the things I needed to do and eventually, hopefully, my break would come. Same thing in life, right? If you just do the right things, eventually, hopefully, an opportunity comes along. Doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to, but it might and that had always been my attitude – if I just kept at it, eventually I would get that big break. I thought that’s when I first got to WWE, and of course that was a major step forward, not quite where I wanted to be but nevertheless, a huge step forward.
“I think that’s actually a life lesson, not just the less about my career, but about life in general. There are a lot of people that have been in much worse situations than I was and keep on plugging along and eventually find massive success.”
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The mythology of Kane and Jacobs’ rise will be chronicled in the latest episode of “Biography: WWE Legends” on A&E on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT.