Calm Influence of Family at Center of Life For This WWF Dynamo
Jefferson County man is World Wrestling Federation's mysterious Kane.
News-Sentinel, March 26, 1999
Glenn Jacobs has had one of those weeks. Monday, he caught on fire. Tuesday, he had a dental appointment. Wednesday, he did his first-ever interview.
Fire and dentists he can handle. The interview is different altogether for the behemoth whom Monday night cable TV devotees know better as the World Wrestling Federation's masked man-monster, Kane.
There's a flesh-and-blood 31-year-old married man under the red-and-black leather and Spandex. Kane is a spawn of hell; Jacobs lives a tranquil life with his wife, two teen stepdaughters and five dogs in sleepy Shady Grove, Tenn., off Highway 139 in Jefferson County.
"A lot of what has happened to me ... has been about timing," he says with a deep bass voice that would command respect even if he weren't 6 foot 8 inches and 310 pounds of almost pure muscle. "It's been about someone who has a God-given gift and an athletic background. I have determination and perseverance."
Sunday night as Kane, Jacobs will enter the ring for WWF's extravaganza "Wrestlemania XV," expected to set a Pay-Per-View record for a nonboxing event. With ratings of USA network's "WWF Monday Night Raw" nearly doubled over the last year, TV wrestling is once again enjoying pop culture praise, and Jacobs is one of its biggest -- if reluctant -- stars.
Jacobs was always big for his age, a tall and lanky basketball scholarship student at Northeast Missouri State, where he earned a degree in English.
His father was in the Air Force, so Jacobs and his siblings moved around a lot. He was born in Madrid, Spain, but grew up near St. Louis, Mo., where he later worked at a group home for mentally challenged adults.
A co-worker who wanted to break into professional wrestling persuaded 25-year-old Jacobs to give it a try, too. Close to 150 saw Jacobs lose his first match at a small banquet hall.
"It was in my personality" to wrestle, he says. "I was a little nervous at my first match, but I think I did OK. I went home after the match and watched the tape of it over and over. I wanted to do it again."
He continued working at the group home and wrestled on weekends under the name "Doomsday." When his bookings increased, he quit his job and hit the small-time wrestling circuit. He learned the ropes at a Florida wrestling school.
Jacobs was soon wrestling in Japan, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic --nicer in theory than in practice.
"My first few years," he says, "I'd make maybe $10 for a match. Sometimes I wouldn't even get paid at all, but we were all in it because we loved it.
"The worst was when ... this promoter flew me to the Dominican Republic, and he didn't show up. It was my first time in a foreign country, and I was nervous. I didn't even get paid. We had to fend for ourselves. On that one, I almost gave up altogether."
Jacobs didn't know how much his six-month stint with Smoky Mountain Wrestling would change his life. It brought him to Tennessee, where he met Maurisa, who would become his wife. They were introduced by WWF wrestler DeLo Brown. Jacobs also gained a contact: Jim Cornette, who took him to the World Wrestling Federation in August 1995.
With Smoky Mountain, he assumed the name "The Unibomb" and wrestled with Al Sarves, better known as the WWF's Al Snow. Cornette's eye for talent took Jacobs and Sarves to WWF and stardom.
"I was intimidated when I started with WWF," Jacobs says. "I would see all these people I used to watch on TV, and I thought, 'Wow! Look at them.
Jacobs began his WWF career as wrestling dentist "Isaac Yankem," but the powers-that-be realized fans weren't crazy about dental visits.
"Kane was an idea presented to me," he says. "It was the idea of a (WWF) committee," which included the boss man himself, Vince McMahon, whom Jacobs calls "a very easy guy to work for."
The concept: Kane would be introduced as the brother of the evil Undertaker. Half man, half monster, he unexpectedly survived a house fire started by the Undertaker in which their parents were killed. To the Undertaker's chagrin, Kane survived but was scarred (thus the mask), unable to talk -- and thirsty for revenge.
The character would pop up and thwart the Undertaker's evil deeds within the ring. Since his introduction, Kane has faced other challengers and even taken the championship belt from fan favorite "Stone Cold" Steve Austin for one day.
The real measure, though, has to do with action outside the ring.
"Kane has the ability to draw a crowd," says Jacobs. "...The action figures have been successful. Kids like him because he looks like a superhero."
Though marketed toward children, TV wrestling has assumed a more adult theme with sexual overtones and frank language. Jacobs dismisses its critics.
"(Critics) talk about the sex and everything we present, but this isn't the same old wrestling anymore," he says. "People need to accept it for what it is."
Jacobs, who wrestles 200 dates a year around the world, gets a cut from sales of toys, posters and apparel.
But the greatest thrill, says Jacobs, who is "hooked" on the role-playing PC game "Might & Magic 6," is "to see Kane in a video game."
KANE IS ABLE
If you ever wondered how "real" TV wrestling is, ask Jacobs about his battle scars. Kane is supposed to be "invincible." Getting hurt shouldn't happen in front of millions of viewers.
"I had a cage match on TV, and this cage door slammed on my head," he says. "A piece of handle swung around and hit me. It knocked me dingy.
"It also opened a pretty deep cut, about four inches on top of my head. There was a lot of blood. You do the best you can in those situations. You can't just stop the match. You try to get through it. So I did the best I could until the show went off the air.
"I've had matches where I've had cuts to my face, thanks to some head-butts. They required stitches. I've had problems with my knees and my lower back. I've thrown my shoulder out a few times. It all goes along with the beatings our bodies take."
By Terry Morrow, Knoxville News-Sentinel entertainment writer