Before he was the Mayor of Knox County, TN, Glenn Jacobs was another big and scary wrestler trying to make his name in WWE (then WWF). First, they made him a crazy dentist, and then he was the brief replacement for Kevin Nash in the guise of Diesel in 1996.
Neither gimmick lasted and few thought they would except for the company’s Chairman Vince McMahon. The writing seemed to be on the wall for Jacobs before his career even started. But fortunately, they give him one more chance as the lauded Attitude Era was on the rise.
They put a mask on him, made him the brother of The Undertaker, presented the illusion he could control fire, and gave him possibly the best debut in wrestling history as Kane at the pay-per-view Badd Blood in ’97. One clean rip of a cage door from its hinges later and the rest was history.
However, while McMahon and his creative crew had concepts for the gimmick that eventually won out, Kane almost had a different and creepy first appearance.
Had they gone with the ideas of the decorated yet polarizing wrestling mind of Jim Cornette, which he explained on a recent edition of his Cornette’s Drive-Thru podcast, several pages would’ve been taken from John Carpenter’s playbook.
Cornette, who worked backstage in WWE then, reveals in Episode 253 that he was inspired by Carpenter’s trendsetting 1978 film Halloween, the Godfather (in many ways) of the slasher genre, and its popular villain Michael Myers.
Wanting to present something germane to the programming and McMahon’s tilt toward “ridiculous” show business, Cornette pitched a spin on his favorite horror movie — one which the boss probably didn’t see and was clueless about — for Kane that was very Myers-esque.
Cornette pictured Kane wearing tattered dark clothes similar to, but not quite the same, as Myer’s coveralls as well as a mask. Comparing it to The Shape’s famously altered and spray-painted visage of William Shatner he flaunts, he said Kane’s mask would be a handsome face with a blank expression covering his scars.
To explain where Kane has been all these years after surviving a fire at a funeral home as a child, Cornette envisioned him chained up in a basement where he’s kept by his storyline father and Undertaker’s jilted manager, the late Paul Bearer — who would stop in every so often to check on his tortured “son” and feed him putrid, raw steak with bread covered in maggots.
We, the viewers, would see this in a vignette through Kane’s eyes from behind his mask, like in the Halloween and Friday the 13th film series. We’d also have heard his heavy breathing, reminiscent of Myers, as he holds his hand to a candle flame. Rather than flinching, Kane would giggle in grunts as if he was Doomsday — to add another influence to the list.
Pictures and cut-outs of Undertaker taped to the wall from the floor to the ceiling were supposed to be in front of him — much like how the priests in films such as The Omen and Annabelle: Creation covered rooms completely with pages of the Bible to keep evil out or contained — and Kane would set them ablaze. Instructed by Bearer to blame his brother for the confinement and rotten food, Kane’s revenge would begin.
This pitch by Cornette never made it past the concept stage and, according to him, grossed out McMahon who would come up with worse, more grotesque things for Kane, Bray Wyatt, and himself to do in the following years; not limited to lighting people on fire or eating strange things.
“I may have been ahead of my time for WWE in 1997,” said Cornette on his show. “Instead Vince called up creative services and had a superhero outfit made, red tights [and] red mask.”
Despite Cornette’s skepticism that someone held in solitary darkness by his rotund evil father, and his future manager, could have the means and wherewithal to get a costume made, Jacobs was sold on what became his signature look for most of his career.
In McMahon’s mind, Kane looked up to superheroes in a weird way to compensate for traits he lacked deep down; confidence, restraint, nobility, a sense of justice, and forgiving nature. “As Glenn said in the special [WWE Rivals that aired on A&E], ‘Kane wants to be better than The Undertaker so he wants to look better too,” Cornette recounted with chagrin.
When asked his perspective on “psychopathic serial killer from the movies or superhero with a red cape,” co-host Brian Last answered “I’m not into the whole raw meat thing” and Kane’s appearance worked better without an explanation. Last added Kane worked well under a mask and should go down as one of the all-time great masked wrestlers.
WWE would tamper with the character eventually by turning Kane into a goofball and ditching the mask for a number of years before both he and Undertaker retired to pursue other ventures and ride off into the sunset.
Jim Cornette is equally retired from promoting wrestling, performing on-air, commentating, and traveling which he did a lot of for four decades. Known for his explosive temper, he’s become notorious lately for his intransigent stances on the way wrestling is booked and presented nowadays on top of his left-wing political views.
Although a fan and supporter of Jacobs for a long time, his view, like so many others when it comes to the Knox County Mayor, has soured since Jacobs’ conservative pro-life position became public knowledge in light of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.