Ask even a lapsed fan of pro-wrestling to recall the characters they remember, and they’re sure to mention Kane. A stalwart of the Attitude Era through to today, “The Big Red Machine” has received more character transplants than you can shake a stick at, but his initial appeal endures. Mayor Kane – My Life in Wrestling and Politics offers a compelling glimpse at the man behind the mask, Glen Jacobs.
Following forewords by the Undertaker and Senator Rand Paul, Jacobs chronicles his upbringing. Born in Madrid, Spain, but raised on a farm in Bowling Green, Missouri, he was introduced to Wrestling at the Chase by his grandmother, with Baron von Raschke making the biggest impact on a young Jacobs’ mind.
Six foot eight by eighth grade, he was a natural at basketball, being recruited by some Division 1 colleges. Jacobs joined Quincy College (now Quincy University), bulked up from 230lbs to 320lbs, and was recruited to the football team. But then things fell apart.
Jacobs had torn his ACL. The Chicago Bears offered him a contract, but backed out at the last minute. His football career was over. But as one door shut, another opened when he saw WWF Prime Time Wrestling at a friend’s house.
Wrestling quickly became a passion. Trained by T.C. “Nightmaster” Rocannon in Missouri, the small crowds convinced him to start learning under Jeff Jarrett and the USWA. This lead to his first match on TV, portraying one half of a Russian wrestling championship tag team in a losing effort to Dutch Mantell and Reno Riggins. For those that think his run of terrible gimmicks began with Isaac Yankem, DDS, he is then repackaged as the ‘fearsome’ Christmas Creature.
Not enamored with the start to his career, Jacobs began studying wrestling full-time under the famous “Professor” Boris Malenko. In an undocumented part of his career, he traveled to Japan to work for the shoot-style Fujiwara Gumi promotion.
An equally fascinating period of his story is his trip to Puerto Rico at the behest of Dutch Mantell. Taking the mantle Doomsday from the Superman comics, Jacobs clearly had a great time, despite some dicey encounters with the notorious crowds.
Things didn’t stop there. After tagging with John Layfield (the future Bradshaw/JBL) in Otto Wanz’s CWA, Jim Cornette and Smokey Mountain Wrestling came calling, and Jacobs was repackaged as the fearsome (for real, this time) Unabomb. His short-lived team with Eddie Gilbert fell through, and he was paired with Al Snow.
In the wrestling world of 1995, a 6’8”, 315lb monster of a man was unlikely to remain unsigned for very long. Catching the eye of Jim Ross and Vince McMahon, Jacobs aced a try-out against Reno Riggins and was offered a contract with the WWF that allowed him to continue wrestling with SMW. At one of McMahon’s famous meetings, he was presented with a gimmick that he was as unenamoured with as the fans – the wrestling dentist, Isaac Yankem, DDS. Jacobs was lost for words.
In Smokey Mountain things were more rosy, with him claiming the tag team championship with Al Snow, and then being booked for the first time against a man who would help define his career, the Undertaker.
Despite a run against Bret “Hitman” Hart, Yankem was a bomb. Things wouldn’t get much better when he was paired with Rick Bognor as the ‘Fake’ Diesel and Razor Ramon, in spite of a fun run in Mexico.
Then the call came that would change Jacobs’ fortune. Pitched a program with the Undertaker, Jacobs managed to get the name Inferno (and a dodgy looking cape) changed to the character we all know, Kane. The mask and costume came from a surprising source, and in spite of his car dying on the way to the arena, we got one of the most iconic debuts in WWF history.
Kane tore through the promotion on a path of destruction. Jacobs is surprisingly humble about the experience and thankful to those that sold for him. The next few months are indelibly etched into minds of the fans, and his squash of Mankind, his brief feud with Vader, his ‘Mania match with the Undertaker, and their Inferno rematch are all covered. So are his program with Steve Austin, one-night WWF Championship run, tag team with Mankind, and the Brothers of Destruction. Jacobs has an interesting take on the Montreal Screwjob and continuing Over the Edge 1999 after Owen Hart’s death, and reveals the origins of his signature head tilt. He fondly recalls his tag team with X-Pac, as well as a candidate for the most fun wrestling promo of all time opposite The Rock and Hulk Hogan.
Jacobs was asked to unmask, and goes into detail about the mixed emotions he had. He clearly had more fun torturing the poor McMahons, tombstoning Linda and making Shane’s life hell. The story skips forward several years from there, moving onto his fantastic coupling with Daniel Bryan as Team Hell No, and their “Anger Management” angle, as much fun for the participants as it was the fans.
Jacobs’ run as Corporate Kane ends the wrestling portion of the book. The final quarter delves into his political beliefs, and your interest in these will dictate how much you enjoy this portion of the book. He’s introduced to Libertarianism by an unlikely colleague and chronicles his journey all the way to becoming Mayor of Knox County.
Jacobs is eloquent and it remains an interesting read no matter your political preferences, but it’s disappointing that the space isn’t used to cover his 2004-2011 wrestling career, including his storyline with Lita, Tag Team Championship victory with Big Show, the Imposter Kane and ECW debacles, and his World Heavyweight Championship reign.
Another bugbear is the lack of juicy stories that non-WWE autobiographies usually contain. There are laughs – Jacobs’ time as a grizzly bear’s stunt double, a Japanese couple having an unexpected hotel room guest, driving to the wrong Terre Haute, and his ongoing program with Pete Rose. The man behind the mask seems a genuinely nice person, and it’s not clear if the lack of dirt is down to his character or his current role as a mayor.
Nevertheless, Mayor Kane – My Life in Wrestling and Politics goes great with the recent Broken Skull Session and Photo Shoot episodes on the WWE Network, and is recommended for fans of 90s wrestling, the Attitude Era, and “The Big Red Machine” himself.