These days, Glenn Jacobs is primarily the mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. Sure, he still makes occasional appearances as Kane in WWE, but it’s clearly not his main thing anymore. Nevertheless, he’s obviously a man who still loves wrestling and is proud of his accomplishments in the field. In a recent appearance on X-Pac’s podcast (transcribed by WrestlingInc), Jacobs talked about the gimmicks he was given when he first arrived in WWE and why the first two didn’t succeed.
His first gimmick was simultaneously straightforward and bizarre. Isaac Yankem DDS was an evil dentist, who was introduced by Jerry Lawler in video segments before debuting in the ring.
[Isaac Yankem] came out in a time where WWE was shifting philosophies, where we were going from a purely PG product and getting into much more edgy and the Attitude Era was still a couple years away, but I was kinda the last of the over-the-top characters we had… Frankly, I never got into the character. I always make the pun that I couldn’t sink my teeth into it [laughs].
It wasn’t me, and I couldn’t make it work plus I was still pretty green at that point. I was still trying to figure out my way around through this whole thing. And here I was in WWE… and I am in the ring with these guys that I’ve watched on TV… You know, “Oh gosh what am I supposed to do?” And you can’t have that attitude, I mean you have to have the attitude of “I belong here” and I didn’t have it at that point. It was certainly not my favorite character but now they’ve made a wrestling action figure out of it so I have to like it.
After Isaac Yankem hit his relatively low ceiling, Jacobs got a different gimmick, although it came to him second hand. Being a very tall man, he was cast as Diesel, the same character Kevin Nash left behind when he departed for WCW to start the NWO with Scott Hall. The attempt to sell Jacobs as the same guy is usually just made fun of these days, but Glenn’s more positive about it than you might expect.
Conceptually [fake Diesel] sounded pretty cool, but it just didn’t take off that way and I don’t think the audience really ever got behind it. But again, for me it got me more experience and I was determined to make that succeed.
Glenn Jacobs is often discussed as one of the deepest thinkers in wrestling, and I love the implication that he had a “conceptual” idea that made Fake Diesel cool, like a theory that Diesel is a spirit who inhabits different bodies or something. When Diesel-in-a-new-body failed to take off, Jacobs was given the role that would make him a star: Kane, the masked demonic brother of the Undertaker. Initially Kane was presented as mute, scarred, and barely human in his behavior. Jacobs told X-Pac that is was teaming up with him that enabled Kane to expand as a character, which in turn gave the gimmick longevity:
It was great. It helped me out tremendously, because up until that point Kane had just been like an emotionless monster and what that did for me, our tag team, was it really helped round out my character because it showed that Kane has feelings and all that stuff which I never had before. It humanized me enough that people could relate much better…. And all the stuff we got to do man, it was a blast, and like you said a lot of times when you have tag teams that are bookends, having something that contrasted so much and was so unique… We could have great matches with anybody.
Some fans still prefer the original “emotionless monster” version of Kane to anything that came after, but it’s easy to see how expanding beyond that transformed the gimmick into one that Glenn Jacobs could keep playing through a variety of iterations for the next 20 years or so. Now that all those years have passed, it’s interesting to hear the man behind the demon (and the dentist, and the doppelganger) put his career in perspective.