WWE's Glenn Jacobs on The Undertaker's 'Final Farewell'
In 1997, The Undertaker’s "brother," Kane, came to WWE Badd Blood: In Your House. The “Big Red Machine” ripped the door off the hinges of the Hell in a Cell cage and came face-to-face with his onscreen sibling for the first time. Since then, they've been opponents and “Brothers of Destruction.”
These memories and more flood back to Glenn Jacobs, the man behind Kane, as he inches closer to Survivor Series — dubbed the "Final Farewell" — a November 22 event celebrating 30 years of Mark Calaway embodying The Undertaker. We sit down with Jacobs, current mayor of Knox County, to reminisce.
The Brothers of Destruction documentary sees you sitting down with Mark to talk about the history of The Undertaker and Kane. What was filming that like?
Glenn Jacobs: It was really awesome. I went down to Austin, Texas, to meet up with Mark and the crew. It was a small theater that due to COVID-19 of course [didn't have] a live studio audience. We just got to talk for three hours about The Undertaker-Kane rivalry, the "Brothers of Destruction," and Paul Bearer. It was the first time in history Glenn Jacobs and Mark Calaway have had that conversation in public, which I think fans everywhere will really enjoy.
It was also pretty neat because for me it filled in many blanks. It gave me more appreciation for the history between the two of us and the characters. I actually got to ask him questions I didn’t know the answer to just because I had never thought of them. In WWE, you’re performing every night and going all over the place and everything is a blur and goes by so quickly. A couple of times something would come up and I’d be like, “I’ve never asked you this.” For me, it was really cool to be able to fill in what essentially are blanks in my career.
What questions and answers were particularly eye-opening?
I think one was when the initial idea for Kane was presented to him — what was his reaction to it? I never really asked him that. It was one of those deals when we started doing it, we just ran with it. To realize that he was excited and as excited as I was. Throughout the years I always give Mark a hard time because he was such a great athlete and performer that he was asked to work with other giants who were not up to his level athletically. He would really have to sacrifice a lot to make the match look good.
With me, he knew he had someone who was also a really good athlete and could hang with him. He was excited about that and the story, this amazing larger-than-life overarching mythology. It was neat to hear he was excited about it and it wasn’t just, “Oh gosh, here we go again. I got to pull this greenhorn through this match.” Instead he was pumped and knew we were able to do good business together. Of course, neither one of us would think it would last over 20 years. It was reassuring to know he felt the same way I did about the Kane character.
You’ve had so many great matches together. Which is most special to you?
The two are the first WrestleMania match and Inferno match [at Unforgiven]. The WrestleMania 14 match was special because it was my first WrestleMania. To be there against The Undertaker in that spot as the culmination of this storyline was a dream come true. Fast forward to the next month and it’s the Inferno match. I think a lot of people thought the WrestleMania match would be the end as far as Kane was concerned. And if I would be around for a while, I’d probably be dropped down the card. We then have this even bigger spectacle at the next pay-per-view in the Inferno match. The first time anything like this had been done in WWE. I actually thought it was one of our best matches from a technical standpoint. I would pick the Inferno match as a fan, but for me emotionally, the WrestleMania match was my favorite.
You got to tell this story with such depth. Is there anything you feel you left on the table together?
One of the things about WWE is everything moves so quickly. Just because of the nature of the business things can get left on the table because you can’t always take your time and bring depth to everything. We do mention this in the documentary, but there are certain things we wanted to take more time doing. Unfortunately, the industry and nature of the beast doesn’t allow that. I think overall just the fact that Kane was introduced in early October of 1997 and then on until April 1998 for WrestleMania. In between we had this long story. The fact we were able to do that and fill that with good content and move away from Kane versus Undertaker and get back to it later on. That made up for shortfalls or disappointment we may have had otherwise.
Do you have a favorite moment from that initial WrestleMania build?
It was right before Royal Rumble where it was Undertaker versus Shawn Michaels in the casket match. I ended up putting Undertaker in the casket and setting it on fire. The week before that we had teased Undertaker and Kane coming together. DX was attacking Undertaker in State College, PA [on Raw]. It appears we were going to put our differences aside and reunite. The crowd was so into it I had goosebumps. Then of course there was the big swerve and the next thing you know I put Undertaker out of action for a few months. Being able to do all that stuff and take our time with that story. No matter what came after, that was the money right there.
What did you make of The Last Ride docuseries? What was going through your head when you found out he was approaching the end of his career? Were there conversations between the two of you beforehand?
I knew he was getting to that point in his career. We didn’t talk about anything specific as far as how it would go. When it comes to The Last Ride docuseries, I was there for some of that. You can tell that was kind of the wrapping up. It’s really bittersweet for me because of my personal relationship with Mark and The Undertaker and Kane. It’s a story that is very important to me. Personally, I’m also a fan of The Undertaker. The Undertaker, he doesn’t age. It’s kind of like when you’re six years old and finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. It’s like, “Man, The Undertaker is retiring? What is happening with the world?”
It’s shocking in a way, but nevertheless as long as Mark is happy. That’s what I think is important. I’ve had conversations with him over the years. He once told he would go as long as he felt he could not disappoint people. When people would come to a show and watch The Undertaker and feel that was The Undertaker. If he got to a point where physically he wasn’t able to do it, that is when he would have to hang it up. He has had some issues like we all have with injuries as you get older. He is at this point now. The fact he still had a great match this year with AJ Styles in that Boneyard match at WrestleMania. He wants to go out on top and doesn’t want to diminish the mystique of The Undertaker in that manner. I think he made a good decision. Although it is bittersweet.
Does seeing how he has handled his retirement make you look at your own career and the future?
Very rarely do people in WWE get to go out on their own terms. It just happens. Whether it’s an injury or a creative falling out. The way he is going out doesn’t happen very often. So it’s wonderful to see someone like Undertaker have that. I’ve never had that big last sendoff. Don’t know if I will, and that’s okay. It is what it is. Truly, if I were thinking of a storybook ending of a WWE career, I think Mark was able to do that, and I’m really happy about that.
How would you sum up your bond with Mark and the years working with him as The Undertaker?
Mentally, our relationship was one that started with, “I can’t believe I’m talking to The Undertaker !” Very much one where I was in awe because I was a huge Undertaker fan before I got into the wrestling business. Then it turned into much more on my part, like a mentor-student type thing. He was a guy that I listened to and tried to emulate in how he carried himself inside and outside the wrestling business. Then through the years it got to be more than that. We were equals and friends. It got to the point where we talked about matches, and he asked what we should do in a particular spot. That was different because early on it wasn’t quite like that. I would sit there and be quiet and listen to what I was supposed to do. Then the fact he trusted me to even try to make a match better. He looked at me and trusted me to do what I was doing.
What do you want people to know about the man behind The Undertaker?
I think the thing that surprised me the most was Undertaker is funny. He has a great sense of humor. He is just a really good guy. He is sort of a quiet man, but he is just a funny guy who will do anything for you. When you think of The Undertaker and this intimidating presence that we saw for so many years on TV, that ain’t Mark Calaway. Mark Calaway is a warm person. It’s hard to envision that when you see The Undertaker character to realize the person behind it is just a good man who will do anything for you. He has done a lot for me. He is literally the guy you would want to play golf with or have a beer with or invite over for a barbeque. That doesn’t necessarily fit the The Undertaker persona, but it is who he is at the end of the day.
Brothers of Destruction, November 15, WWE Network
Survivor Series, November 22, Pay-Per-View and WWE Network