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    Tuesday, January 19, 2016

    #ThemeSongTuesday (1/19/16): The Demonic Case of Dr. Yankem and Mr. Jacobs

    Glenn Thomas Jacobs. How would you paint an image of a man named Glenn Thomas Jacobs in your head? “Easy!” says the Casual Fella, “Mr. Glenn T. Jacobs sounds like he lives in a house with a picket fence, runs a modest insurance agency, and probably listens to NPR.” While our Casual Fella isn’t far from the truth, the name Glenn Thomas Jacobs paints a slightly different picture for a regular smark. To start, this painting uses a lot more red and orange. Replace the picket fenced-house with fire and brimstone, the insurance agency for a Top-Rope Clothesline Factory, and NPR with a mix of Jim Johnston and Finger Eleven.

    Now this is where pieces of Jacobs’ legendary in-ring character Kane comes together. It’s difficult to forget what WWE has done to his persona as of late, obliterating whatever was left of what made the demon terrifying with the Director of Operations angle.

    Source: WWE
    Nevertheless, nearly twenty years of Kane had more of its bone-chilling ups than the downright uncomfortable, necrophiliac downs. Leave the rosaries and prayers behind, because this week on #ThemeSongTuesday, we’re taking a trip straight to Hell.

    Source: WWE
    Jacobs, prior to becoming Kane, began his wrestling career in the early 90’s with CSWA (Central States Wrestling Association). The man is a beefy 7-footer, so his first name—Angus King—fit him perfectly. Shortly after, he began exploring different promotions and gimmicks. Jacobs took the role of Doomsday in USWA (United States Wrestling Association) and under his real name in PWFG (Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi), a Japanese promotion that specialized in shoot style matches. He moved a lot, at one point even going up against Sting in what would be his only WCW match as Bruiser Mastino back in 1993.

    It was only when he wrestled as Unabomb in the WWE-affiliated promotion Smoky Mountain Wrestling did we get his first theme song: “Unholy” by KISS.

    Unholy, you say? Did we see shades of the iconic demon he’d become even before he started with the WWE? We can read into it and deduce that now but back then, Unabomb was a big, non-demonic dude that warranted a grungy rock theme anyway. Not only did he have a match with his future fake-half-brother The Undertaker, he got a taste of gold as SMW Tag Team Champion alongside Al Snow in The Dynamic Duo. In February 1995, Jacobs was moved to the WWE and wrestled dark matches on and off as Mike Unabomb up until August.

    However, he made his first televised appearance on RAW in July of the same year when he was introduced as Jerry Lawler’s private dentist, Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS. The initial gimmick was simple: Lawler hired his brute of a dentist to eradicate the company of Bret Hart, with whom he was feuding with at the time. Yankem’s theme, “Root Canal” by Jim Johnston, was nothing short of perfect.

    This is by far the most physically painful theme to listen to, and we’ve listened to Stephanie McMahon’s. We could almost hear the dentophobia growing in every man, woman, and child that sat through this and the titantron. Several bouts with The Hit Man, another encounter with The Undertaker, and a handful of jobbing later, and the character was put to rest in 1996.

    Things took a turn for the what-the-fuck-is-going-on, when Jacobs was given the gimmick of Fake Diesel. This was during an angle that meant to ridicule Kevin Nash and Scott Hall for leaving to return to WCW (Rick Bognar was given the Razor Ramon character). The storyline barely lasted a year. In that year, we saw our fair share of cringe-worthy promos, yet another match with The Undertaker, and a losing effort for the WWF Tag Team Titles to then-champions Owen Hart and The British Bulldog. During this year, Fake Diesel used real-Diesel’s theme: “Diesel Blues”, another one by Jim Johnston.

    Fake Diesel made his last televised appearance at the 1997 Royal Rumble match, coming in at #27. Thankfully they closed this highly unfavored chapter before it could do any real damage to what would be his final major character change. We can smell the destruction already.

    Later that year, they began a storyline that involved The Undertaker and Paul Bearer, wherein the latter heavily implied that The Dead Man had a long-lost brother. A brother that was left burned and broken after a fire broke out in their family funeral home that apparently was caused by The Undertaker himself, by accident. This back and forth continued until October, and during the main event of Badd Blood: In Your House, Glenn Thomas Jacobs introduced the mortal world to the demon Kane.

    Jim Johnston provides yet another theme that fits like a glove: “Burned.” Kane’s very first theme and soundtrack to his iconic debut. 

    The opening organ billows a cloud of fear and uncertainty over the crowd. The dreadful electric guitar melody, progresses almost like a million-mile walk of suffering through Hell itself. The image of Kane ripping the cell door out of its hinges as The Undertaker, for once, looks on in pure terror. If there was an effective way of introducing a character the audience was supposed to shit their pants at the sight of, this was it. 

    Source: WWE
    Kane would keep this theme for the next three years, the longest he’s ever kept up a character in his entire career so far. During those three years, he had quite the series of events unfold. We explored more of his history with The Undertaker and saw their rivalry go through a vicious back and forth (which included the very first Inferno Match). He also managed to strike up a short feud with Mankind, take the WWF Championship from Stone Cold Steve Austin at King of the Ring ‘98, lose the championship the following night on RAW and then reconciled with Mankind to form a tag team that would go on to win the WWF Tag Team Championship. Twice.

    Phew. Kane eventually got sidelined for a month after WrestleMania 2000 due to a hand injury, but not before he turned on Mankind, reconciled with The Undertaker, formed the Brothers of Destruction with him then turned on him shortly after, got committed to an insane asylum, got out of said insane asylum by joining The Corporation, formed another two-time WWF Tag Team Championship winning team with X-Pac, and then got involved a long feud with X-Pac after being betrayed. Oh, and he learned how to talk.

    After a well deserved month-long rest, Kane returned to RAW in May of 2000. In the midst of a feud between The Rock with The Brothers of Destruction and The McMahon-Helmsley Faction, the brothers managed to strike their long-lasting rivalry up once again. The battle went on till the end of 2000, when the Big Red Machine ended up in a rivalry with Chris Jericho.

    On the June 19 episode of RAW, Kane debuted an updated version of his classic theme in a Handicap Match against the Hardy Boys.

    “Out Of The Fire”, also by Jim Johnston, is a slightly faster version of “Burned” with noticeably more prominent guitars and drums. At this point, the demon had all the momentum riding into the new millennium behind him, so it’s only right that his theme made us hear that. Louder guitars. Louder drums. Faster tempo. He’s had an explosive past three years, but he’s only just getting started.

    Kane went on to win a few more pay-per-view matches against Jericho, but ultimately lost the feud in a Last Man Standing match in Armageddon ‘00. What was next for the demon? After patching things up again with The Undertaker, he entered the 2001 Royal Rumble. He held the record for most eliminations that night with 11 superstars eliminated (a record that was broken by Roman Reigns 13 years later), solidifying the “If you hear Kane’s music, shit’s about to get fucked up” mindset.

    The next time we’d hear a new theme from Kane was during the very first post-brand extension episode of RAW, where he faced off against former rival now-NWO member X-Pac. Funny enough, the first time we all heard Kane’s most popular theme to date was on April Fool’s Day.

    Ha! The joke was on...well, nobody, since the song was great. Canadian rock band Finger Eleven took Johnston’s original base melody from “Burned” and shot some life into it with added layers of instrumentals and lyrics! (The track was also on the Canadian release of WWF Forceable Entry, an entire album featuring themes re-recorded by established artists) Many wrestling fans were bothered by these lyrics, believing that a vicious monster like Kane didn’t need the “whiny vocals” that entailed his new theme. Unfortunately, there’s an explanation for that. Sigh.

    Following his World Tag Team Championship run with The Hurricane, Kane won the Intercontinental Championship from Chris Jericho and fell into a rivalry with long-time tormentor Triple H. The two were set for a match at No Mercy 2002, putting both titles on the line. A few weeks before the PPV, Triple H cut a promo wherein he tells the story of a woman Kane had an unrequited love for: Katie Vick. Ugh. Just, ugh. Just watch this: 

    So, yeah. That was the then-World Heavyweight Champion and current Executive Vice-President for WWE… simulating intercourse with a dead woman’s body while posing as Kane. It’s believed that the lyrics to “Slow Chemical” were inspired by the Katie Vick incident, which make the “whiny vocals” fitting. He eventually lost his Intercontinental Championship to Triple H, and ugh. Let’s just not say any more about this angle. 

    This was a drastic change to Kane's theme at the time, and it's what the character needed. This was at a time when the company ushered in a new era. The Monday Night Wars were over, and WWE was big enough to manage two main brands, each having its own wide variety of wrestlers and stories. Kane was no longer just The Undertaker's brother. He had his own history, his own angels to vanquish, his own goals to accomplish. He accomplished quite a lot. 

    The Devil’s Favorite Demon would keep the Finger Eleven theme for the next six years, accompanying him through another World Tag Team Championship run with Rob Van Dam, a feud with Shane McMahon, a romance/pregnancy angle with Lita that culminated in a botched wedding and a miscarriage, a feud with Matt Hardy and Edge during the Lita angle, another World Tag Team Championship run with the Big Show, a feud with himself, a reunion with The Undertaker after being drafted to Smackdown!, a feud with King Booker, and a solid run as ECW Champion after defeating Chavo Guerrero in 11 seconds, the fastest WrestleMania match ever. 

    Those six years were an era on their own. An era that defined Kane for a lot of us, making "Slow Chemical" the crowd favorite. It was tough to see it go, but unexpectedly on the August 18, 2008 episode of RAW, Kane would begin a feud with Rey Mysterio and start to use a new theme: “Man On Fire”. 

    With Jim Johnston still as the driving force behind the theme, you’d expect it to be a step up, right? Not necessarily. This theme brings back the organ intro from his debut theme, “Burned”, pumping the production value up a notch by highlighting the bass notes and giving it a more cathedral reverb feel. Unfortunately, when the rest of the instruments come in, there’s something obviously missing. The guitar riff. Remember the “million-mile walk of suffering through Hell itself” riff? Yeah, it’s completely gone. What we get in its place are muffled distortions of what sounds like remnants of the riff, but resembles more of a low quality metal track downloaded straight from Limewire. Every element of what makes Kane’s theme is still present, but the missing riff will forever make it feel incomplete. 

    On the RAW SuperShow (December 12, 2011), The Big Red Machine returned from his day job as a welder, accompanied by a very familiar tune.

    Is that “Burned” we hear? No, it isn’t. It’s “Veil Of Fire”, Kane’s 8th and latest theme song. 

    Isn’t it pretty much “Burned” anyway? Technically, it is since it’s just a pitched up version of the more menacing original. The beautifully dreadful guitar riff is back, but I’m personally not so sure if the decision to shift the pitch a semitone or two was a good idea. “Veil of Fire” has a heavier goth rock influence, especially when the extremely high pitched synths start hopping over the dragging beat. 

    Since this theme’s debut, Kane has gone through his most drastic changes and also his most entertaining gimmicks. I’ll make sure we differentiate the two, though. His feud with Daniel Bryan that turned into the World Tag Team Championship-winning Team Hell No! after anger management? Yes. Yes. Yes. Ditching his demon persona to join The Authority and become Director of Operations/Corporate Kane? No. No. No. His multiple personality gimmick during his feud with Seth Rollins? Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. That could've been great.

    Source: WWE
    Kane was personally my favorite wrestler growing up, and is such a huge part of what made me love professional wrestling in the first place. From his moveset to the way he’d be part of the most refreshing tag teams (Mankind, RVD, The Hurricane, Daniel Bryan), the demon that Glenn Jacobs brought to life filled me with such destructive terror and childish wonder. The character deserves more than what he’s been getting as of late, but hey. If I’m gonna start complaining about bad booking in WWE, I better take a number. They can start by bringing “Slow Chemical” back, though.

    What was your favorite theme from the numerous characters Glenn Jacobs portrayed? Let us know in the comments below!


    When he isn't writing Smark Henry's #ThemeSongTuesday column, Lorenzo Magnaye hosts the #HomeRun on 99.5 PlayFM. It's a good thing, too, since his childhood consisted mostly of watching professional wrestling and listening to his parents on the radio. He's only recently rekindled his love for the WWE, and has been trying to make up for missing out on everything post-WrestleMania XX by praying to Seth Rollins thrice a day. Follow him on Twitter: @RenzoSaurus!
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