Reviews

TJR Review of WWE Untold: That’s Gotta Be Kane! (WWE Network Special)

A new episode of WWE Untold aired on WWE Network on Sunday night that told the story of Kane’s debut in WWE at the Badd Blood 1997 pay-per-view. Kane made his WWE debut during the epic first-ever Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Shane Michaels. I am watching on-demand on WWE Network in their “Originals” section. I posted my WWF Badd Blood 1997 Review on Sunday because I knew I was going to review this Untold episode.

I have reviewed two previous episodes of WWE Untold as well: Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon at King of the Ring 2001 and Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan).

Here’s the synopsis from WWE Network:

That’s Gotta Be Kane!
In Your House: Badd Blood was a pay-per-view that changed WWE forever. Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Kane and more reveal behind-the-scenes stories from that night’s main event: the very first Hell in a Cell Match and the debut of The Big Red Machine, Kane.

The opening video showed some highlights of the Hell in a Cell match.

Kane (aka Mayor Glenn Jacobs) shared some photos from his youth and I have to show you this one of him with his family. Clearly, he had his mother’s hairstyle! It made me laugh.

Anyway, Kane talked about growing up in small-town Missouri north of St. Louis and he played sports. He said a serious knee injury ended his football career while noting that he wanted to be in sports all of his life. He said that being in WWE gave him that thrill of being a professional athlete. Kane said he never dreamt that his dreams of being a famous person could actually come true.

They showed a clip of Shawn Michaels being interviewed by Jim Ross in July 1997 just talking about his career at the time.

The Undertaker did not appear on camera in current form, but he did a phone interview, so it said “Voice of the Undertaker.”

The Road to Hell in a Cell

The Undertaker laughed about how where he and Shawn were in 1997 compared to now is very different. Taker had a line about how if Shawn was on fire back then probably wouldn’t have pissed on him to put the fire out. He laughed about it. In other words, Taker didn’t get along with Shawn that well in 1997 because of Shawn’s attitude. They get along much better today.

Shawn Michaels did an interview wearing a NXT shirt. Shawn said that he was an obnoxious kind of guy while Undertaker was more of the “Cool Hand Luke” kind of guy that was relaxed. Taker added that with that being said about Shawn’s behavior, there is nobody that he would rather be in the ring with than Shawn. Taker said when it came to bell time, they knew it would be something special. Clips aired of their Ground Zero September 1997 PPV match, which was their first PPV singles match. Taker said that the gift that Shawn had is that he knew how to get you invested in the story. Taker said that Shawn had the ability to tell the story the way it needed to be told. Taker talked about how he came into WWE as a monster and he spoke about how he would look into the crowd to see kids crying. I can vouch for that being true!

Shawn spoke about how Vince McMahon had strong feelings about not putting Michaels in a feud with Undertaker for many years. Bruce Prichard, who is a WWE Executive, talked about how you had to keep both guys strong. Shawn said that they found themselves in a place creatively where they thought it would be just one pay-per-view (Ground Zero), but then it went so well and they continued to go with it. (The Ground Zero ending clearly set up Hell in a Cell, so I think he may have misspoken a bit there.) Shawn said that led to him going with Hunter with Degeneration X (with Chyna and Rick Rude). Taker talked about it saying that it manifested from there to where they would put Michaels inside Hell in a Cell with Taker with the idea being there would be nowhere to run.

Analysis: I found it odd that they didn’t even mention the errant chair shot from referee Michaels to Undertaker at SummerSlam 1997 and that chair shot cost Undertaker the WWF Title in his match with Bret Hart. That’s the reason why this rivalry started, so they did omit that point when talking about it. My guess is WWE didn’t want to show it since it’s such a brutal chair shot to the head.

The Undertaker’s leap over the top at Ground Zero 1997.

The Kane Character Concept

Kane spoke about his career matter of factly: “My career before Kane…stunk.” He said that Isaac Yankem DDS and Diesel didn’t work out very well. He said that he thought he would have a very short career. The Undertaker talked about how Glenn (Kane) was a really nice guy and a genuinely nice human being. Taker said that in that era, you had to stand up for yourself and have some balls. Taker spoke about how by the time Kane came along, Kane probably realized that. Kane said he felt like Vince knew that Kane could do something as a wrestler, but it was a matter of finding the right spot.

Bruce Prichard told the story about how they were in a creative meeting where he pitched the idea of The Undertaker having a brother named Kane. That led to Bruce and Kane telling stories about the creation of the character. Kane said that they initially wanted to name the character “Inferno,” which Kane wasn’t a big fan of. Kane noted that Bruce was a fan of the name Kane. They noted that Undertaker was originally “Kane The Undertaker,” which was also spelled “Cain The Undertaker” as well when Undertaker had a match on Superstars in late 1990.

(Side note: I’ve heard different stories on the creation of the Kane character with Jim Cornette playing a big part in it, but that was not mentioned here. I found this Cornette interview talking about the Kane character where Jim didn’t claim to create the Kane idea. He went along with it because he knew Kane was almost fired after the bad gimmicks Jacobs had to portray.)

Bruce’s son is named Kane with Bruce saying he actually put the Kane mask on his son when he was born on February 27, 1999. They showed a baby picture.

Kane talked about the genius of Vince McMahon because Vince is the one that told him that Kane had a shattered ego due to being scarred and he was overcompensating for that by becoming this superhero with a mask. Kane said it sounded good to him. Kane said he was watching Raw as a clip aired from June 30, 1997 with Bearer telling Undertaker that Kane is alive. That’s when Kane realized it was a big deal. They showed Bearer promos where he was yelling “He’s Coming” about Kane. Undertaker said he was happy about Kane getting that opportunity.

Shawn Michaels said that his interviews back then saw him speak his mind and he didn’t beat around the bush. Michaels spoke about how he was being silly, stuffing things in his shorts backstage and then he went out to the ring with this gauze in his shorts because somebody dared him to do it. They showed clips of Michaels with the gauze in his shorts and even pointed at it. I am not screen-capping that one. They showed a clip of September 15, 1997 on Raw when Michaels did his famous “blaze of glory” promo. The Undertaker was standing behind a cage where he did a promo in reply. Michaels did a promo off air where he called out Undertaker, which led to nothing and Michaels claimed people thought he “buried” Undertaker by doing that. Prichard said that Michaels pissed him off by doing that and, at the time, he didn’t want to say something to Shawn that he would regret. Michaels said he got home from the road, Vince called him at home, Vince yelled at Shawn and fined Shawn $10,000. Prichard said Vince also liked it because Vince thought they needed more attitude like that. Michaels said that there were many times in his career where he angered a lot of people, but on that particular evening he angered every person possible. Taker said there were things that Shawn did that he didn’t agree with, but when the bell rang, he knew everything would be paid off meaning he knew Shawn would always have good matches.

Analysis: I’m not sure if it’s common knowledge that Michaels was fined $10,000 for his behavior that night. I don’t remember hearing that before, but maybe I just forgot about it. There were many crazy stories about Shawn’s behavior in the 1990s.

The Hell in a Cell Structure

They focused on the Hell in a Cell concept with Michaels talking about Buzz Sawyer vs. Tommy Rich at the Omni in Atlanta on October 23, 1983. Michaels said he had mentioned it to Vince McMahon and he wanted to do a cage match with a roof on it. That led to WWE going over the top with it to make it Hell in a Cell.

There were comments from Michaels, The Undertaker and Kane talking about how impressive the HIAC structure was. Michaels said his first thought when he saw it was that he had to go on top of the cell. Michaels said that since this was the first Hell in a Cell match, he wanted to do something special for it since it was history-making.

Kane talked about going to Badd Blood in St. Louis, which was about 90 minutes from where his parents lived. Kane said his friend’s car wasn’t in a good condition and as they were driving, the car was on fire. Kane said there was a pop in the car, so they were rolling down the road. Kane talked about how this was his big break and he’s going to miss the whole thing. Kane noted that it was only 9am, but he was so nervous about it that he was thinking he would miss the PPV. They called his friend’s other buddy, who was going to the show and Kane was still early getting to the arena, but that day didn’t start the way he wanted it to.

The Hell in a Cell Match

Kane spoke about how The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels could have been the main event of WrestleMania (it was 13 years later). Kane said it was definitely a main event caliber match, which was true.

Michaels said his job was so simple that night: “My job is so simple and it’s to get beat up. Just how can you take the best ass-whipping in the world. That’s fun.”

They showed clips of the Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker dominating the action for the majority of it while Michaels was whipped into the cell repeatedly. Kane spoke about how they were at their very best with Undertaker beating up Shawn. Undertaker laughed about how Shawn definitely took an ass-kicking that night. Michaels finally got some offense going that included a piledriver on the steel steps.

The Undertaker said that he considered Shawn to be one of, if not the best ever to do this (be a pro wrestler) and he knew that they needed to do something big to have Shawn get out of this cell. That led to the cameraman spot where Undertaker gave Michaels a back body drop onto the cameraman. Michaels beat up the camera guy. That led to the cell door opening up, which led to Michaels escaping the cell with Undertaker right after him.

Michaels said that bleeding upped the intensity of the match. The blade job that Michaels did here was awesome because it happened while Undertaker gave him a catapult into the cell. Yes, we could see Shawn blade on camera, which is considered a no-no to most old school wrestling fans, but the fact that he did it while taking a move was impressive to me. Michaels said he had the ability to bleed a lot. They went to black/white footage, which is lame, but WWE today doesn’t want blood. Watch the match and you’ll see it in color.

The Undertaker spoke about how there was a really cool shot where Shawn’s blood was dripping from the cell and the cameraman was in the ring with the blood going onto the camera. You can see that in the screencap above. They even had a bonus clip of the camera guy saying “aww shit” and wiping the blood away from the camera. Taker said that the blood added context to how violent that match was.

Michaels talked about how he wanted to take a back body drop and a press slam on the cell, so he did. Taker said it steamrolled into a beautiful trainwreck. That led to the massive bump by Michaels off the side of the cell onto the announce table with Michaels wondering if he can make the bump. Michaels joked that he’s “not a big thinker” as clips aired of the table bump and JR yelled about how he was “broken in half.” This was the most replayed bump in WWE history until Mick Foley topped it in June 1998. Kane talked about how nothing like that had ever happened before while adding that this was textbook of how you have a great match like that. Kane: “It was as close to perfection as you can possibly get.” They went back into the ring where Undertaker hit a Chokeslam off the top rope. That led to a massive chair shot from Undertaker to Michaels as payback for SummerSlam 1997. That’s when the lights went out and Paul Bearer led Kane to the ring.

“THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE! THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE!” – Vince McMahon said it twice on commentary. It was actually Vince’s last PPV on commentary too. That call was pretty legendary and people still reference it to this day.

Kane admitted that he was really nervous because this was big break and also, this is Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, so he didn’t want to mess it up. Kane said that was the first time he heard the Kane music and he didn’t get to hear Vince’s call, but the crowd went nuts. Shawn talked about how Glenn (Kane) was gigantic. Undertaker said Kane was so ominous-looking and after this battle, Kane ripped the door off the cell. Bruce said that Kane was a strong son of a bitch and noted it was not rigged, it was a heavy door. Shawn said that it was so awe-inspiring and it was the only way to end the match. Shawn said that Kane’s presence meant so much to the match.

Bruce talked about how when Undertaker looked into Kane’s eyes, the one reaction by Undertaker looking shocked to see his “brother” is what made it so special.

The Undertaker said that there was a lot of backstory there without being able to say anything. Taker said that without being a trained actor, his thought process was that he was trying to live the story in his head because people had never really seen The Undertaker in a human sense. Taker noted that now you got to see something deeper with his character. Kane kicked Undertaker in the gut and hit him with a Tombstone in the middle of the ring. Kane left. Michaels crawled over, he draped the arm across the chest of The Undertaker the win and referee Earl Hebner did the slow count (because he was knocked out earlier) to give Michaels the win. The match went for about 30 minutes.

Michaels: “You could hear the gasp in the building like…ohhh. When it goes like that and you know you’ve hit it out of the park, it is a grand slam home run and they (the fans) are like…oh my God he’s gonna win.”

Undertaker talked about how they knew they had done something that will stand the test of time. Undertaker said that they knew right away they did something really special. Undertaker said he didn’t say this to be conceited, but they knew there were not a lot of people in the business that could have done what they did that night.

Kane: “I’m biased, but it was the greatest debut in history.” I think it’s very high up there, that’s for sure.

Closing Thoughts from Michaels, Undertaker, Kane and Prichard

There were only a few minutes left in the documentary as Prichard talked about how Michaels in the 1990s compared to Michaels today are two different people. Bruce noted that Shawn was an asshole (it was bleeped), but at the end of the day, Shawn Michaels was the best and no one can ever take that away from him. Bruce said that Shawn today has grown up like the rest of us.

Michaels talked about how he wouldn’t change what he did on his career and he wouldn’t change anything. Michaels added that there aren’t many people in this line of work that live with the joy in their life and the peace in their heart more than him. Michaels: “I wouldn’t change the path I’ve traveled…not one bit.”

Kane spoke about how everything that happened in his career really is based off what happened at Badd Blood in St. Louis and all of that is because Undertaker was willing to take a chance on him.

The Undertaker had a lot of praise for Kane: “A very, very impressive person is Glenn Jacobs. There has not been anybody that has been more loyal, more trustworthy, more dependable than Kane. I can’t say enough about the human being, the wrestler is phenomenal in-ring entertainer, a legend…all that. But as a human being, he far exceeds even his success in the ring.”

Kane got teary-eyed when he told a story about going to a concert in Knoxville where he was getting a soda for his wife and himself. A lady went up to him with his daughter and it was a picture with Kane and her son. Kane made a visit to Children’s Hospital and the mother told Kane that it was the last picture that she had ever taken with her son. He cried some more. Kane talked about how the greatest blessing his career ever gave him wasn’t the fame or the money and all that stuff. Kane said that you have the ability if you use it to at least bring joy to people and that’s incredibly powerful. He said he doesn’t know why he was given that, but he doesn’t take it for granted and it’s something he values very much. That was the end of this episode of WWE Untold.

This edition of WWE Untold had a runtime of 35:11 on WWE Network.

 

TJR REACTION

I enjoyed this a lot because the first Hell in a Cell match is one of my favorite WWE matches ever. It is very high up on the list of matches that I have watched more than anything in my life. I always say it’s like watching one of your favorite movies or an episode of a favorite TV show. No matter how many times you watch it, this match doesn’t get old and it’s always going to bring back fond memories. A lot of wrestling fans that grew up watching the WWF in 1997 also remember that year for how many amazing characters they developed and so many incredible moments. It was an awesome time to be a fan.

It was cool to hear the different perspectives of The Undertaker, Kane and Shawn Michaels. The Undertaker was fascinating to hear from because you don’t hear him break character often and talk about his matches like this. I felt like his presence made the documentary that much better. I also found it interesting to hear Undertaker talk about Kane as a wrestler and what he thinks of him as a man. When you think about all that Undertaker and Kane history over the course of the last 20+ years, it’s obvious they are close friends that have a lot of respect for eachother.

I thought Michaels was very honest throughout the documentary when he talked about how he rubbed people the wrong way in the late 1990s. When he says he wouldn’t change a thing, I believe it for the most part although I doubt he was thrilled about lying to Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1997. That’s another topic that has been beaten to death, though.

As for Kane, you could tell how big of a moment it was for him to debut as Kane in a match as big as Undertaker vs. Michaels inside Hell in a Cell. Plus, it was in St. Louis, which is near where Kane grew up, so when he says he was nervous, I believe him. Also, the story he shared at the end was very powerful and you could tell that seeing that boy’s mother meant a lot to him.

The presence of Bruce Prichard helped the documentary as well. Bruce offered more of a backstage perspective on the entire story. As any regular listener of Bruce’s “Something to Wrestle” podcast knows, Bruce is great at telling a story. Too bad we didn’t get any of his infamous imitations here.

Is Kane right in saying it was the best debut in wrestling history? I think there’s a strong case to be made that it was. There are so many memorable debuts including The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1990, but when you also consider the quality of this match, the first appearance of Kane is special.

This was a lot of fun to watch. I strongly recommend it if you are a fan of the first Hell in a Cell match or the characters of Kane, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Kudos to the WWE Network team that put this together. It’s the best “WWE Untold” special so far.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

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