KANE'S ABLE: Bret Hart's Wrestlemania Streak and the Man Breaking It

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KANE'S ABLE: Bret Hart's Wrestlemania Streak and the Man Breaking It
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A long-standing milestone will be unofficially surpassed, barring injury, in the coming weeks; most likely with little to no fanfare or reflection from the WWE or the wrestling world. As Bret Hart prepares to remove the faux-cast, presumably lace up his boots, and walk the aisle for what will be his first Wrestlemania in thirteen years, Glen Jacobs, aka ‘Kane’ will also be quietly preparing to pass under the marquee and make his way to ring for the Money-In-The-Bank Ladder Match.

Hart’s last match at Wrestlemania, as most remember, came in 1997 at the then Rosemont Horizon in PWI’s Match of the Year against rising superstar ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. The epic ‘I Quit’ Match cemented the rise of Austin as the first mainstream babyface badass and completed The Hitman’s heel turn. Never again would Hart reach the levels of popularity and admiration he had enjoyed in the mid-90s. What lay in front of him were years of hardship.

1997 marked Bret Hart’s 12th consecutive Wrestlemania, a record that has stood threatened but unbroken as the WWE prepares for its 26th installment this month. Barring injury or a last-minute booking change Glen Jacobs, as Kane, will compete in his 13th consecutive Wrestlemania, a new, albeit unofficial record.

Hart’s run was a testament to his skill, versatility, longevity, and value to a company that surged to meteoric heights. His first six events were in tag-team and battle royal competitions, but never were his moments unnoted or forgotten. Eleven years prior to the Austin showdown, both Hart and his partner Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart entered the 20 Man Over-the-top-Battle-Royal featuring NFL stars with WWF superstars (and some dudes I’ve never seen anywhere else).

Hart enjoyed the distinction of being the last man eliminated by the legendary Andre the Giant. As a second grader, Wrestlemania II, shown in syndication on Showtime and on my television set for years on VHS, was my introduction to pro-wrestling. And because Chicago Bear William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry was in the match, the battle royal became my first official favorite match. Who knew then, with Hart held in the air with one arm by Andre, what the next decade would hold for Hart, while so many wrestlers on that card faded into oblivion almost instantly. Kane, on the other hand, has been demoted to somewhat amusing run-ins with Pete Rose.

Hart’s twelve mania appearances picked up big time in 1987, as the Hart Foundation was joined by the crooked referee ‘Dangerous’ Danny Davis, in his marshmallow circus barker’s costume. The feud with the British Bulldogs was probably beneath only Hulk-Andre and Savage-Steamboat in terms of buzz, and I hated the Foundation with a passion for screwing over the Dynamite Kid, and his partner, who I thought was named ‘Baby Boy’ Smith.

The next three years saw Bret treading water with an amusing battle royal conniption fit (IV), a meaningless match against the Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine (V), and a twenty second squash of the Bolsheviks at Skydome (VI). By Wrestlemania VII, the Hart Foundation was enjoying their second run as tag-team champions, this time as babyfaces. They would drop the belts to the Nasty Boys in a classic, memorable match and an early example of Bret making very unskilled and out of shape performers look like a million bucks in the ring. Months later, his singles push began.

His match for the IC title at VIII against ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper was an instant classic, and twelve months later, Hart would find himself defending the WWF Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania IX against the 500 pound Yokozuna, inevitably paving the way for a disastrous Hulk Hogan mini-comeback.

The next year, Hart finally enjoyed his first true moment on top of the wrestling world, opening Wrestlemania X with his brother Owen. The two put on a wrestling clinic at Madison Square Garden, with Owen getting the shocker pinfall on his older brother. Hart would then take the title back from Yokozuna in the main event rematch from the year before.

Wrestlemania XI was probably the worst of Hart’s offerings, with Bob Backlund and referee Roddy Piper seemingly doing everything in their power to put on a stinker. It would all be wiped away the following year in the main event of Wrestlemania XII with the PWI Match of the Year against Shawn Michaels. The Iron Man Match is still widely regarded today as one of the best, if not the best, in Wrestlemania history. Eight months after the following year’s bloodbath with Austin, Hart was gone from the WWE seemingly forever.

            His streak of twelve straight Wrestlemanias runs the gamut of a professional career, showing growth and flexibility as he loyally showed up year after year, performing in whatever capacity he was needed. The matches were almost always memorable, and his opponents always more reputable afterwards. The Nasty Boys have never looked half as good, and Steve Austin called his match with Hart as the greatest of his career at Hart’s Hall of Fame Induction.

            No one has been able to stay both healthy and relevant for thirteen straight springs … until now. Glen Jacobs has had a long and intriguing run with the WWE, starting out as Isaac Yankem, DDS (maybe the second worst gimmick in wrestling history), then moving on to fake Diesel (maybe the worst gimmick in wrestling history), and finally as The Undertaker’s masked “brother” Kane (one of the best gimmicks in wrestling history) in 1997.

            Jacobs received a MONSTER push, with a huge match against Mankind at the infamous Montreal Survivor Series. He took Undertaker closer to defeat than any of the other men in the Deadman’s streak at his first Wrestlemania (14), and then tasted World Title gold in a first blood match with Austin later that summer. Jacobs would never again reach such heights, dropping the belt back to ‘Stone Cold’ the next night on RAW and enjoying only fleeting main event, to mid-card, to ‘ECW’ status.

On Sunday, March 28th, Jacobs, as Kane, will wrestle at his thirteenth consecutive Wresltemania, most likely to little or no fanfare or recognition by the WWE or the wrestling community. This is partly due to the unofficial nature of Jacobs’ streak. At Wrestlemania XIX in Seattle, Kane and Rob Van Dam lost to Lance Storm and Sean Morley in a tag-team title match that aired on Sunday Night Heat as the lead-in to the pay-per-view card. While not technically airing on pay-per-view, Jacobs opened the show for the same fans, in the same venue, on the same card. It aired on live television…

So where does this leave Jacobs and what could be considered a record-breaking streak?  Were Kane’s Wrestlemania resume a bit more impressive, would this achievement be receiving more official recognition? Sadly, a look at his run has provided many head scratching moments. He wrestled who? When did that match happen? Did they just find some guy selling pretzels in the stands and put him in the ring?

Admittedly, the streak, while an achievement of longevity, does not boast many high points. Don’t get me wrong. Kane is an excellent, hard working wrestle who has been loyal, done the honors for far less worthy workers, and avoided the wear-and-tear that has affected so many others. Longevity means something in wrestling.

Following Wrestlemania XIV, Kane defeated Triple H via disqualification (XV) in a largely forgettable match between two stars whose careers were going in opposite directions. In 2000, he teamed with Rakishi to defeat X-Pac and Road Dogg on a card stacked with meaningless tag-team combinations. I bet most of you forgot that match ever took place.

He was then relegated to Hardcore title match status (X7), lost to Kurt Angle (X8), opened XIX on Heat, had an unremarkable rematch with Taker (XX), teamed with Big Show, another main event castoff, against Chris Masters and Carlito (22), had one of the worst matches I have ever seen, against The Great Kali (23) whose push turned out to be a joke, defeated Mark Henry in the WWE.com dark match and then Chavo Guerrero for the un-coveted ECW title (XXIV), and has found himself tossed into a few Money-In-The-Bank ladder matches (XXI, XXV, XXVI).

While not necessarily representing a steady decline, Kane’s Wrestlemania resume has shown mild mid-card stability and longevity…. at most. Never has he found himself in the main event, nor even in a true world title match (I do not consider the WWE’s version of the ECW title to be a true world title). His opponents are not a who’s who of wrestling, and the pushes he has helped other wrestlers with, like Kali, have never really panned out.

While Bret Hart gets ready for one last in-ring farewell with the man who screwed him, and will also most likely carry him, Glen Jacobs, aka Kane, continues to push on, mirroring the longevity, trustworthiness, and durability that Hart once demonstrated without equal.

The greatest night in Glen Jacobs’ career came a few months after his first Wrestlemania when he won the WWF Championship at the 1998 King of the Ring. He held the title for less than 24 hours and has never again worn the gold. Many other men have seen the push that Jacobs received when he first donned the mask of the Big Red Machine, but few have stood the test of time as Jacobs has.

Kane will almost certainly not win the Money-In-The-Bank. He will most likely never enjoy a true world title run, or ever main event a future Wresltemania or Summerslam, or let alone an episode of RAW. He will not receive any adulation or have praise heaped on him in the coming weeks, other than maybe the equivalent of a gold retirement watch or future induction into the WWE Hall of Fame alongside someone less deserving like Bob Orton or Tony Atlas.

It is fitting that his record tying run will find itself on the same card as a wrestling God like Bret Hart. Kane will, as always, receive deserved respect from the fans, many of whom will then forget that he ever competed on the card… Glen Jacobs is Hart's seeming opposite in so many ways in wrestling, but in one major way, he has already proven himself a Wresltemania equal.

 

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