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ITR BOOK REVIEW    
The Unauthorized (and Unbelievable)
History of Kane 

November 17, 2005

by the Canadian Bulldog    
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Journey Into Darkness: The Unauthorized History of Kane
By Michael Chiappetta
World Wrestling Entertainment Books
315 Pages

A lot of people I know heard about the concept behind this book -- a kayfabed history of WWE's Kane -- and immediately rendered it the very definition of WrestleCrap. I mean, how could you write about subjects such as Paul Bearer, Katie Vick and the fictitious Callaway family WITHOUT making it sound like a resounding joke?
 

That's what I thought, too, when I picked up the paperback version at a Chicago airport recently. I hadn't heard much about "Journey" since its September release, but I was determined to buy it anyways, purely for the shlock value. Hell, I own a good two-dozen wrestling books and biographies, everything from "In The Pit With Piper"

to "Pro Wrestling For Dummies" -- I couldn't exactly exclude this one from my collection. Plus, the book's length was perfect for the quick flight back to Toronto. 

Now, if this book was just written as a joke, I probably would have given it a quick read and forgotten about it; no harm done for about 7 bucks (U.S.). But I'm here today to tell you it's not quite the joke you might think it is.

A quick search on Google and Amazon.com shows that this is a first book for author Michael Chiappetta (Italian for "Chia Pet"?), although perhaps the poor guy just wanted to use an alias after drawing such an odd assignment from the folks at WWE Books. And make no mistake about it -- this is hardly "unauthorized"; the WWE logo on the cover should tell you at least that much. The "unauthorized" reference makes everything sound a bit more ominous, I guess.

I should preface this by saying that I've never been a huge fan of the Kane character. It has nothing to do with his in-ring ability or his admittedly-decent look. When he debuted in 1997, he was portrayed as a one-dimensional cartoon; The Undertaker's long-lost brother, a cross between the Dead Man and Frankenstein. And of course, even though they've attempted to give his character a few more "layers" over the years, they haven't been very stellar attempts.

But what if there was a decent explanation behind Kane's madness; something more than the Russo-esque account that was force-fed to us, and conveniently changed numerous times during the late 90's? One minute, he killed his parents. The next minute, it was actually The Undertaker who did the deed. One minute, he and Taker are mortal enemies, and the next minute, they're best of friends. One minute, he needed a voice-box to speak, the next minute… well, you get the picture.

That's what "Journey" attempts to explain, in a writing style that borrows a little from Stephen King and a little from John Grisham (not nearly as strong as either author, mind you). We begin with a four year-old Glen Jacob Callaway (tying Kane's real name of Glen Jacobs and Taker's Mark Callaway in somewhat), awakening as his family's funeral home burns to the ground and apparently, as the only survivor.

Right from the start, Glen has several disadvantages in life; besides being hideously scarred from the fire, his eyes are two different colors and he suffers from a medical condition where he feels no pain (Samoan Head Disease?). I'm sure he would have been best to take his story to the Maury Povich show ("If you know someone who was scarred from a fire and eyes are different colors, call Maury at …").

Not to mention there's a curse that his mother's side -- The Kane Family -- bestows on each generation. To top this all off, Glen is haunted in his dreams by a former employee at the funeral home, one Paul Grimm (you can guess who "Paul" turns out to be, and if you can't, you're just not trying hard enough).

With the help of a kindly social worker, Melissa Vick (yup, Katie's momma), Glen becomes a foster child, bouncing from home to home, often with disastrous results. Child abuse, abandonment and a society that shuns Glen because of his looks only add to his growing personal demons.

But while Glen starts evolving into a teenage monster, Paul Grimm has broken into the wrestling business (with a nice nod to his start with the Von Erich family), and his prized protégé just happens to be a decidedly non-dead Mark Callaway. No word on if Mark no-sold back in the USWA as well.

I don't want to spoil the entire book (well, more than I already have), but through a tragic series of events, Glen becomes Kane and is hellbent on confronting his brother, thus Kane makes his WWF debut. We follow the brothers Callaway through their initial confrontations and subsequent reunions and feuds before this story comes to a close.

Now… is this farfetched, even by wrestling biography scenarios, a genre so silly that it once printed a story about Roddy Piper commentating so well that it made Vince McMahon throw up? Well, duh.

But you can't judge it on that basis: as far as storytelling in a Pro Wrestling Illustrated, "ain't-kayfabe-grand?" kind of way, this book is the shit. It's a compelling, albeit short, read, and probably not exactly what you were expecting. If you didn't know who Kane was before reading this, you may even be apt to cheer the big lug after reading what he (allegedly; remember, this is "unauthorized") had to go through. Yet, like any good prequel, it ties up some of the loose ends and sets the stage for Kane's later WWE career.

Therein lies the real problem: had WWE's own writers put a fraction of this effort into explaining Kane's backstory (and it didn't have to all be done upon his debut; they certainly could have done some of this during his 2003 heel turn), I guarantee you a lot more people would care about the Kane character than those who do today.

Want proof? Take a look at how over Mick Foley was after his series of interviews with Jim Ross in the late-90's. Granted, Mick's life story was more parts truth than fiction, but the writers (or perhaps it was Jim Ross) put so much effort into describing the wrestler that fans started buying into the character. The first time Mick showed up as "Dude Love", he was instantly accepted by the crowd as something of a cult hero.

You can argue that they TRIED to do the same thing with Kane during his heel turn a couple of years back, but I would argue that was more about making him look like an evil shmuck than it was to evoke sympathy. Add to that the fact that Kane's storyline rape (and forced-marriage) to Lita and all the SHNITSKY!!! stuff that happened from there, and… well, it just didn't build him a whole lot of sympathy.

So is "Journey Into Darkness" for you? I guess that depends. If you're determined to be cynical about an obviously-phony storyline and are just generally one of these "Vince McMahon sucks and everything he does is horrible right now", well, it's probably not your cup of tea. But if you're looking for a quick little escape into a world of wrestling fiction, it's worth a read.

Personally, I wish they did more of this type of thing. Not for every character, mind you; it simply wouldn't wash in today's environment. But for those whose gimmicks that have a cartoonish slant to them (and here I'm thinking of The Boogeyman, if they're actually interested in investing time in him), it could be a good tool to help explain the character to new fans.

E-MAIL THE BULLDOG    
BROWSE THE ITR ARCHIVES

Canadian Bulldog is a columnist for Online Onslaught who has published a wrestling book of his own. Click here to learn more about "Thanks For The Compliment!!! Canadian Bulldog's Nuttiest Letters Ever! EVER!!!".


  
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