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By Thomas Wheeler

Despite being a longtime fan of the WWE, I've never really collected the action figures from Jakks Pacific. Don't get me wrong -- I think Jakks has done an excellent job over the years. It's just that their WWE product line has become so massive and so convoluted that there just didn't seem to be a decent "jumping-on point" for anyone who hadn't followed the line from the outset, which I had not.

That's why I'm really enjoying this 1:18 scale (3-3/4") "Build 'N' Brawl" line. The figures are smaller than the other WWE product, which is good news for those of us with limited display space, and also because of this, there's no direct connection between these figures and any of the other products make by Jakks, other than the fact that they obviously represent WWE superstars.

In a rather annoying bit of irony, it's been announced that the WWE license for action figures is headed over to Mattel. Their plans for WWE remain unknown to me. But in the meantime, for as long as this Build 'n' Brawl line from Jakks exists and continues, I have every intention of collecting and enjoying it. And reviewing the characters presented within it. This time around, it's KANE'S turn, as part of the second series of these cool figures.

The man who would be Kane -- real name Glen Jacobs -- got off to a very strange start in the World Wrestling Federation. He had the misfortune of coming on the scene during the era of ridiculous gimmicks, and was certainly given one. His early appearances billed him as Dr. Isaac Yankem, ostensibly dentist to Jerry "The King" Lawler, and now a massive individual who was a wrestling dentist. As preposterous as some of the gimmicks in the WWE were around this time, 1995, a wrestling dentist who stood about seven feet tall was pushing it.

Jacobs next character turn was even shorter. After wrestlers Kevin Nash and Scott Hall left the WWE to head to rival faction WCW, which was involved in a very heated rivalry with the WWE (I personally recommend the DVD "Monday Night War"), the WWE tried an attempted retaliation of sorts. Within the WWE, Nash and Hall had been known by the character names "Diesel" and "Razor Ramon". These names and the basic character premises were technically the property of the WWE. Nash and Hall could not legally use them in WCW. So the WWE decided to simply assign these two identities to other wrestlers, as well as turning longtime commentator Jim Ross "heel" for a time, and make him their manager. Jacobs ended up as the new Diesel.

However, this stunt was dropped as quickly as possible. The "new" Diesel and Ramon vanished, and J.R. returned to his commentary duties and behaved himself.

In October 1997, Jacobs was repackaged as Kane, the younger half-brother of The Undertaker. He re-debuted in the WWF at Bad Blood on October 5, costing The Undertaker the victory in the first ever Hell in a Cell match with then WWF European Champion Shawn Michaels. Kane and The Undertaker feuded with one another over the following year, during which time their history vis-à-vis one another was expounded upon.

The name was interesting, since in his very first appearance, years earlier, the Undertaker had been introduced as "Kane the Undertaker". The "Kane" aspect was soon dropped, probably because the name was too long, and he simply became "The Undertaker". No mention of the previous use of this name was ever made when Jacobs took on the Kane identity.

Jacobs won his first match as Kane against Mankind at the Survivor Series. In the weeks prior on RAW, Kane had randomly attacked other wrestlers including Ahmed Johnson and Mankind's alter ego Dude Love. The Undertaker initially refused to face him, saying he would not fight his own "flesh and blood." After a brief partnership, Kane betrayed his brother when he cost him the title once again; he made a run-in in The Undertaker's WWF Championship title match with Shawn Michaels at the 1998 Royal Rumble. After the match, Kane locked The Undertaker in a casket and set it on fire. This provoked The Undertaker into returning to defeat Kane at WrestleMania XIV on March 29. They continued to feud until Unforgiven on April 26, when The Undertaker defeated Kane in an inferno match.

According to the fictional origins, when Kane and The Undertaker were children, Kane "accidentally" burned down the family home, killing their parents and hideously scarring himself both physically and mentally. Both The Undertaker and Kane thought the other died in the fire.

Former Undertaker manager Paul Bearer opted to bring Kane into the WWF in
order to gain vengeance upon The Undertaker for mistreatment he had suffered.

The Kane character is portrayed as being psychologically unstable: depressed, schizophrenic, extremely violent, and quick to anger. Like his half-brother, Kane is supposedly able to summon fire and bolts of lightning at will. For years, Kane wore an all-covering bodysuit that was predominantly red with black streaks in it. This gained him the nickname "The Big Red Machine", a nickname he maintains to this day, even though his look has altered considerably. He also wore a mask over his entire face, which only had eyeholes and a small slit for a mouth. He was supposedly horribly scarred underneath, and unable to speak. The first time he spoke, it was with the use of a small medical device, giving his voice a tinny, mechanical sound.

Kane and the Undertaker have occasionally formed a devastating tag team known as the "Brothers of Destruction". With both men being roughly seven feet tall and 300 pounds, and given their individual in-ring characters, the name is certainly suitable.

Kane's "look" was substantially modified in 2003. Kane had formed a tag team
with Rob Van Dam, with the duo eventually winning the World Tag Team
Championship. After they lost their World Tag Team Championship, Triple H offered
Kane a spot in his group, "Evolution". RAW Co-General Manager "Stone Cold"
Steve Austin offered Kane the opportunity to face Triple H for the World
Heavyweight Championship if he rejected Triple H's offer; however, Co-General Manager Eric Bischoff insisted that Kane unmask should he lose the match. Kane
accepted Austin's offer and went to challenge Triple H the following week in
Madison Square Garden. Triple H won the match following interference from the
other members of "Evolution", and on the June 23, 2003 RAW, Kane removed his mask (and, in the process, his "hair" - Jacobs had his hair cut and half his head
shaved for this particular night, prior to this he had longer hair), revealing that his face was not actually scarred -- even if it wasn't particularly handsome, either. The storyline developed that most of the scars Kane had suffered in his younger years were mental ones.

Kane has maintained this look ever since, appearing mostly bald, with just stubble on the back half of his head. He has also gained the ability to speak, in a deep growl of a voice that is almost as intimidating as the Undertaker's. His red bodysuit has been abandoned for black leggings that have red lines resembling barbed wire running through them.

Kane would maintain a presence on WWE shows ever since that point, only taking some time off to star in a horror movie entitled "See No Evil". Most recently, at Wrestlemania XXIV, Kane competed in an over the top rope Battle Royal just before the actual broadcast (I suspect the match is on the DVD set) where the winner would face ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero later in the night. He won after eliminating former rival Mark Henry. Later in the night, Kane defeated Chavo in a WrestleMania record-setting eight seconds to win the ECW Championship. Shortly after winning the championship, Kane left SmackDown! where he had been active for some time, and officially joined the ECW roster.

So, how's the figure? Very decently made. I am certain that Jakks Pacific has created a series of body molds of various sizes to use in this Build 'n' Brawl line, and obviously for Kane, they chose one of the largest. It comes up just a little off in one respect, in that it isn't really thick enough front to back. Kane is massive, and he's a powerhouse, there's no doubt about that. But he doesn't really have the muscle definition of a bodybuilder, and his torso in profile is somewhat thicker than the figure allows for. However, this
is a relatively minor point, and no doubt a necessity of mass production costs. Not really a complaint here, just an observation.

Kane's headsculpt is excellent. The trick with Kane is making him look mean and ugly enough without overdoing it, which can't be that easy for a figure this small. Kane doesn't have a lot of distinct features to work with. If he still had his long hair and mask, that'd be one thing, but those are years in the past. What you've got with Kane is a man with a fairly large, bald cranium who is capable of some of the nastiest facial expressions on modern TV. The only real distinct point is a contact lens he wears in one eye to make the iris look like it's a whitish-blue, a leftover "scar" from his childhood
traumas. And that's sure not going to show up on a plastic figure head when the
entire head is only 5/8" tall and probably smaller than the actual contact lens Jacobs uses.

Fortunately, the sculptors at Jakks know their stuff, and know their wrestlers, and so the headsculpt for Kane is appropriately mean-and-ugly-looking, and really is an excellent likeness of the individual. The back of the head has been painted a very slightly darker shade of color than the front of his head has been molded in. This represents the little bit of stubble that Kane allows himself back there. Somewhat amusingly, Jakks painted it right along the mold seam of the head, but it works. That's right where it should be.

And, in fact, one eye does look a little different than the other.

Kane is wearing heavy elbow pads that restrict the elbow articulation a bit. However, these are actually removable if one so wishes. They've turned up on a number of figures in this line. Kane's hands are very nicely sculpted, with both hands open and fingers individually molded. Kane's right hand, especially, has its fingers posed in such a way as if just about to deliver Kane's signature finishing move, which usually involves picking his opponent up with one hand, by the neck, and slamming him to the mat before pinning him.

Kane's leggings are perfectly designed, black with the intricate lines of red "barbed wire" nicely imprinted on them. The lines are even consistent across leg and knee joints, which can't have been that easy to accomplish.

Articulation of the figure is superb. These Build 'n' Brawl figures remind me in some ways of the Marvel Superhero Showdown figures, except they're somewhat better made. They certainly have an amazing range of articulation. Kane is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, lands, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.

I have noticed that some of these figures will occasionally have a point or two that's a little loose, that moves a little too easily. This is unfortunate, and perhaps should be addressed, but also is unfortunately just as likely a simple consequence of mass production. Ultimately, nothing is perfect. Kane's not too badly off, though, in this regard.

The "Build 'n' Brawl" aspect of this line gets its name from the fact that each wrestler in a given series comes with a part of a wrestling ring that can be put together. With six figures in each series, this consists of four quarters of a ring platform, ring posts with turnbuckles, and ring ropes. The final ring is a little small to scale, unfortunately, but it's not a bad-looking construct.

So what's my final word here? I'm extremely pleased with this line. It's a long-awaited opportunity for me to add some of the best-known WWE characters to my action figure collection without being dragged into an overly convoluted line, or having to accommodate figures that are frankly of a larger scale than most of my collection, and that I simply don't have room for. The line has also proved to be extremely popular. The first series sold through very quickly, actually making it rather difficult for me to find certain figures within it. I expect the line to continue to do well.

If you're of a like mindset to me, where you've WANTED to have some WWE figures around, but just couldn't see yourself trying to make your way through the massive offerings of Jakks Pacific's main line, then the Build 'n' Brawl line is most certainly for you. It has my recommendation, and of course, the BUILD 'N' BRAWL KANE definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!