On January 29, 2017, the Royal Rumble will return to the Alamodome to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first time San Antonio hosted the event and the 30th anniversary of the first Royal Rumble.
KENS 5 talked to WWE superstar Kane about the upcoming WWE pay per view event.
If you’re wondering why Kane would know so much about that night despite Kane not premiering in the WWE until October of ’97, it’s because Glenn Jacobs (who plays the character of Kane) competed in the Alamodome’s Royal Rumble as Diesel. Kevin Nash, who originated that character in WWE had left for WCW. The then-WWF decided to have someone else play that character for a short time.
During the interview, Kane talked about the atmosphere not only in the stands, but in the locker room that night, as the WWF was losing to the WCW in the Monday Night Wars and looking for a spark.
Javi Perez, KENS 5 Digital Producer: The Alamodome was a unique experiment for the WWE. The only large venues like that had hosted Wrestlemnia, not the Royal Rumble. What was the atmosphere like in the building that night?
Kane: In the building, of course, it was amazing. There was a sea of people. I’d never been in front of a crowd like that before. I think you’d have to go back to Wrestlemania III at the Silverdome to see something like that, with that many people at a WWE event. So the atmosphere was amazing.
Our business was really coming onto an upswing. Just like any other business, we go through cycles. We had a particularly bad cycle before that and we were coming up out of that with the rise of a guy named Stone Cold Steve Austin. We were on the upswing. And I think that really helped us get to the next level, because any time you can draw a crowd of 70,000 people, that causes buzz and causes people to talk about it. There was a lot of excitement all the way around.
Javi: You may have felt an upswing at the time, but January of 1997 was probably the lowest point of the ratings war in terms of the number of people watching on TV on a weekly basis. You’re saying that you could feel the build in the locker room and with the crowds before it started showing in the ratings?
Kane: It’s strange, but certainly a unique phenomenon. For a long time, I think that our show Raw was actually better than WCW’s flagship show Nitro, but it wasn’t reflected in the ratings because there was a lot of momentum on their side. And then, of course, what happened was when we were finally able to beat them in the ratings, we never lost again. It just shows you how much momentum played a part in all that.
We were in the middle of a change of philosophy to the Attitude Era. I think everyone could tell that Austin was going to be a major major star. All those factors combined, we realized, “Hey, you can draw 70,000 people to an event,” and you realize that the magic is still there. It’s not like, ‘Oh this should be great and everything.” No no no. When you get 70,000 people to come out for something, that means that people are interested in it.
Again, I think that all of us realized that the reason that WCW was beating us in the ratings was momentum, and that was it. And then, at some point, if we could break that momentum, that we could take over and win the Monday Night Wars.
As someone who went through that, I remember seeing a clip from the [WWE Network] documentary [series], where Triple H talks about how it was serious business. Nowadays, we look back and romanticize how it was a good time, but for us it was a lot of stress and a lot of pressure because if we lost we were going to be out of a job. So we were very much emotionally and financially invested in winning the darn thing.
Javi: The WWE is about characters and stories, but there are a few statistics and records that everybody talks about. How cool is it that every year in the lead up to the Royal Rumble, your record for all-time eliminations is a part of that promotion?
Kane: Well yeah it is, of course, because you’re part of history. I never thought my most eliminations in one Royal Rumble [record] would be exceeded, but Roman Reigns did that.
Who knows? There are some records that don’t look like they’ll be broken. The Undertaker’s unbeaten streak at Wrestlemania was another one. It’s shocking when they are. Hopefully, years from now, when someone is approaching that record of mine, it’ll be one of those that people will say, “That’s never going to be broken.”
Javi: As I said previously, the Royal Rumble being hosted at a stadium is long overdue. How do you think the night will go this coming January when the Road to Wrestlemania begins?
I think it’s going to be awesome. We are in a bit of a different place. Now, we’re a much more global product than we were [20 years ago]. Nevertheless, there’s a lot riding on the Royal Rumble, always is: a title shot, a title match at Wrestlemania, which is what everybody shoots for.
I think it’ll be electric. I think it’ll surpass the excitement of 1997, actually.
Javi: And it’ll probably set a new record for attendance, meaning that the two highest-attended Royal Rumbles in history will both be at the Alamodome.
That night in San Antonio was really good to the State of Texas. Stone Cold Steve Austin won the Royal Rumble match and Shawn Michaels won the WWE Championship. I think that one there in San Antonio, you guys are going to remember 1997 for a long time. So hopefully we can give you something in 2017 you can remember for a long time too.
Javi: If there’s anything that Texans love is talking about how things are bigger and better here. I’ve already got my tickets, so I’m looking forward to the show and what’s in store for the buildup as well. Kane, thank you so much for joining me.
Kane: Awesome, man. I appreciate it.