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Call it wrestling, call it sports entertainment, but no matter what you call it very few if any performers in the history of the industry have earned the level of respect of Mark William Calaway. The Undertaker has earned it from both his peers, the media, and the fans.
For the next 3 blogs we here at We Talk Wrestling / We Talk Podcasts will attempt to chronicle the life and key events of the man, exploring both who he is and whom he portrayed through pictures that hopefully capture his legacy.
We thank you for joining us in this journey and we start here looking at Mark Calaway before he became The Undertaker, behind the scenes moments of during his time in the WWE and in his personal life in…
Deadman Walking – A Visual History of The Undertaker Part 1: The Man Behind The Legend
Every Legend has to start somewhere, and for The Undertaker it started (gasp) as a child. That’s right, a seemingly normal, happy child. Weird, huh?
A teen aged Mark Calaway. He cleans up nice.
The earliest evidence of Calaway’s size and athletic ability was on the Basketball court, where he played for the Texas Wesleyan University Rams.
He was just a big happy kid wasn’t he?
While still in University he debuted as Texas Red for World Class Championship Wrestling. Unfortunately this was his very first ever match against the awesome Bruiser Brody…
Obviously it didn’t end up as the best of nights.
I’m not sure why Calaway wore a mask during the early part of his career, but as you’ll see it was likely just him looking for a gimmick he was comfortable in. Obviously, that took a while.
Like this gimmick of a recently released convict fresh out of prison for killing 2 men in a fight and serving 5 years in solitary confinement. I do believe he was at least spared the horror of being named Nailz and having to where an ugly orange jumpsuit. Seriously, what a horrible gimmick that was for Kevin Wacholz, not that this one is great for Mark Calaway.
This is his debut in the Continental Wrestling Association as The Master of Pain. At this point, he’d been in the business about 4 years.
Yeah there’s still a long way to go, but at least here you can see the work on finding his look is heading in the right direction.
Here’s a fascinating look at a face off we’ll see years later in a Wrestlemania main event. The masked man was known as Lord Humongous, but you all would know him better as Sycho Sid Vicious.
In Japan he was known as “Punisher” Dice Morgan.
One of his frequent tag partners in Japan was Scott Hall, here still going with his Magnum P.I. inspired look. That’s right people, it’s Razor Ramon and the Undertaker… Sort of.
Obviously they got along well.
And met many others who they would run into again while wrestling in the Land of the Rising Sun.
By the time he’s paired with Dutch Mantell (better known for some of you as Zeb Colter) to challenge Jerry “The King” Lawler in the USWA Calaway seemed much more comfortable and confident.
Here’s one of their early battles.
This led to Calaway finally getting national exposure. Now known as “Mean” Mark Callous and partnered with Dan Spivey when Sid Vicious left The Skyscrapers, Teddy Long once again seemed to have a dominant force in the WCW Tag Team division.
Their biggest feud was against the iconic Road Warriors. Here Mean Mark rope walks before pounding down Legion of Doom member Hawk.
But when Dan Spivey left WCW another change came and Mean Mark was positioned for a singles run with Paul Heyman, going by Paul E. Dangerously at the time.
The future seemed incredibly bright, and it was hard to not imagine WCW having a future star. After all, just look at the awesome presence Calaway possessed. Luckily for all of us though, WCW didn’t see it that way, paving the way for them to allow his contract to expire. Shortly after he would sebut as The Undertaker in the WWF, and the rest is history.
Now don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of coverage of his career in the WWE, focusing on two separate later entries. One will look at his time as The Undertaker including key events, feuds and changes in looks. The other will be dedicated to just The Streak. But this blog is more about his time when he’s not The Undertaker. So let’s continue our look at Mark Calway the man.
Here’s a great behind the scenes picture of Mark Calaway with a man who meant so much to both his career and him personally, the late William Alvin Moody, who was loved by wrestling fans as Percy Pringle and Paul Bearer.
And a backstage photo with another of the all time greats, Randy “Macho Man” Savage. This is the real Mega Powers!
You can’t deny, there’s a ton of star power in this picture of John Cena with Mark Calaway, but damn, all I can really think is how huge is The Undertaker anyway?
Maybe a better question is just how huge is The Great Khali?
The Undertaker, Vince McMahon and a young, fresh faced, but still scary looking Brock Lesnar.
And here he is with his buddy and the other guy to have a legendary streak in the business, Bill Goldberg.
There’s been a couple of acting roles for Mark Calaway. Here he is one of my guilty pleasures, Suburban Commando with Hulk Hogan and Christopher Lloyd.
And here he is getting out of his comfort zone, playing The Soul Taker on the Showtime / Sci Fi Channel TV series Poltergeist: The Legacy.
And of course who can forget his portrayal of Dirty Harry in one of the great Wrestlemania 21 movie parodies that the WWE did.
One part of being a public figure is the inescapable scrutiny of your personal life, as evidenced by Calaway’s marriage and well publicized divorce to his second wife Sara.
But luckily the 3rd time’s the charm. Mark Calaway and WWE diva Michelle McCool married in 2010.
Here is Mark Calaway with his son Gunner. It can;t be easy having to grow up under long shadow of The Undertaker, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. One look together tells you they’re father and son.
Always gracious to his fans, The Undertaker has posed for many a picture with members of the WWE Universe.
And here at a gym pretending to choke slam a fan… At least I hope he was pretending.
Speaking of a gym, here’s The Undertaker with MMA trainer Dave Paladino.
Because Mark Calaway is at at a stage where has earned the right to enjoy his life.
And seems at ease with where he is.
Because the man behind The Deadman is more than just the gimmick.
Much, much more,
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