It’s that time of the year when we all tune into the Thanksgiving tradition spectacular that is Survivor Series. Which means it must be time to take a look through the career of a wrestler worthy of being called The Wrestling Mania Superstar of the Month. Is there any man who has more history at the big event than the Undertaker?
Before we get to that though, we should really look at what exactly led to the dead-man being born. May-be one of the oddest sentences I ever typed right there. Anyway, born in Houston, Texas in…now, this is a point of much debate in the wrestling world, when was the Undertaker born? Well, first of all we can safely say he was born on March 24 seems to accepted by everyone as the actual date.
When you look up the year of birth though, boy you’re in for a whole variety of dates. They range from 1959-1968. After reviewing all the information at hand I believe he was born in 1965. There’s a possibility that it was 1964, but, I believe 1965 matches the dates slightly What seems definite is that he played basketball in college and was actually awarded a four year scholarship to Texas Wesleyan University where he only played a single season, ’85-’86.
During his time at the university it’s said he began attending local wrestling shows and that is where he first got the idea that he wanted to become a wrestler and his coach advised him to only train one sport at once, so ‘Taker finished the season. Once he had dropped out he immediately sought out training. His first attempt was a disaster though. Wrestling historian Greg Skelley provided me with the following story:
“Buzz Sawyer ripped Mark off in Texas. Mark paid him $500 to teach him the basics over a week’s period. Buzz showed him the initial tie up in the alley behind the bar they made the deal and nothing else. He told him he’d meet him the next day to continue training. But instead Buzz left first thing in the morning, leaving Mark untrained and $500 lighter.”
From there according to Percy Pringle III, later known as Paul Bearer, ‘Taker wound up training with Don Jardine, better known as the Spoiler. The training started in either late 1986 or most likely early 1987. Certain places note that ‘Taker wrestled briefly at independent shows for a short period of time before starting his career properly in World Class Championship Wrestling during the first half of 1987 as Texas Red.
Again we fall back on Percy Pringle’s stories here. In the book BRODY that he recalls:
“I swear Brody [He was booking Dallas at the time] only sent you out there with me because he knew I’d need help to the back.”
Debut Match in WCCW:
Before that ‘Taker actually made another appearance for WCCW though. At the time Bruiser Brody had to leave Texas (In story-line) after losing a match to Abdullah the Butcher. Almost immediately after a new masked man appeared named Red River Jack, he looked remarkably like Bruiser Brody. After a few weeks of Red River Jack running riot much to the fans enjoyment, it was demanded he unmasked. In stepped ‘Taker for the night to unmask and Bruiser Brody was in the clear to continue under the mask until his ban ran out.
Red River Jack was actually either unmasked or appeared alongside Bruiser Brody regularly as a way to prove Brody’s innocence even though everybody really knew. Rick Davidson is also said to have been under the mask on occasions when ‘Taker wasn’t around. Late February seems the best kind of date for when ‘Taker first appeared as Red River Jack.
Once the Red River Jack angle had played by May of that same year Bruiser Brody was allowed back in WCCW and the above debut match took place. As you can see in the video he wrestled under the mask and went by the name of Texas Red. There’s a story that this was to hide his identity from his coach, however, this seems to be just that a story, especially given the information mentioned above. Just to confirm because it is such a common mistake that is made by practically every website out there, ‘Taker debuted in 1987 NOT 1984.
Not much really happened for ‘Taker going forward, there was a lot of of behind the scenes going on in the promotion and it wouldn’t be until he ended up in Memphis following part of the deal reached between the Von Erichs and the Jarretts. It was there he debuted as the Master of Pain and quickly worked his way through competition until he finally defeated Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler for the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship on April 1, 1989.
Jerry Lawler Vs. The Master of Pain:
He held the title for just 24 days before dropping it back to Jerry Lawler. When he headed back to Texas ‘Taker competed under the name of the Punisher. There he managed to capture the Texas Heavyweight Championship on October 5, 1989. This time his reign was just 15 days before Kerry Von Erich toppled the big man.
Kerry Von Erich Vs. The Punisher:
Steve Austin Vs. The Punisher:
Several weeks later he was in WCW and going by the name of ‘Mean’ Mark Callous, which Terry Funk has said he gave to ‘Taker. Pretty much straight away he was interjected into a tag-team with Dan Spivey called the Sky Scrapers. Previously Spivey had teamed with Sid Vicious, unfortunately he suffered an injury, but that left the door for the new big man to step into his place.
Road Warriors Vs. Sky Scrapers:
That match is probably the one memory most people have for them and for good reason as they were really destined to go nowhere. It seems after Sid was injured any plans that they did have were disbanded and they just kind of made the rounds of the WCW tag-teams at the time. In march he toured New Japan Pro Wrestling mainly wrestling in four-man or six-man tag-team matches.
Scott Hall and The Punisher Vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Masa Saito:
By May Callous was wrestling as a singles competitor back in WCW beating many low name talent building up to a match with Lex Luger at the Great American Bash 1990, for the United Stated Heavyweight Championship. Following that loss he was pretty much jobbed out for the rest of his time in WCW. Obviously he realized this and he decided it was time to make a move and it just so happened the WWF was interested in the athletic big man.
Lex Luger Vs. ‘Mean’ Mark Callous:
And then his reign of terror was unleashed onto the unsuspecting WWF crowd. He debuted as a man who appeared to be dead, impervious to pain, wore all black and had a really white face. Although he had already wrestled for the WWF recording matches for Superstars, they were taped, and his actual televised debut would be at the Survivor Series 1990.
Just a small side note here on the Undertaker character. It’s said part of the character was based around Bruiser Brody who Larry Matysik says used to drive a hearse to the ring in the San Antonio area saying something along the lines of, “May as well just drive this to the ring because when I’m through with my opponents they’ll need one anyway.”
We pretty much all know the WWF/E career of the Undertaker. The casket matches with Yokozuna, the various monsters, giants, and weirdos he faced in the early years up until his feud with Mankind and the introduction of Kane, the Hell in a Cell matches, the Ministry of Darkness, the time as an American Bad Ass, the return of the deadman, and so forth into being the main attraction at most Wrestlemania’s and becoming the legend that nobody ever thought that gimmick could achieve, even with the talented Mark Calaway playing the role.
For 23 years the gong has tolled. The lights have gone out. The Undertaker has appeared and struck awe, fear, and admiration, often all three at once, from audiences across the globe. There is no doubt in everyone’s mind that he is a guaranteed Hall of Famer. Every time he returns for Wrestlemania, everyone knows what a special moment it is and people get their money’s worth from his performance alone, no matter how anyone else performs.
Of course this is a look at his career though so I’m not going to just end it here, I figured I’d list some videos and you can pick and choose the memories of the Undertaker you want to see, rather than me just telling you about them. Enjoy, there may even be one or two surprises in there.
Survivor Series 1990 Debut:
February 1991 saw the debut of Paul Bearer:
Hulk Hogan Vs. The Undertaker – Survivor Series 1991:
Haku Vs. The Undertaker – WAR 1992:
Giant Gonzalez Vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania IX:
Yokozuna Vs. The Undertaker – Royal Rumble 1994:
Promo from the Gangstas hyping The Undertaker’s upcoming match in SMW:
Diesel Vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XII:
Jinsei Shinzaki (Hakushi) Vs. The Undertaker – Michinoku Pro 1996:
Mankind Vs. The Undertaker – Summerslam 1996:
Bret Hart Vs. The Undertaker – Summerslam 1997:
Shawn Michaels Vs. The Undertaker – Ground Zero 1997:
Kane Vs. The Undertaker – Judgment Day 1998:
Steve Austin Vs. The Undertaker – Over The Edge 1999:
The American Bad Ass Debut’s – Raw 2000:
Kurt Angle Vs. The Undertaker – Survivor Series 2000:
Edge & Christian Vs. The Dudley Boyz Vs. The Brothers of Destruction – No Way Out 2001:
Kanyon & DDP Vs. Brothers of Destruction – Summerslam 2001
Maven Eliminates The Undertaker – Royal Rumble 2002:
Ric Flair Vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XVIII:
Jeff Hardy Vs. The Undertaker – Raw 2002:
Brock Lesnar Vs. The Undertaker – No Mercy 2002:
Mr. McMahon Vs. The Undertaker – Survivor Series 2003:
Return of the Deadman – Wrestlemania XX:
Randy Orton Vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XXI:
Punjabi Prison Match – Great American Bash 2006:
Mr. Kennedy Vs. The Undertaker – Survivor Series 2006:
Batista Vs. The Undertaker – Survivor Series 2007:
Edge Vs. The Undertaker – Summerslam 2008:
Shawn Michaels Vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XXV:
CM Punk Vs. The Undertaker – Hell in a Cell 2009:
Shawn Michaels Vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XXVI:
Triple H Vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XXVIII:
CM Punk Vs. The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XXIX:
– By Jimmy Wheeler