Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a long look at the prolific career of one of WWE’s greatest ever Superstars, The Undertaker. Ever since his debut at Survivor Series, he’s provided the world with fantastic matches and memorable moments. With The Last Ride currently airing on the WWE Network, it’s only right that we pay homage to The Phenom. In part one, we look at his beginnings in professional wrestling, from World Class Championship Wrestling to his debut in WWE.

Mark Calaway began his career in the World Class Championship Wrestling territory on June 26, 1987. He appeared as the masked Texas Red with Percy Pringle the III at his side. Calaway had the daunting task of looking across the ring at Bruiser Brody, one of wrestling’s most feared and notorious grapplers. Calaway did not last long with the veteran, taking the loss in just under two minutes. Nonetheless, Calaway had his foot in the door, and in those days, that was already half the battle. Texas Red would make a few more appearances, all of which were losses, but Mark was gaining experience and learning the ropes as they say.

Less than seven months later, Calaway would be picked up by the Continental Wrestling Association where he would be given the name the Master of Pain, billed as just out of the Atlanta State Penitentiary for killing two men. He would challenge and defeat Jerry Lawler for the USWA Unified World Title and hold it for just three weeks before losing it back to Lawler. Calaway would then adopt the name and go back under a mask as The Punisher once the USWA bought out the CWA, where he would have a match with a young Steve Austin.

In 1989 Calaway would get called up to the National Wrestling Alliance as they needed another big man to replace Sid Vicious in the Skyscrapers tag team. At 6’8” and over 300-pounds, Calaway was more than capable of filling the void left by Vicious. He would be given the name of “Mean” Mark Callous by the legendary Terry Funk, and along with Spivey would be managed by Teddy Long. The Skyscrapers soon found themselves in a feud with the Road Warriors, Hawk and Animal, and were gearing towards a Chicago Street Fight at the upcoming WrestleWar pay-per-view. Frustrated with their treatment, Spivey would drop Calaway off at an arena and simply drive off, telling the youngster to inform the office that Spivey was not coming back to work.

Scrambling for a replacement Skyscraper yet again, management threw a mask on Mike Enos and simply called him the Masked Skyscraper. He and Callous would lose to the Road Warriors, thus dissolving the Skyscraper team. After this, Calaway would gain the managerial services of Paul E. Dangerously and get a singles run. Defeating Johnny Ace at Capital Combat, then Brian Pillman on Clash of the Champions, before being defeated by Lex Luger at the Great American Bash in a United States Championship match. NWA/WCW booker Ole Anderson would tell Calaway that while he was a good athlete, nobody would ever buy a ticket to see him wrestle. Seeing the writing on the wall, Calaway would attempt to speak to World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon in hopes of landing a job with the promotion. After a meeting, Vince told Calaway they had nothing for him right now. This left Calaway without a job as his contract had expired with WCW, and the WWF did not have a place for him.

Sitting at home, unsure of what his future held, Calaway would receive a call from Vince who, when Mark answered the phone, asked if this was his Undertaker. Baffled by the comment, and unsure of who was on the other line, Calaway played along and said, “yeah, this is your Undertaker,” as he had thought it was one of his friends pulling a prank on him. Little did he know that The Undertaker was a character idea Vince had and months later he would be making his WWF debut at Survivor Series.

Leading into the 1990 Survivor Series there was endless speculation about who would be Ted DiBiase’s mystery partner in the traditional 5-on-5 Elimination match. Names like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were being thrown around as many were expecting an Earth-shattering betrayal. Instead, in his unmistakable raspy voice, Ted DiBiase bellowed, “making his way to the ring with his manager Brother Love, from Death Valley I give you The Undertaker!” The Undertaker made an immediate impact, eliminating both Bret Hart and Koko B. Ware with his Tombstone Piledriver. Moments later, Undertaker would stalk an eliminated Dusty Rhodes up the aisle way as Rhodes would go after Brother Love. Despite not being the legal man, Undertaker would be counted out thus eliminated from the Survivor Series match.

In Part Two, we look at The Undertaker’s early rise in WWE, engaging in feuds with the likes of Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Ultimate Warrior.

By Mark Cannon Jr.

Total wrestling nerd. I also like Batman, Basketball, and video games!

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