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The Undertaker

The Undertaker

American professional wrestler

Mark William Calaway (born March 24, 1965), better known by the ring name The Undertaker, is an American retired professional wrestler. Widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, Calaway is best known for his on-screen career in WWF/E from 1990 to 2020, in which he performed his critically acclaimed Undertaker gimmick.Although retired from professional wrestling, Calaway remains employed for WWE through a 15-year contract signed in 2019.

Calaway began his career in 1987, working under various gimmicks for World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and other affiliate promotions. He became USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion and WCWA Texas Heavyweight Champion during this time. After signing with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1989, he had a brief stint in the mid-card as "Mean" Mark Callous, before joining the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) in 1990.

Calaway was rebranded into a horror-themed gimmick with the name, "The Undertaker", once joining the WWF. Portraying an undead, funereal, macabre character, he gained significant mainstream popularity and won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards for Best Gimmick a record-setting 5 years in a row. A textbook example of WWE's Golden Age of freakish gimmicks, The Undertaker was intent on disrupting the confidence of his rivals while feuding with and combating them, done through varied alarmist tactics: delivering caskets, corpse-like effigies, theatrically chilling entrances, funeral tolling, etc. The longest-tenured wrestler in company history at 30 years, The Undertaker is one of the most prominent figures of the Attitude Era–a high ratings, envelope-pushing generation of the WWF/E in the latter 1990s. Desiring to perform under a gimmick truer to himself, Calaway expanded on The Undertaker gimmick by assuming a biker identity, dubbed "American Badass", in 2000. Calaway resurrected The Undertaker's Deadman identity in 2004 with residual elements of his biker identity blended.

For the better part of his career, The Undertaker was observed as a focal point of WWE's flagship annual event, WrestleMania, where he became esteemed for The Streak—a series of 21 straight victories. He is also known for pairing with his in-storyline half-brother Kane, with whom he had alternatively feuded and teamed off and on with as The Brothers of Destruction from 1997 through 2020. During his active career under The Undertaker gimmick, Calaway won the WWF/E Championship four times, the World Heavyweight Championship three times, the Hardcore Championship once and the World Tag Team Championship six times. He also won the Royal Rumble match in 2007. He is one of WWE's most prolific pay-per-view performers, headlining several pay-per-view events, including WrestleMania on five occasions.

The Undertaker retired from professional wrestling in 2020 and made a farewell appearance at that year's Survivor Series event, 30 years to the day after he made his on-screen debut for the company at the same pay-per-view brand.

Early life

Mark William Calaway was born in Houston, Texas, on March 24, 1965, the son of Frank Compton Calaway (died July 2003) and Betty Catherine Truby. He has four older brothers named David, Michael, Paul, and Timothy (died March 2020, age 63).He attended Waltrip High School, where he was a member of the football and basketball teams. He graduated in 1983 and began studying on a basketball scholarship at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas. In 1985, he enrolled in Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas, where he majored in sport management and played as a center for the Rams in the 1985–1986 season. In 1986, Calaway dropped out of university to focus on a career in sports and briefly considered playing professional basketball in Europe, before deciding to focus on professional wrestling.

Professional wrestling career

Early career (1987–1990)

Calaway began training under Buzz Sawyer in late 1986; he disliked Sawyer, who reportedly lacked commitment and provided a limited education. Calaway learned "on the job" thereafter. Performing under a mask as Texas Red,Calaway wrestled his first match on June 26, 1987, for World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), losing to Bruiser Brody at the Dallas Sportatorium. He was accompanied to the ring by Percival "Percy" Pringle III, who would later serve as his manager in the WWF (as Paul Bearer). Two myths have circulated regarding Calaway's beginnings in the industry, the first being that he made his in-ring debut in 1984, and the second being that he was trained by former WCCW colleague Don Jardine (aka The Spoiler). While never trained by Jardine, Calaway was an admirer of his work and would emulate Jardine's top rope walk. PWInsider's Mike Johnson stated, "Undertaker using some of Jardine's style eventually morphed into this story that he was trained by Jardine."

In 1988, Calaway joined the Continental Wrestling Association (which became part of the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) after Jerry Jarrett bought WCCW and merged the two organizations into one), wrestling under several gimmicks. On February 2, 1989, managed by Dutch Mantel, he was reintroduced as The Master of Pain, a character fresh out of the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta after serving five years (much in solitary confinement) for killing two men in a fight. After his second match the next week, he stayed in the ring by challenging USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion Jerry Lawler to an impromptu match. The Master of Pain easily dominated Lawler until Mantel entered the ring and called him off. Lawler agreed to a title match and on April 1, The Master of Pain won his first professional wrestling championship. He held it for just over three weeks before Lawler became the first man to pin him, winning it back. While performing as The Punisher, Calaway won the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship on October 5, 1989, when Eric Embry forfeited the title.

WCW career and efforts to join the WWF (1989–1990)

See also: The Skyscrapers

In 1989, Calaway joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as a villain and adopted the ring name "Mean Mark" Callous, a name devised for him by Terry Funk.He was portrayed as a morbid character; he wore predominantly black ring attire and was described by announcer Jim Ross as having a fondness for pet snakes and the music of Ozzy Osbourne. Callous was promptly drafted into The Skyscrapers tag team to replace a legitimately injured Sid Vicious and he made his debut on January 3, 1990, in a match later televised against Agent Steel and Randy Harris.The new team gained some notoriety at Clash of the Champions X when they beat down The Road Warriors after their match (the Road Warriors were actually very impressed by this). However, Callous's partner Dan Spivey left WCW days before their Chicago Street Fight against The Road Warriors at WrestleWar. Callous and a replacement masked Skyscraper were defeated in the street fight and the team broke up soon afterwards. Now a singles wrestler, Callous took on the guidance of Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) and defeated Johnny Ace at Capital Combat and Brian Pillman at Clash of the Champions XI: Coastal Crush.

Calaway began to question his future in WCW after being told by booker Ole Anderson, during contract renewal discussions, that nobody would ever pay money to watch him perform. It was during this time that Calaway sought to achieve noteworthy success in professional wrestling by making numerous efforts to join the World Wrestling Federation, going to many lengths to land a meeting with Vince McMahon. However, accessing and securing an interview with McMahon was described by Calaway as a despairing task. Among routes Calaway took to land a meeting with McMahon, he convinced individuals acquainted with McMahon or already existing WWF talent to recommend him into WWF, including Hulk Hogan, Paul Heyman, Bruce Prichard, etc. While linking up with Hogan in a small role as "Hutch" during the making of the movie Suburban Commando, Calaway was able to get a recommendation sent to McMahon from him. Hogan's effectiveness is questioned because he was allegedly not on good terms with McMahon at this particular point.

Callous wrestled Lex Luger for the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship at The Great American Bash, but was pinned. According to WWF/E executive Bruce Prichard, "feelers" had already been sent out to the WWF by Heyman: Calaway wrestled the match with a dislocated hip knowing that he was being watched by McMahon. McMahon initially wasn't expressing any interest, but Prichard managed to encourage him to speak with Calaway when WCW traveled to New Jersey for a house show in the Meadowlands on August 24.The meeting between the two went well and Calaway gave notice to WCW on August 27. His final match was on September 7 at a WorldWide taping in Amarillo, Texas in which he defeated Dave Johnson.

During his time in WCW, Calaway briefly wrestled in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) as "Punisher" Dice Morgan. After leaving WCW, he briefly returned to the USWA to participate in a tournament to determine the new USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion; he defeated Bill Dundee in the first round, but lost to Jerry Lawler in the quarterfinals.

World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment/WWE

Debut and early feuds (1990–1991)

In October 1990, Calaway signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), set to portray, "Kane The Undertaker," a menacing stock character of the Wild West undertakers depicted in television westerns, the first of his many Deadman gimmick incarnations. The gimmick was created and assigned to him by Vince McMahon. Despite his feelings of perplexity and pessimism about the gimmick, Calaway readily accepted the role. He made his debut as Kane The Undertaker at a taping of Superstars on November 19, 1990.

Calaway made his official on-camera debut on November 22 at Survivor Series as a heel when he was the mystery partner of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Team. Approximately one minute into the match, The Undertaker eliminated Koko B. Ware with his finisher, the Tombstone Piledriver. He also eliminated Dusty Rhodes before being counted out; however, his team won the match with DiBiase being the sole survivor. During the match, Calaway was referred to as simply The Undertaker, omitting the portion "Kane", which was dropped shortly after the event (and seven years later, given to another wrestler once he took on the role of The Undertaker's younger brother). Throughout the end of 1990, The Undertaker mostly picked up squash victories against jobbers on Superstars of Wrestling and Wrestling Challenge tapings. He was a participant in the 1991 Royal Rumble match which was won by Hulk Hogan.

In February 1991, The Undertaker switched managers from Brother Love to Paul Bearer – a histrionic, ghostly character, almost always seen bearing an urn, which he used to revive The Undertaker's strength whenever Undertaker fell victim to his opponents. Undertaker placed his defeated opponents (almost always jobbers) in a body bag and carried them to the back. He continued picking up victories in squash matches leading up to his first feud in the WWF with "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka.

WWF Champion (1991–1994)

He made his WrestleMania debut at WrestleMania VII on March 24, 1991, quickly defeating "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka.He began his first major feud with The Ultimate Warrior when he attacked Warrior and locked him in an airtight casket on the set of Paul Bearer's Funeral Parlor interview segment. He would later lose to Warrior in the first-ever body bag challenge in WWF history. In the 1991 King of the Ring, Undertaker defeated Animal in a qualifying match before fighting Sid Vicious to a double disqualification in the Semi-Final, which saw both men eliminated from the King of the Ring tournament. The Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan to win his first WWF Championship at Survivor Series with the help of Ric Flair and thus became the youngest WWF Champion in history, until having this record broken by Yokozuna in April 1993 at WrestleMania IX. WWF President Jack Tunney ordered a rematch for This Tuesday in Texas six days later, where he lost the title back to Hogan. However, due to the controversial endings of the two title matches between The Undertaker and Hogan, the title was vacated by Tunney. The title was awarded to Ric Flair as the winner of the 1992 Royal Rumble match.

In February 1992, The Undertaker's ally Jake "The Snake" Roberts tried to attack "Macho Man" Randy Savage's manager/wife Miss Elizabeth with a steel chair when Undertaker stopped him, turning face for the first time. The turn was solidified on the February 29 episode of Superstars, when Roberts confronted The Undertaker on the Funeral Parlor set over that incident (aired on Saturday Night's Main Event XXX). After demanding to know whose side The Undertaker was on and getting the reply "Not yours!", Roberts attacked both Bearer and The Undertaker, only for Undertaker to stand his ground and run Roberts off. The Undertaker defeated Roberts at WrestleMania VIII. He then feuded extensively with wrestlers managed by Harvey Wippleman throughout 1992 and 1993, such as Kamala and Giant González. Also at this time, he headlined the first episode of Monday Night Raw on January 11, 1993, with a victory over Damien Demento.According to Calaway, working with González "...was survival every night trying to figure out what he could do" and "took years off my career". He faced González at WrestleMania IX, which is notable as Undertaker's only disqualification win at WrestleMania after the use of chloroform. His rivalry with Yokozuna culminated in a WWF Championship casket match for the WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble in January 1994. During the match, Yokozuna sealed The Undertaker in the casket with the assistance of several other villainous Wippleman-managed wrestlers to win the match. The Undertaker appeared from inside the casket on the video screen, representing his spirit, warning that he would return. The Undertaker did not appear in the WWF for seven months after his loss to Yokozuna. In reality, he was given time off to allow a back injury to heal.

First Deadman reincarnation and feuds (1994–1996)

Paul Bearer betrayed The Undertaker by hitting him with the urn he is seen carrying here

During his absence, the WWF promoted his return by showing video clips of people who claimed to have seen The Undertaker. After WrestleMania X, Ted DiBiase introduced an Undertaker back to the WWF. This Undertaker, however, played by Calaway's real-life cousin, Brian Lee, was an impostor Undertaker (dubbed "The Underfaker" by fans)[rejuvenated by Dibiase's money rather than Bearer's urn. His actions led to the return of the real Undertaker at SummerSlam, appearing as a reincarnation of his Deadman gimmick, one of a more shadowy, mysterious and secret presence. Represented now by cool colors, he replaced details of his wrestling gear that were colored gray with purple, and effected scenes with blue/purple semidarkness.Godlike elements were also added, such as thunder, lightening and windy weather-like effects used to indicate The Undertaker's presence and wrath.

At Survivor Series, The Undertaker defeated Yokozuna in a casket match. Throughout most of 1995, Undertaker feuded with members of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation. At WrestleMania XI, while The Undertaker was facing King Kong Bundy (a match he won), Kama stole the urn and antagonized him by melting it into a large gold necklace. In August, Undertaker defeated Kama in a casket match at SummerSlam. Several weeks later, Undertaker injured his orbital bone near his eye, forcing a period of absence for surgery, until his return at Survivor Series. The Undertaker returned in November at Survivor Series, wearing a Phantom of the Opera-like, gray upper-face mask. In the main event of the Royal Rumble in January 1996, The Undertaker was unmasked in a WWF Championship match against Bret Hart, but Diesel interfered during the match, costing The Undertaker the championship. A rematch for the title on the February 5 episode of Raw saw similar interference.At that month's In Your House: Rage in the Cage, while Diesel was facing Hart in a steel cage match, The Undertaker delivered a surprise attack, emerging from a hole he had ripped through the ring canvas and dragging Diesel with him down under, allowing Hart the victory. After several weeks of more tit for tat between Diesel and The Undertaker, the feud culminated in a singles match between the two at WrestleMania XII, where Undertaker was victorious.

The Undertaker's next feud started the next night on Raw, when Mankind made his debut and interfered in Undertaker's match against Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw. For the next few months, Mankind ambushed and cost The Undertaker several matches. The feud intensified and they began taking their battles into crowds, backstage areas and in the boiler rooms of different arenas. Mankind cost The Undertaker the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship at In Your House 8: Beware of Dog, assisting champion Goldust to victory. As a result, the first-ever Boiler Room Brawl was booked between the two at SummerSlam. After more than 20 minutes of brawling with Mankind in the Cleveland Gund Arena's boiler room, the arena corridors and the entrance ramp, The Undertaker reached for Paul Bearer's urn to take the win, but Bearer hit him with it, betraying The Undertaker and allowing Mankind to "incapacitate" him with the mandible claw, giving him the win. After Bearer's betrayal, The Undertaker took his rivalry with Mankind to a new level, resulting in a Buried Alive match in the main event of In Your House 11: Buried Alive, where The Undertaker won the match after a chokeslam into the open grave. However, after interference from The Executioner, as well as the help of several other heels, Mankind escaped the grave and shoveled dirt onto The Undertaker, was ultimately resulting in him being "buried alive".

Lord of Darkness persona (1996–1998)

See also: Hell in a Cell and The Brothers of Destruction

After being buried alive, The Undertaker returned at Survivor Series again pitting him against Mankind, but with a unique stipulation; hanging 6.1 m (20 ft) above the ring was Paul Bearer, enclosed in a steel cage. If Undertaker won the match, he would be able to get his hands on Bearer. Even though The Undertaker won the match, interference from The Executioner enabled Bearer to escape Undertaker's clutches.It was also at this event that Undertaker had developed a more informal, casual "Deadman" incarnation than before. In this then new form, he took on a Gothic, brash and rebelling persona (perhaps to better fit in with the then-budding, more adult-oriented Attitude Era). This delivering, dubbed "The Lord of Darkness", was the 3rd incarnation of his Deadman persona.Following Survivor Series, The Undertaker briefly turned his attention to The Executioner, who had been interfering in his matches since his arrival. At In Your House 12: It's Time, The Undertaker defeated The Executioner in an Armageddon rules match. He then moved on to feud with Vader, whom he faced in January 1997 at the Royal Rumble in a singles match, which Undertaker lost after Bearer interfered on behalf of his new protégé. The two then clashed in the Royal Rumble match itself as they made it to the final moments of the match, but both were eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin, who had crept back into the match after his elimination was unseen. He faced both Vader and Austin in a four-corners elimination match for the vacant WWF Championship at In Your House 13: Final Four, but Bret Hart won. However, the following month, The Undertaker managed to win the WWF Championship for the second time by defeating Sycho Sid at WrestleMania 13.

Following his WWF Championship win at WrestleMania 13, Paul Bearer attempted to rejoin The Undertaker as his manager. After The Undertaker refused and attacked Bearer, Bearer had Mankind set a fireball to the Undertaker's face, leading up to a match at In Your House 14: Revenge of the 'Taker, for which The Undertaker was victorious. Evening the score at "Revenge of the 'Taker", The Undertaker set a fireball to Bearer's face directly following the match. Following the event, Bearer bandaged up from fire burns, likened The Undertaker's assault to a past incident he described as The Undertaker's "deepest, darkest secret". Through giving The Undertaker the ultimatum of revealing his deepest, darkest secret to the world, Bearer was able to reunite with The Undertaker as his manager. After several months of abrasive behaviors from Bearer, The Undertaker lost his patience and rejected Bearer as his manager. In retaliation, Bearer disclosed that The Undertaker had intentionally killed his family by burning down his parents' family funeral home for which they raised him and his younger brother. (Note that the younger brother, Kane, was not revealed to be The Undertaker's half-brother until the following year, April 1998, when Bearer disclosed to the world that he is Kane's father, The Undertaker's mother having had an affair with him. Bearer later verified this with DNA test results). At this point of his career, The Undertaker denied the charges of committing the arson murder that killed his family; however, Bearer claimed to have proof in the form of The Undertaker's alive and well younger brother, Kane, who had survived though scarred and burned. Bearer raised Kane after the fire, having him institutionalized from the date of the fire into adulthood. Ever since the fire, Kane had been awaiting to exact vengeance on his older half-brother. In defense, Undertaker responded that Kane, a "pyromaniac", had been the one to set the fire and, as a result, could not have possibly even survived. (Note that it would not be until a year later from this point in which The Undertaker shamelessly confessed to intentional acts of arson to the funeral home that killed his parents and scarred his brother).

Concurrent to the "deep, dark secret" storyline directed by Bearer, Undertaker began a new rivalry at SummerSlam when special guest referee Shawn Michaels accidentally hit The Undertaker with a steel chair shot meant for Bret Hart, costing Undertaker the WWF Championship. After a double count-out draw during Ground Zero: In Your House, Undertaker challenged Michaels to the first Hell in a Cell match at Badd Blood: In Your House. During this match, The Undertaker's storyline half-brother Kane finally made his debut under the control of Paul Bearer, ripping off the door to the cell and giving The Undertaker a Tombstone Piledriver, Undertaker's trademark finisher, allowing Michaels to pin him. As the storyline progressed through Bearer, Kane challenged The Undertaker, but Undertaker consistently refused to fight his half-brother. The Undertaker's final encounter with Michaels during this era was in a casket match for the WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble. The week before on Raw, Kane had seemed to ally with his brother against Michaels' D-Generation X; however, at the Royal Rumble, Kane trapped him in the coffin, padlocking the casket lid and setting it ablaze which again gave Michaels the victory. The Undertaker, however, had disappeared when the casket lid was reopened.[67] After a two-month hiatus, The Undertaker returned and defeated Kane at WrestleMania XIV. The two had a rematch, the first-ever Inferno match, one month later at Unforgiven: In Your House, which The Undertaker won by setting Kane's right arm on fire.

The Undertaker's feud with Mankind was concluded afterward and they faced each other in a Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring, which became one of the most famous matches in professional wrestling history. During the match, The Undertaker threw Mankind off the roof of the 4.9 m (16 ft) cell onto a broadcast table below, in what was a preplanned move. He later performed a chokeslam on Mankind through the roof of the cell into the ring- which was not preplanned, which legitimately knocked Mankind unconscious. Mankind also used thumbtacks in the match and was hit by a back body drop and another chokeslam onto them before Undertaker won the match with the Tombstone Piledriver. At Fully Loaded: In Your House, The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Kane and Mankind to win the WWF Tag Team Championship. The Undertaker and Austin's reign as tag team champions lasted only two weeks, as Kane and Mankind regained the titles from them in a fatal four-way tag-team match on the August 10 edition of RAW.The Undertaker then became the number one contender for the WWF Championship at SummerSlam, now held by Austin. Shortly before SummerSlam, however, The Undertaker revealed that he and Kane were working together as brothers. Despite this revelation, The Undertaker told Kane that he did not want him to interfere in the match with Austin and even though The Undertaker lost the match at SummerSlam, he handed Austin his championship belt back after the match in a show of respect. In September, the storyline continued and The Undertaker began to show some heel characteristics when he and Kane revealed the fact that they were in cahoots to rid Austin of his title for Mr. McMahon. At Breakdown: In Your House, The Undertaker and Kane were booked in a triple threat match with Austin for the WWF Championship, in which McMahon stated that the brothers were not allowed to pin each other. The Undertaker and Kane pinned Austin simultaneously after a double chokeslam, ending the match in a no contest, so the title was vacated by McMahon. This event led to a match at Judgment Day: In Your House between The Undertaker and Kane for the title, with Austin as the special guest referee. Near the end of the match, Paul Bearer seemed about to assist Kane by handing him a steel chair to hit The Undertaker with, but as Kane had his back turned, both Bearer and The Undertaker hit Kane with the chair. The Undertaker went for the pin, but Austin refused to count the fall, attacked The Undertaker and counted out both of them. Finally, The Undertaker turned heel the next night on Raw for the first time since 1992, reconciling with Bearer and claiming that he and Bearer would unleash their "Ministry of Darkness" on the WWF. As part of this new storyline, he admitted that he had indeed set the fire that killed his parents, for which he had previously blamed Kane.

Timeline

March 24, 1965
The Undertaker was born in Houston.

Patents

Further Resources

Title
Author
Link
Type
Date

The Undertaker: 7 Fun Facts About WWE's Phenom

Daine Pavloski

Web

March 8, 2013

Things Get Strange With The UnderTaker | Cold as Balls | Laugh Out Loud Network

Web

November 30, 2021

News

Title
Author
Date
Publisher
Description
June 18, 2021
@TIMESNOW
Responding to Akshay Kumar's post, The Undertaker has challenged the Bollywood actor for a rematch. The Undertaker had retired from in-ring action in June 2020.
May 13, 2021
Gizmodo Australia
Triple J's latest Requestival has kicked off with smash hits that include Julia Gillard's misogyny speech and The Undertaker's theme song.
Yogita Khatri
April 9, 2021
The Block
Professional wrestling company WWE is releasing its first-ever NFTs, showcasing iconic moments of legendary The Undertaker.
June 22, 2020
EssentiallySports
The Undertaker has finally announced his retirement from the WWE and the fans are very grateful to finally bid a goodbye to the legend himself.
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