We should really start by taking a 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
As you can hear Ted DiBiase announces him as from death valley and as just the Undertaker. On the taped episodes of Superstars he was given the name of Cain (or Kane) the Undertaker. It would be simply the Undertaker that stuck as he laid superstar after superstar to rest in peace. While on tour in Spain in October 1991 the Undertaker suffered his first defeat at the hands of Tito Santana, it was never recognized back in America on television though.
In November the Undertaker did the impossible and defeated the 'Immortal' Hulk Hogan with a bit of help from Ric Flair and a steel chair he won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship for the first time. Just six days later he lost it to Hulk Hogan at a Tuesday in Texas PPV in his first recognized pin-fall loss.
The Undertaker would form an alliance with Jake Roberts going forward taking him into his second Wrestlemania, and victory after he turned babyface in February 1992 stopping Roberts for cracking the Macho Man and Elizabeth with a steel chair. Of course he went 2-0 at Wrestlemaia VIII against Jake Roberts.
1993 was a year probably best forgotten from the Undertaker's resume for the best part as he spent it battling off various monsters, big men, and weird chaps sent charging his way by Harvey Whippleman. One good thing did come out of the year though and that was his feud with the Undertaker. Nothing about it was brilliant, but as a child who grew up watching it (I had just turned six), it really was awesome!
During his three year run in the WWF 'Taker had acquired some nagging injuries and needed to take some time off after the Royal Rumble in 1994. So he was entered into a feud with Yokozuna at Survivor Series 1993 and he was then written out of story-lines by the 'Japanese' wrestler and about a million other guys in a casket match for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.
His return would be at Summerslam in 1994 where he would face one of his best friends outside of wrestling, Brian Lee. Brian would be wrestling as the Undertaker also, an heel Undertaker who was under the control of Ted DiBiase. The Undertaker returned and conquered the evil Undertaker.
With the phony deadman out of the way he was free to get his revenge of Yokozuna which he did at Survivor Series 1994 also in a casket match, this time with Chuck Norris as the special guest referee.
By Jimmy Wheeler
As unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society
Source of quotes is Percy Pringle's official website.
Source of quotes is Percy Pringle's official website.