We’re going to leave our usual residence in Memphis this week to venture down to Texas to check out a true superstar in the making. At the time, though, no one had a clue, and this guy was pretty much written off as a flash in the pan. The place: World Class Championship Wrestling, based in Dallas. The man: Mark Calloway, now known the world over as The Undertaker.
The Undertaker was no overnight phenom. He toiled for years in the territory circuit and Japan before getting his big break, wrestling under such names as The Commando and Dice Morgan (and trust me, when I can find the Commando footage I have buried somewhere, I’ll have an entry on that one too). 1989 turned out to be a good year for this future Steph kidnapper, as he spent a short time in Memphis (DAMMIT, how do we always get routed back to freakin’ Tennessee???) as The Master of Pain. There, he spent a whopping 25 days as the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion before packing his bags up and heading back to Texas. Arriving in World Class, a once-great region that had in the years before been dealt tragic blow after tragic blow. His new gimmick would be that of a very generic masked monster known only as the Punisher.
“Punish.” Does anyone out there realize how silly that word is? When I think of “punishing” I think of parents spanking their four-year-olds, not beating the hell out of some guy in tights. Okay, well, not unless you’re into S&M. My point is, the Destroyer signifies something big. The Hitman, even. The Punisher sounds like someone who would be teaming up with Mr. Time Out.
Now, if he’d shown up in WCW in 1992 with this gimmick, he would have had a big skull on his chest and shot water rifles off on his way to the ring to face his nemesis Arachniman. Anyway, paired up with General Skandar Akbar (possibly the greatest manager ever not to work for WWF or WCW (no his short stint with the JCP arm of the NWA doesn’t count)), the Punisher, stupid name or not, became a force to be reckoned with. In fact, he won the USWA (which by this time had bought out World Class. Don’t ask.) Texas Title champion.
Well, it’s a start, right?
Of course, he lost the belt just as quickly, to Kerry Von Erich two weeks later.
Two short regional title reigns not lasting a combined two months isn’t much to crow about (hell, Barry Horowitz held titles longer), but the Punisher must have made an impression with someone, because he was shortly scooped up by WCW and redubbed “Mean” Mark Callous.
So let that be a lesson to everyone: You, too, can one day become a huge celebrity with your bug-eyed wife’s name tattooed across your neck, even if you once ran around dolling out punishings (is that even a word?) without being a dominatrix.