The Undertaker is less than two weeks away from competing at his 25th Wrestlemania as part of a legendary career that has spanned four different decades.
In a rare public appearance on Thursday, the WWE legend stopped by a Texas Longhorns practice as a guest of coach Tom Herman. A native of Texas, The Undertaker told the Longhorns players he’s a fan of the team and that he “bleeds burnt orange.” After a short introduction, The Undertaker explained how his athletic career led him to the world of professional wrestling.
After a basketball career in high school and college, The Undertaker (real name Mark Calaway) told the Longhorns players he was getting “a little notice overseas about playing pro basketball.” As he began training to increase his size, he mulled over the decision to turn pro until he met a guy that steered him to wrestling.
He had a decision to make.
Undertaker live at practice. https://t.co/ynueZWzIK9
— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) March 23, 2017
“It’s a highly competitive scene, so I started thinking, and I was a big wrestling fan as a kid, so I started catching up with the product. I was looking around like you know there aren’t a lot of guys that are 6-foot-8 and that can move around in a wrestling ring … I beat myself up, I tried to decide,” The Undertaker said (h/t USA Today).
“Finally, I went to my oldest brother. My brother gave me this advice, he said, ‘You gotta live your life for you because you’re gonna be ultimately the only one you have to answer to for the decisions you make in life.’ That was all it took. I left school (he paused here to tell the players to not do that), and I started my passion, my search, my desire to get trained in the wrestling world.”
With that advice in mind, The Undertaker embarked on a journey to become a professional wrestler. As a 20-year-old, the future WWE Hall of Famer vividly recalled living in his truck and bouncing at bars where he would break up “red neck fights.”
“But hey, I did what I had to do to survive,” he said.
Just like any other aspiring wrestler in Texas at the time, “The Phenom” candidly discussed going down to the old Dallas Sportatorioum. Over an eight-month period, The Undertaker said he would visit the now defunct pro wrestling haven every Wednesday without making any progress.
“I watched them walk right by me, didn’t acknowledge me, didn’t say hello to me, didn’t tell me to get the hell in or get the hell out,” The Undertaker said of the wrestlers at the arena.
It wasn’t until Fritz Von Erich, the patriarch of the legendary Von Erich wrestling family, noticed the imposing presence of the future WWE superstar. Von Erich ran the World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) territory in Texas that saw names like Rick Rude, Bruiser Brody, and The Fabulous Freebirds make their mark.
It wasn’t his nearly seven-foot tall, near 300-pound frame or his athletic background — it was The Undertaker’s facial features that gave him his break in professional wrestling.
“Fritz Von Erich walked in, he looked at me, didn’t say anything but still, he walked in another room and I heard him say, ‘Who’s the big red-headed kid?’ … He says, ‘Let’s book him for Friday night.’ He booked me because I looked like his son,” The Undertaker said.
“I was just in the right place at the right time, and my perseverance paid off, and all the doors that got slammed in my face, I got my start because I looked like the older son that he had lost, and that set me on my course.”
Now, 33 years after his debut in wrestling, The Undertaker, much like his on-screen persona, is immortal.
[Featured Image by WWE]