Jim Cornette Talks Bringing The Undertaker Into WCW

The Undertaker

Jim Cornette had discussed his role in helping The Undertaker on his way to his legendary wrestling career by bringing him into World Championship Wrestling.

While competing as The Master Of Pain in the CWA, he caught the eye of Jim Cornette who was part of the booking committee at WCW at the time. The committee was in the middle of trying to find a replacement Skyscraper after Sid Vicious got injured and Cornette thought he knew just the man.

Speaking exclusively to Inside The Ropes’ Kenny McIntosh for issue 5 of Inside The Ropes magazine, Jim Cornette recalled contacting Dutch Mantel to try and secure the services of his almost seven-foot giant:

“I brought him into [WCW]. What happened was, [Ric] Flair put me on the booking committee, and we had The Skyscrapers, [Dan] Spivey and Sid [Vicious]. And it was Sid that got hurt that time, ’cause they were always getting hurt. And we needed a Skyscraper. Calaway made his WCW debut as Mark Callous, Sid’s replacement in The Skyscrapers, at the January 3, 1990 television taping in Atlanta, Georgia. He had previously wrestled in Texas and Tennessee. Mark was Master Of Pain in Memphis. I watched all the tapes [from other organisations]. Dutch Mantell, who I’ve known since the late 1970s, may have been booking at the time . . . He was definitely in Memphis. So, I called Dutch and said, ‘Hey, we need a Skyscraper. You’ve got that seven-foot guy [Master Of Pain]. Is he any good?’ Dutch said: ‘Well, he’s green, but he’s a good kid.’ I said: ‘Can we have him?’ He said: ‘Yeah.’

Dutch is the one who called me one day when I was in Smoky Mountain and he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this guy down here in Puerto Rico. He’s from Missouri. He wants to come home: he’s got the island fever. He’s gotta get out of here. He’s green, but he’s a good kid. His name is Glenn Jacobs.’”

Looking back on Mark Calaway in 1990, Jim Cornette says that the future Deadman probably wasn’t quite ready for national exposure on television. His stay in the company proved to be short-lived due to continuing chaos behind the scenes in the company:

“Mark was green then, but you could tell that he had a lot going for him. We brought him in for that spot. He was not ready, honestly, to be on national television; he might even say that about that specific time [in his career]. But it was a chance to get his foot in the door. But then [WCW went] from Flair and us to a [booking] committee for two months and then to Ole [Anderson]: so there were three booking changes in a five-month period and he was getting lost in the shuffle.

That was when he got the call from up North. And it didn’t take him long to make that decision. [Calaway] was, like, ‘I’m floating around here and nobody’s in charge for more than three months. And here’s the WWF, and it wants to bring me in and put me in a top spot.’”

In October, Calaway signed with WWE and debuted as The Undertaker a month later at Survivor Series 1990. Cornette said that he was unaware of Calaway moving to WWE as he’d left the booking committee at that point, but knew he was destined for big things:

No, honestly. By that time, I was off the [WCW] booking committee. Once Flair quit, I quit about three weeks later. So, I wasn’t in the office by that point. I don’t know if they got any advance word from some stooge on what kind of gimmick they were giving him. I would never have seen it before but, now, it’s become so iconic that gimmick, I can’t unsee Mark as The Undertaker. You knew he was going to do something, ’cause he was big and athletic, but I wouldn’t have seen that [character coming] until it was put together.”

Despite having an idea that Calaway was destined for big things in wrestling, Jim Cornette admits he didn’t initially see the appeal of The Undertaker character:

“Well, honestly, this was not one I was completely enamoured of. I like Mark, but go back and watch the first year of The Undertaker. That, if it had not been modified and evolved, as they say, might not have flown, ’cause it was still a little cartoon[ish]. Also, remember, the first couple of years of The Undertaker, his pay-per-view opponents were abysmal because Vince always wanted to do the battle of the giants thing. And, to me, the only giant that ’Taker really worked great with was Yoko[zuna] because he was so athletic.

By the time I got up there in ’93 and he had toned the outfit down a little bit and made more of the gimmick his own and he had that entrance, I was, like, ‘This is f—king cool.’ You’d get goose bumps standing in the ring for that entrance.”