When Mark Calaway, better known as The Undertaker, first stepped into the WWE into 1990, he debuted one of the most memorable characters in wrestling history, but J.J. Dillon said Vince McMahon’s first idea for a gimmick for Calaway was far from “The Deadman” persona fans know of today.
In a weekly segment on Fightful’s “The List & Ya Boy” podcast, Dillon said the initial gimmick idea for Calaway was to be a Viking. Of course, Calaway would become The Undertaker and go on to have one of the most decorated careers in professional wrestling history.
“I did not see Mark Calaway before the first time he came in [to WWE]. When he came in, like me, that meeting was in private at Vince’s house," said Dillon. "[Undertaker] is an impressive guy, he had the size. In the business, they call the 'it factor,' and if you’re on the business on the executive side, it’s hard to find the words to describe 'it,' I can’t explain it, but he has 'it' and I guess another word for it is natural charisma and [Undertaker] had it. Vince’s first reaction was ‘maybe he could be a Viking with the helmet and the horns.' He just saw this guy and Vince had a really creative mind. He had a department [Vince] would take somebody and turn this person over to this department and say to look at them, their body, their features, play with him and feed me some ideas. In all the years that went by, I think the Undertaker is the great wrestling character/persona that has ever lived in the WWE/F. Hands down.”
About two months after The Undertaker's WWF debut, John Nord would debut as "The Berzerker," a sword-swinging viking.
"The List & Ya Boy" podcast with Fightful owner Jimmy Van and managing editor Sean Ross Sapp can be seen every Wednesday at 3 p.m. live on Fightful.com. The “Story Time with J.J. Dillon” segment starts around the 50:10 mark in the video above.