PITTSBURGH — When he opened his 90-minute extravaganza on Saturday night, “The Undertaker” Mark Calloway immediately wondered allowed, “What IS a 1 Deadman Show?” We would find out.
The Undertaker was in a good mood from the moment he pulled into the historic Byham Theater in downtown Pittsburgh’s Theater District. He arrived enthusiastically entertained a bevy of VIPs during a Meet and Greet before the 9 p.m. start and was generally the exact oppositive of the master of the tombstone piledriver.
This WWE-backed event brought a skeleton crew of support, as the big man drank beer and Jack Daniels whiskey as he retold tales and entertained a sold-out show.
More “American Bad Ass” than “Deadman,” Calloway, sporting a 30-inch pony tail, wore a sweatshirt with a BSK-emblazoned logo (for Bone Street Krew, his posse of wrestling friends away from the squared circle), jeans with a surprisingly bedazzled chain leading to his cell phone and boots. Anyone in the hall had to have their cell phones checked at the door, as all recording was “strictly prohibited” by show runners.
Calloway had a bucket of beer on the small table, a single spotlight and plenty of room to roam on the stage, which usually hosts musicals, plays and each year A Christmas Carol with luminaries such as The Waltons alum Richard Thomas (John Boy Walton). “Each year, there’s something different in the show,” noted a stage production staffer before the event.
As soon as the program began, The Undertaker was unsettled by a heckler who shouted something mostly undiscernible. Calloway joked, but wasn’t happy, perhaps expecting to deal with the encroacher all night. When the goof piped up again, Calloway warned that he’d “go home” if he was heard again. He wasn’t.
He has performed the storytelling extravaganza a number of times, including a stop in Cleveland on Friday night; however, he hasn’t been a standup for lo these past 30 years. It took a few minutes to gain some momentum, and with the help of a few shots from a Steelers shot glass and sips of bottled beer, he soon hit his stride.
A highlight of the evening was when Calloway pulled another Mark, Canterbury, better known to the WWE universe as Henry O. Godwinn, out of his front row seat. Canterbury, a West Virginia resident who participated in an independent wrestling event in western PA just a few years ago, is unrecognizable from his days stomping around with kayfabe brother Phineas, but in fighting shape. Saturday he wore a black tee-shirt with “Try That In A Small Town” over an American flag.
Calloway had a trio of drinking and debauchery stories featuring him and the Godwinns. The best was his detailed account of saving both of the “pig farmers” from inebriated stupors that would have assuredly derailed any WWE work with Vince McMahon. The two long-time friends remain close, and Calloway calls Canterbury “The Hillbilly Lover” to a sustained chuckle.
The Godfather was a guest of the show when Calloway was in Las Vegas, so it seems that a local friend may be incorporated in a show at any port.
He ran the gamut of well-discussed stories, featuring his wrestling “inspiration” that was Andre the Giant, the “never close” match between he and Sting, and his favorite “American Badass” opponent: Pittsburgh’s own Kurt Angle.
He also earned a great deal of support from the black tee-shirt or flannel-wearing crowd of mostly men when he flatly dismissed any kind of “progressive” and “inclusion” measures when it came to the WWE locker room. “We were just THE BOYS. We were doing that 30 years ago.”
He lightly poked fun at himself over his three marriages (the current to Michelle McCool appears to be solid) and his decision to forgo a professional basketball career that would have left him “the 12th man on the bench in Lithuania.”
He pulled two women, a man named Chris and a small boy named Axel who was decked out in full black and purple Undertaker regalia, from the crowd for a game of “Undertaker Smart Mark Jeopardy.” The inclusion of the youngster was a mistake, as Calloway was surprised to see any children in the audience (the advertising did warn “This Event May Contain Mature Language that is not Suitable for Younger Audiences”). So, he employed the boy as an assistant. It all went well with three trivia questions that were harder than one might imagine.
Meet my man Axl! He’s one cool little kid! pic.twitter.com/hAeqwD6roW
— Undertaker (@undertaker) November 12, 2023
By the end of the evening, Calloway was loose and returning often to his supply of beverages. A Q&A with the crowd included a question of how he got out of the burning casket at the Royal Rumble in 1998. The fan said that WWE stalwart Bruce Pritchard refused to answer the question on his podcast. To which Calloway noted, “If Bruce isn’t going to say, you think I’m going to tell you?” When the patron followed up, Calloway smiled and retorted, “[Blank] you” to a huge cheer from all.
The set concluded with the familiar “Rest in Peace,” and American Badass theme that brought all of those 1,700 in attendance to their feet.
- Slam Wrestling’s Undertaker story archive