The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become extremely popular in the United States of America. The ground fighting combat burst onto the scene in the early 90's, after Royce Gracie dominated the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship event. This early form of MMA stemmed from the old styles of Vale Tudo in Brazil, and even though Royce wore the Gi he dominated with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skill against boxers, shootfighters, wrestlers, and savate fighters. The notoriety of this highly intense Martial Art became mainstream throughout most of the world, but especially in America. This led to an influx of students wanting to learn the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu including many celebrities, many of which have become significantly high level within the art.
What this article covers:
Celebrity Jiu Jitsu has become iconic across all social media platforms, as many of these high calibre actors, and actresses have started to showcase their love for the combat sport. There are many celebrities that train in BJJ with athletes like Keanu Reeves, Ashton Kutcher, Russell Brand, Jason Statham, Vince Vaughn Dave Bautista, and Demi Lovato have all reached the coloured belt level. Many celebrities are now sharing their journey through BJJ on their social media platforms, with athletes like Tom Hardy posting pictures of his competition level domination. Other celebrities have even reached the black belt level like Joel Tudor, Ed O'Neill, Chuck Norris, Scott Caan, and the long hair bjj black belt with a wicked tombstone piledriver, Mark William Calaway, and more famously known as the Undertaker in the WWE.
THE EARLY LIFE OF MARK CALAWAY
Mark William Calaway was born on the 24th of March in 1965 in Houston, Texas. He grew up surrounded by his four older brothers David, Michael, Paul, and Timothy. His parents Frank, and Betty had a busy household with five competitive boys always challenging each other. Mark was always pushed hard by his family to achieve, and as he exited childhood he began setting his sights on a future in sports. Mark attended Waltrip High School where he was extensively involved in football, and basketball. Graduating from high school in 1983, Mark began building up for a scholarship in basketball at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas. In 1985 he enrolled at Wesleyan University in Fort Worth Texas, where he studied sports management. Mark also played centre for the Rams for the next two years, but in 1986 he decided to drop out of university to further his sporting aspirations. Mark was extremely close to joining the professional European basketball league, before deciding to become a professional Wrestler.
MARK CALAWAY'S EARLY WRESTLING CAREER
Mark Calaway started training in pro wrestling with the hopes of making it big. Training under the tutelage of Buzz Sawyer who had a limited knowledge of wrestling, Mark realised his mentor was lacking drive. Mark would have to teach himself during amateur shows, as he performed under a mask, as Texas Red. On June 26 in 1987 Mark would debut for the World Class Championship Wrestling promotion, where he lost to a wrestler named Bruiser Brody. What Mark didn't know at the time was that Percival Percy Pringle the third who accompanied him out to the stage, would later be his WWE manager Paul Bearer. Mark was a huge fan of Don Jardine who was a fellow wrestler in the WCCW organisation, and known by the stage name of the Spoiler. Mark was never trained by Don, but he did emulate his style of walking on the top of the ring ropes.
In 1988, Mark began wrestling for the Continental Wrestling Association, and after Jerry Jarrett purchased the WCCW, he merged it with the CWA to form the United States Wrestling Association. In 1989 Mark was rebranded as the Master of Pain, which was a character he portrayed as a convicted killer who was fresh out of the United States Penitentiary, after serving years in solitary confinement. Mark was beginning to show his acting skills, as he dazzled fans with his cold faced killer persona. Mark would go on to challenge the USWA Heavyweight Champion Jerry the King Lawler, and after dominating him for most of the fight, his match was called off. Mark would again challenge the Champion, and this time winning his first ever Championship title. Three weeks later Lawler would win back his title by becoming the first man to pin Mark Calaway. Later that year Mark would win the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship title, after defeating Eric Embry. Mark was well on his way to becoming a wrestling superstar, as he had already caught the eye of many other pro wrestling organisations.
JOINING THE WCW
In 1989, Mark signed up with the WCW which was the World Championship Wrestling organisation. Mark was to play a villain named Mean Mark Callous, as he was released into the ring wearing nothing but black. He made his debut in January of 1990, as he replaced an injured Sid Vicious. This new tag team achieved success at Clash of the Champions X, after defeating the famous duo the Road Warriors. Before long the tag team disintegrated, as both wrestlers went in separate directions. Mark began to question the future of the WCW, and his role within the company, and after a meeting with a fight booker, he was told that no one would ever come and watch him wrestle. Mark began to branch out in search of more glorious contract offers, as he made several efforts to join Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. Mark would struggle to even initiate talks between him and Vince, and finding a meeting with the owner of the WWF seemed impossible.
Mark began trying to use already initiated WWF wrestlers to recommend him to Vince McMahon. Mark picked up a small role in the movie Suburban Commando, where he acted alongside Hulk Hogan, which in turn led to a recommendation to Vince McMahon. The meeting was set between Vince, Hulk, and Mark, and reports indicated that Vince was impressed by Mark, as he looked to secure his services. Vince was a creative brand ambassador as he straight away called Mark the Undertaker. Mark wrestled against Lex Luger at the Great American Bash with a dislocated shoulder, and after Lex would pin Mark, Vince called Mark an over the hill wrestler, and decided not to hire him. But in a turn of events Vince was convinced to give Mark a go by Paul Heyman.
Mark would end up quitting the WCW on the whim that Vince was going to hire him, and Mark was flown out to Vince McMahon's mansion in Connecticut. Mark became extremely disappointed after Vince told him there was nothing for him at this time, and Mark now found himself unemployed. A few days later Vince called up Mark and asked is this the Undertaker, to which Mark replied yes, as Vince then offered Mark a spot on the roster as the Old West Undertaker. Mark would have his final match in the WCW, as the Punisher, where he defeated Dave Johnson. Mark Calaway's run through the WCW has now come to an end, as he looked to work his way up through the number one pro wrestling organisation in the world, in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation.
THE UNDERTAKER IS BORN
In October 1990, Mark Calaway officially signed on with Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. Vince had originally created a character called Kane the Undertaker, and even though Mark was not too impressed he took on the role and became the Undertaker. It wasn't until the arrival of Kane that the characters were altered to represent a Kane, and Able type of relationship, and this led to Mark becoming purely the Undertaker. The Undertaker was created as an evil character, which depicted the Wild West undertakers from the old country. This resulted in the Undertaker's series of deadman incarnations, where he would arise from the casket. The Undertaker went on to win his first match against Mario Mancini at Survivor Series. Mark was beginning to show promise as he continued on wrestling, and impressing Vince McMahon.
The Undertaker made his long awaited Wrestle Mania debut on March 24, in 1991. Mark would defeat Jimmy Snuka, as he began on a winning streak that would take him on a journey into stardom. The Undertaker would defeat Hulk Hogan with a tombstone piledriver, which was for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series, and he did it with the help of the Nature Boy, Ric Flair. Mark became the youngest WWF Champion at the time, which was later broken by another wrestler. Following the championship match, there was some real life tension between Hulk Hogan, and the Undertaker, and due to some carrying on behind the scenes a rematch a few days later gave Hulk Hogan his title back. As a result of these two controversial wins the president vacated the title, as the company was left without a champion until Ric Flair himself won the title at the Royal Rumble.
The Undertaker would go on to become extremely famous in the WWF, as he would take on wrestlers of all calibres. The Undertaker fought guys like Randy Savage, the Big Show, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Randy Orton, Triple H, Mankind, and even his own brother Kane, among many other influential names of the business. The Undertaker won 14 Championship belts over his career including the World Heavyweight Championship, the Hardcore Championship, and the Tag Team Championship. One of the Undertaker's most famous matches was a hell in the cell match against Mankind, where the duo climbed up to the top of the cell, and the Undertaker proceeded to chokeslam Mankind through the cage, and onto a pile of thumbtacks. The Undertaker was known for many death defying stunts, as his love for combat sports, and his athleticism would lead him on into other real life fighting pastures.
Mark Calaway has said to have begun watching, and training in Mixed Martial Arts from 2004, the era of Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, and Chuck Lidell. Mark had already had a significant career as a professional Wrestler, but his addiction to high calibre combat sports took him down the path of Mixed Martial Arts, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Mark would discover many techniques in BJJ, as some of his iconic wrestling moves were highly inspired by Jiu Jitsu. Hells Gate is one of the Undertaker's finishing moves, which looks extremely similar to a Gogoplata, and an Omoplata. Mark would learn through structured classes, before finding out about what is open mat bjj, as he began rolling with many of Rolles Gracie's students.
The rapid rise of Mark Calaway through the BJJ system was incredible, as he would often force students to battle in bjj against bigger opponent. Mark was a six foot ten monster weighing in at three hundred and ten pounds, which was an insurmountable challenge for any high level grappler. Mark was awarded his black belt in 2011 by the legendary Rolles Gracie, and at the time was considered extremely controversial. Many athletes within the BJJ community were extremely confused by his promotion, as Mark was awarded his level in a little over one year, and without wearing a Gi. At that time No Gi was considered a less technical version of BJJ, and had little bearing on a student's overall Jiu Jitsu skill set. In an interview with Rolles Gracie, he spoke about how Mark had thoroughly deserved the promotion, and due to the exceptional teaching skills of Rolles, most people can understand how this promotion was possible.
In most cases it can take ten years or more to earn a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Even many world champions, and bjj for smaller guys will spend five years minimum before they can gain the promotion. This is why there was an uproar in the BJJ community after Rolles promoted Mark. There were multiple claims of watering down in the sport, but in Mark's case he was a worthy recipient, according to Rolles Gracie. It is hard to argue with someone who has credibility like Rolles, and even if someone was to analyze Mark Calaway, they would see the reasons why he was promoted. Over the course of Mark's career he has showcased nothing but pure talent, athleticism and dedication to his craft. He is a high level wrestler, with an outstanding array of knowledge for Martial Arts. There would not be many fighters in the world that wouldn’t be apprehensive about taking on the Undertaker. Mark has been awarded his black belt one way or another, and the bottom line in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is that it teaches a student to respect everyone, especially a black belt like Mark Calaway.
There have been many influential groups within the BJJ community like the bjj dirty dozen, the Vieira brothers, the Ribeiro brothers, and the Gracie family. One of the most influential grapplers of them all is Rolles Gracie, and for him to give out a Gracie black belt then it is pretty safe to say it has meaning. In the Undertaker's case, he possesses both a mental, and physical strength to endure, which he built from pro wrestling. His awareness, and athletic rhythm is uniquely in tune, as he also has the ability for strategic creativity. Wrestling involves different types of pins, and for the Undertaker years of this has basically taught him the ins and outs of the side control position, and how to neutralise an opponent by using heavy amounts of pressure. The last specific point about the Undertaker is how he does not flaunt his rank throughout social media, and this is the true sign of a black belt of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
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