Published on May 20th, 2017 | by Bobby Mathews0
Meet the Man Who Trained the Undertaker: Don Jardine, the Spoiler
Before there was the Undertaker, before the Wrestlemania streak, before there was even a “Mean” Mark Callous, there was Mark Callaway, a Houston kid growing tall and lean, athletic enough to qualify for a basketball scholarship to a small college in his native Texas. But like many another future pro grappler in the lone star state, Callaway grew up watching wrestling. Houston promoter Paul Boesch brought in talent from everywhere. Houston itself was a large enough city that it was able to promote both the NWA and AWA, as well as bring in stars from New York in the pre-WWF expansion. And then there was World Class in Dallas, the Funks in Amarillo, and Joe Blanchard’s Southwest Championship Wrestling down in San Antonio.
After considering a stint as a professional basketball player in Europe, Callaway instead set his mind to becoming a wrestler. But breaking into the business would prove more difficult than Callaway expected.
The Mad Dog
Buzz Sawyer was a lot of things: a supremely talented and double-tough in-ring performer, Sawyer spent time as a babyface in the Carolinas, Florida, and Georgia to learn the business in the late 1970s, until promoters began to let his sadistic streak run wild. Money soon followed. Sawyer found the main event spotlight during his run with Georgia Championship Wrestling, feuding with Tommy “Wildfire” Rich in one of the bloodiest wars seen in professional wrestling. Sawyer and Rich battled one another for nearly two years before the ‘Last Battle of Atlanta’–contested in a ring completely enclosed by a steel cage (a precursor to both WCW’s War Games and WWE’s Hell in a Cell)–blew off the feud.
Sawyer’s “Mad Dog” gimmick wasn’t much different than the man he was outside the ring. The real-life Bruce Woyan was uncontrollable outside the ring. His drug abuse was frequent and legendary, and he got in trouble on more than one occasion for fighting the cops who were called to break up his other fights in progress. As a high-school wrestler and football player at Dixie Hollins High School, Sawyer was already known for his wild behavior. While simultaneously being a ranked amateur wrestler, he would use his forehead to hammer nails into two-by-fours prior to (and sometimes during halftime) high school football games.
But Sawyer was also the most receptive of the wrestlers in Dallas’s World Class promotion when Callaway was seeking to break into the business. Sawyer was working in Texas after leaving the Florida territory, where he’d spent time as part of Kevin Sullivan’s Army of Darkness once his feud with Rich had ended. Callaway paid Sawyer an undisclosed sum of money (reportedly $2,500), and in their first lesson, Sawyer showed Callaway how to lock up in a collar-and-elbow, the traditional way wrestlers begin a match.
The next day, Sawyer skipped town–with Callaway’s money.
It was a hard lesson for the young man looking to break into the business. Luckily, there was something better on the horizon.