Haystacks Calhoun: His Incredible Life and Tragic End

From his humble beginnings on a farm in McKinney, Texas, to becoming one of the most beloved big guys in the ring, dive into the extraordinary secret life of gentle giant Haystacks Calhoun!

Haystacks Calhoun: From Farmboy to Wrestling Legend

Haystacks Calhoun.
Haystacks Calhoun. Photo Credit: NWA.

Born William Dee Calhoun on August 3, 1934, in McKinney, Texas, Calhoun grew up on a farm outside of Dallas. Abnormally large from his birth, by age 14, he weighed over 300 pounds. By his twenties, he would be over 600.

Legend has it that Calhoun was discovered by a traveling wrestling promoter who saw him literally pick up and move cows across a field.

He debuted in 1955, working for promoter and NWA World Champion Orville Brown, competing primarily in Houston, Kansas City, and Canada.

Because of his size and country background, he was given the nickname “Haystacks” and was billed from Morgan’s Corner, Arkansas.

He adopted a hillbilly gimmick- complete with a beard, white tee, overalls, and a horseshoe necklace.

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The Lovable Giant: Haystacks Calhoun’s Fan-Favorite Status

Haystacks Calhoun and the McGuire Twins
Haystacks Calhoun and the McGuire Twins. Photo Credit: Dave Drason Burzynski.

Despite his size, Calhoun’s lovable demeanor made him an instant fan favorite.

His national appearance on the variety show Ark Linkletter’s House Party, where he displayed his awesome strength and size, made him a household name. Calhoun also has an uncredited role in the movie version of Requiem For A Heavyweight in 1962.

Because he was seen as a special attraction, he mostly competed in handicap matches and battle royals. Still, he possessed uncanny agility for a man his size to go along with his power.

At times, he would team with Mountain Man Mike, forming a duo with a combined weight of over 1,200 pounds. According to ‘Haystacks lore,’ only one man was able to lift Calhoun: Bruno Sammartino.

Though he had never won a world singles title, he was often more sought out as an attraction than the champion. He did have some major success as a tag team competitor, even holding one-half of the WWWF tag team titles in 1973.

Calhoun’s weight and declining health would eventually force him into retirement. He would lose a leg to diabetes in 1986 and would be confined to a double-wide trailer for the remainder of his life.

The Final Chapter: Haystacks Calhoun’s Passing

Haystacks Calhoun in the Ring.
Haystacks Calhoun in the Ring. Photo Credit: Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

Three years after losing his leg, on December 7th, 1989, Haystacks Calhoun, one of the biggest wrestling draws of the 1950s and ’60s, died in his home in Collin County, Texas, from diabetic complications. He was 55 years of age.

Haystacks was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame earlier this year as part of the Class of 2017.

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