1990s was a transformational decade for the entire Indian nation. Not only was the country changing economically and socially, it was also a time of radical change as far as television was concerned. With the advent of private networks, not only was there a spurt of growth in TV programming but new types of entertainment entered the Indian market.
There were plenty of imported shows from the West, especially USA. But none was as effective as the programming from WWE (then known as WWF) in striking a chord with the public. From little children to people in early 20s, there was a huge fan following that professional wrestling earned in India. Stars like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker became highly famous.
Deadman enters Bollywood
Bollywood, always having a penchant to copy tunes and stories from its western counterparts, couldn't resist the allure of WWE either. So, in the 1996 movie, 'Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi,' starring Akshay Kumar, Raveena Tandon and Rekha, an appearance was made by none other than The Undertaker, that was his name in the movie as well.
Now that was an era well before internet became diffused all over the world. There was no YouTube and no social media of any kind. So, in all likelihood, WWE of that time remained blissfully unaware of a Bollywood movie using one of their characters.
Those Indians who were interested in WWE must have loved watching one of their own heroes beating an American wrestling star, if only in a cinematic situation. But was it really The Undertaker who appeared in the movie and even mouthed some lines in Hindi? Many believed so. But it wasn't!
Real identity of Bollywood's Undertaker
Indeed the 'Undertaker' of Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi was somebody imitating the WWE star. Most of you would have guessed that. But even more interestingly, the person playing the Deadman in the movie had been in WWE also and there too, had played the character of The Phenom, albeit a fake one.
The Undertaker fighting with Akshay Kumar was an American professional wrestler called Brian Lee Harris. He had been in the business for some years before featuring in a famous storyline of WWE in 1994.
That year, Undertaker had been on an extended leave from WWE to recover from an injury. Then, the 'Million Dollar Man' Ted de Biase brought back his own Undertaker who, while having the same physique, stature, dress, mannerisms and other accoutrements of the Phenom's character, was clearly an imposter.
This fake Undertaker was played by none other than Lee. His run in this character ended when the genuine Undertaker, that is Mark Calaway, returned and had a decisive match with him at SummerSlam 1994. As expected, the genuine Phenom, Calaway, won and delivered three Tombstone Piledrivers to his imposter. After that, he consigned him to a casket. That was the end of 'Underfaker' storyline.
Two years later, Lee was back to playing the Deadman, this time a Bollywood version. He never became a famous superstar though despite having stints thereafter in ECW and TNA. Maybe, he should have remained in Bollywood!