By Ryan K. Boman, Editor in Chief
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.
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 that 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 beard, white tee, overalls, and a horseshoe necklace.
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.
Haystacks Calhon would eventually die three years later 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.