A Tribute to Paul Bearer (1954-2013)

The world of professional wrestling lost one of its all-time greatest managers on March 5, 2013 when William Moody passed away at the age of 58 after suffering from a severe upper respiratory infection. Of course, wrestling fans known him best by the name “Paul Bearer”. However, during the 1980s, Moody actually had success under another name, “Percy Pringle”, when he worked as an obnoxious blonde heel manager in several different wrestling promotions, including Florida Championship Wrestling and World Class Championship Wrestling.

After World Class closed down in 1990, Moody found himself unemployed and ready to quit the wrestling business until he secured a job interview with the World Wrestling Federation. In one of the ultimate “right place, right time” stories, the WWF had just introduced a new larger-than-life wrestler called The Undertaker and were looking for someone to manage him. Since Moody actually had real-life experience working in the funeral business, Vince McMahon’s eyes apparently lit up when he saw his resume, and Moody soon got himself a job managing The Undertaker under the name “Paul Bearer”. Given that The Undertaker would become one of the most successful characters in the history of professional wrestling, this pretty much guaranteed Paul Bearer steady employment in the WWF for the next decade. Who knows if The Undertaker would have had such longevity if he didn’t have Paul Bearer to all his talking for him? Bearer would also go on to manage legendary WWF superstars Mankind, Vader, and Kane, and his cartoonish, over-the-top promos and facial expressions never failed to entertain. His weekly talk show segment, The Funeral Parlor, was always a major highlight.

Paul Bearer essentially retired as a full-time manager in 2000, but he would still come back to make the odd cameo appearance over the years. By his own admission, William Moody always struggled with weight issues and actually credits the WWF with saving his life in 2003 when they called him to make a surprise return with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 20 and then offered to pay for his gastric bypass surgery. But in spite of his ghoulish television persona, Moody was, by all accounts, a super-nice guy who always seemed genuinely grateful to have attained so much success in the wrestling business. Of course, he was never hesitant about letting loose on people he didn’t get along with, such as in this shoot interview, where Moody and Jim Cornette go off on a priceless rant against reviled WWF TV director Kevin Dunn. This is one case where these words are definitely appropriate: R.I.P. Paul Bearer.

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