Flashback – Paul Bearer RIP

William Alvin Moody was born April 10, 1958 in Mobile, Alabama. His love of wrestling was sparked at the age of five when his parents would bring him to the local ‘Wrestling Live On Channel 5′ tapings. He was smitten, but it was when he got his driver’s license that things really took off. He combined his love of photography and his love of wrestling and followed local wrestling every place possible. Though it was his photography at wrestling events that got him close, it was watching and learning how to work the ring that really cinched it all for him. It wasn’t just Moody who made it far in the industry. A couple other young guys he ran with early on became quite well know in the industry both locally and worldwide. Moody’s cousin became ‘Marvelous’ Marcel Pringle, known quite well locally. Michaels Hayes (Fabulous Freebirds) is still with the WWE. Robert Gibson (Rock and Roll Express) still wrestles in the indy circuit. John Frenkle III was known as ‘Hollywood’ John Tatum has since retired from the ring, but is still known in the Florida panhandle.

After high school Moody joined the Air force. His whole four years Moody was stationed at Keesler AFB close to Biloxi, MS. While being in the military might have slowed a lot of people down, Moody worked the ring in his off time. But that wasn’t all, he also worked part time for the Bobile’s Buddy’s Ambulance Service and became an EMT. Moody married his lovely wife Dianna in 1978. It was in 1979 that he started managing under the name Percy Pringle, though he wasn’t the first Percy Pringle in wrestling.

After Dianna gave birth to their first son Michael, Moody stepped away from the wrestling industry and pursued a more stable trade. During his time as an EMT he visited many funeral homes and that piqued his interest, so he went to San Antonio College where he graduated on the Dean’s List with a Degree in Mortuary Science and his Funeral Director and Embalmer’s Certification. Moody continued to maintain his certification, even through so many successful years in the wrestling industry so he’d always have something to fall back on.

In 1984 Moody returned to the wrestling industry full time with FCW, WCCW in Texas. During that time he worked with a number of young wrestlers who would later become huge stars including Lex Luger, Blackjack Mulligan, and Ultimate Warrior, as well as managing some future top stars in , Kamala, ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin, Rick Rude, and Mark Calaway.

It was Rude who mentioned Moody to Vince McMahon a number of times before he was brought in to the WWF. It was Moody’s work in the mortuary industry that created the Paul Bearer character. Brother Love had been leading The Undertaker, but passed him along to Bearer in February 1991, and something clicked, the characters melded beautifully, creating something much bigger than the sum of its parts.

Moody and Taker got got together early in Taker’s time in the WWF, on the Road to WrestleMania, so Moody was by Taker’s side for the start of The Streak. As the character Paul Bearer, Moody always had his magical urn in hand, and it evolved into Taker’s life force, Bearer’s way of controlling him. Moody became more pale, ghostly and over-the-top as Bearer, even so far as applying white face makeup and black around his eyes. Bearer ran with Taker for over five years before turning heel on ‘My Undertaker’ and joining up with Taker’s arch nemesis, Mankind. In April of 1997 their feud went to a whole new level when Taker burned Bearer’s face with a fireball. After being bandaged for quite a while, Bearer removed the bandages to show a makeup free face and his own natural blond hair. His voice started becoming more shrill, and his big mouth told everyone that he had a secret about Taker’s past. It was in October of that year that Bearer debuted Taker’s burnt little secret โ€“ Kane. Bearer was intertwined in the feud between the ‘brothers’. In late 1999 Bearer took some time off when Taker was injured, but returned in early 2000 to manage Kane. It wasn’t long before that ended and Moody went to work as a talent scout and road agent until his contract ended in 2002.

In October of 2003 Moody was approached by JR for a return to the WWE, but turned it down. After another offer Moody finally admitted that he was suffering with depression and other health issues due to his morbid obesity. He really needed a gastric bypass, and the WWE paid for it, as JR promised they would. At WrestleMania XX Taker was returning as the Deadman, but no one knew that Paul Bearer was also returning. When the fans heard Bearer’s “Ohhh yyyyes!” the roof about blew off MSG! This run didn’t last very long because Taker was feuding with Heyman and the Dudley Boyz, and the only way of gaining his freedom was by killing Bearer. Bearer sat in a plexiglass box on the stage while Taker fought both Devon and Bubba Ray. Taker won the match, but he knew what he had to do for his freedom. Taker pulled the arm on the cement truck filling up the box Bearer sat in. Bearer was suffocated and killed off. In reality the box on the stage was empty and special effects showed the whole horrible scene. There was such an outcry over the ‘death’ shown on screen that the WWE had to step back and say that Bearer was gravely injured, but alive. Moody went back to booking for a brief time after that.

On January 31, 2009 Dianna passed away due to complications from breast cancer and chemo. She and Moody had been married for over 30 years and she was the love of his life. When the WWE approached Moody about going back on the road, he really didn’t want to as he was mourning his wife’s death, but he was talked into it. Moody admitted it was the best thing for him as he didn’t have the time to sit around and wallow in self pity.

For a couple years Moody made sporadic appearances as Bearer when needed, as well as doing voice work for WWE video games. In 2010 Bearer returned to manage Taker, but very quickly turned on Taker by flashing a light coming from the urn into Taker’s eyes and giving Kane the win. Bearer went heel and managed Kane for a while. On November 10th Edge kidnapped Bearer and started playing nasty tricks on Bearer and messing with Kane, right down to throwing a dummy dressed to look like Bearer down a flight of stairs. The next week Edge set up two ladders with what looked like Bearer on boards across the top. Kane thought it was another dummy and pushed the ladders over. Due to his ‘injuries’ Bearer was again written off TV. Bearer returned briefly in April of 2012 during Kane’s feud with Orton, but it didn’t amount to anything more than one show.

As everyone knows, William Moody, aka Percy Pringle, aka Paul Bearer passed away on March 5, 2013. As of writing this I know nothing more of his death. Hopefully we will find out soon about what happened. My heart goes out to his family, friends and fans. He was such a beloved man, and will be missed by so many.

RIP.

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  • Patrick

    Well Done Kendra you did a great job on this blog,

  • -|AZ|-

    Awesome work Ken, really nice blog…

    I hope Taker does some kinda tribute to him by carrying the urn while entering the ring @WM29…

    R.I.P Paul, you will be greatly missed…

    -|AZ|-

  • Michael

    Great read Paul really was one of the best ever and really paid his dues for the business he fell in love with.

  • http://www.wrestlingnewsworld.com/ Richard Gray

    Wonderful blog. Actually gave me chills at how well done this piece was. Today we grieve, but going forward we remember Paul Bearer as a wrestling icon.

  • wrestlingadvisor.com

    This is very interesting information. I posted about his death on my wrestling blog as well, but I was not aware of the fact that he had a cousin that got into wrestling, that he was a real-life mortician, or that he served our country. I defenitely salute him for his service and am glad that he and his wife are now finally reunited in heaven. Very interesting stuff. Keep up the good work.

  • Charles

    Funny how watching these guys on TV for 20 years or so they become like family. A very interesting man in and out of the ring. RIP

  • George Waldman

    I’m curious as to where you get your info, especially the personal stuff. Beautiful tribute to him, as usual, Kendra.