Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rest In Peace, Paul Bearer

I'd venture to guess that if you had told good old Bill Moody from Mobile, Alabama that his death would be mourned the world over, he'd have called you a liar.  Over the past 48 hours we've been able to prove that wrong, albeit way too soon.

Moody, known to the wrestling world as Percival Pringle III and Paul Bearer, was celebrating at one of his favorite events, the Gulf Coast Wrestlers Reunion, this past weekend when he fell ill.  Just days later, the legendary manager and pop culture icon to a generation had passed away at just 58.  A blood clot is being reported as the cause.

Moody came into the world of wrestling as many of the greats do: growing up as a fan.  He and Michael  P.S. Hayes were actually friends before either began their careers in the industry.  Like fellow managerial greats such as Paul Heyman and Jim Cornette, Mr. Moody's first role at ringside was capturing the action as a photographer.

As Percy Pringle (the third man in wrestling named as such), Moody began to make a name in the last decade of the wrestling territories.  While Pringle saw success in areas like Florida and Texas, the fame would come nowhere near that of which a 1991 trip north would eventually bring.

Moody always credited his friend and former WCCW protege Ravishing Rick Rude as putting in a good word for him with the WWF.  That combined with an idea brewing within the creative forces inside of the WWF at the time saw the birth of Paul Bearer.  Bearer was to be a creepy funeral director in charge of a wrestler who had just debuted in the WWF a few months earlier, The Undertaker.  Although imposing, The Undertaker was a character of few words.  His first manager, Brother Love, just didn't seem to click with "The Deadman."

Both wrestler and manager were unlike anything seen before by WWF fans.  The seemingly indestructible wrestler packaged with an over-the-time manager to vocalize the threats and challenges was a tried and true WWF formula.  With the talent of these two men, the sky was the limit.  For the next five years, the duo gained in popularity with young and old alike.

I often discuss how certain wrestlers from the '80s are known by nearly everyone who grew up in that era.  As for the '90s, The Undertaker and Paul Bearer are near the top of the list.  Every child ran around the school yard doing his own impressive of the portly manager with a high pitched "Ohhhh Yeeeees!" to top it off.  Because of this, it's no surprise that The Undertaker and Bearer appeared on tons of merchandise over the years.

Although his original on-screen partnership with The Undertaker ended in 1996, Bearer would go on to manage such WWF superstars as Mankind, Vader, and Kane.  Bearer and 'Taker would also reunite several times playing off of their fantastic history together.

It was in a mid-1990s issue of WWF Magazine that sharp-eyed fans were let in on a secret about Paul Bearer.  A kayfabed article was written about Paul Bearer's history in the mortuary.  Accompanying the article was a series of photos of a much younger Bearer in the embalming room and funeral home.  The photos were obviously not faked.  It turns out that in his younger days, Moody did indeed become a licensed mortician.  It has been said that the WWF was completely unaware that the man chosen to play Paul Bearer had the matching background.

As the WWF phased out the concept of the manager, Bearer began to take other positions within the company including talent scout.  Even a return to his real-life role as a mortician came about around ten years ago.  Can you imagine attending a real funeral only to see Paul Bearer presiding?

Moody did have his share of rough times post-wrestling, including a well-publicized battle with his weight and the tragic death of his beloved wife, Dianna, from cancer.  Despite these troubled times, Moody kept a very upbeat and public face throughout. 

Paul Bearer also became a very popular name on the fanfest and convention scene.  He had the personality that truly resonates with the fans.  While having a strong, old school opinion on keeping times with his friends within the industry and fans separate, anyone who had the opportunity to meet the man has nothing but fantastic memories. 

My own particular "Paul Bearer Moment" took place several years ago at the NWA Fanfest in Charlotte, NC.  Posing for a photo with Paul London, I began to hear laughter.  As soon as the photo was taken, I turned around to see none other than Paul Bearer in a baseball cap.  In that unmistakable voice, Bearer loudly proclaimed, "You got a BONUS!"  I sure did.  I probably wouldn't even remember that photo if it weren't for the "Bearer Bomb" in the background.

Moody embraced technology and frequently kept up with his website and blog.  He even had one of the coolest Twitter handles--@wweurniverse.  Around one month ago I Tweeted to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Paul Bearer character.  Bearer responded that it "just don't seem possible."  I agree.  A few weeks later and those are the feelings of so many regarding his passing.  Just don't seem possible.

As mentioned above, the news of Moody's passing has garnered attention from around the globe.  From friends and fans to news agencies and of course the wrestling industry, it's become quite clear that the Paul Bearer character is one of the solid icons of his era.  Thank you, Mr. Moody, for all of your contributions to the wrestling business and so many of our childhoods.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.  Rest in Peace.


Loneman1 said...

While sadly he was taken way too soon, it does my heart good that so many people have shown their respects to the man, even outside the world of wrestling. The guy brought such a memorable character to our screens for so long. I remember thinking way back when Taker debuted and they paired him with Paul Bearer, even with those over the top characters they had back then, I couldn't really take them seriously somehow.....I'm glad I was very, very wrong on that one.

RIP William Moody

Brad said...

He will be missed. I can remember NWA LEgends Fanfest in Atlanta where he was playing peek-a-boo with my then 1 year old son. It was hillarious and I'll never forget it.