Hall of Fame Profiles: Paul Bearer
Jay Shannon returns with a look at one of the best managers in wrestling history. Actually, he had two different managerial careers, both of which were outstanding.
Since my earliest days of being a wrestling fan, I have always had a fondness for managers. I’ve had the good fortune to meet several outstanding managers, Jimmy Hart, Kevin Sullivan, Skandor Akbar, and Gary Hart. One of my dearest friends spent several years as my arch-enemy, manager Funky Brewster. I learned from them all but the one manager that was always my favorite was the man going into this year’s Hall of Fame…Paul Bearer (aka Percy Pringle III).
An Early Start:
William Alvin Moody was a fan of wrestling from a very early age. While still in high school, Moody got a job working for a local wrestling group as a ringside photographer. Moody enlisted in the US Air Force, shortly after graduation. During his four-year tour of duty, Bill occasionally wrestled during his off time. After the military service, Moody decided to switch to being a manger. In the late 70s, Moody tried several identities before settling on Percival Pringle III. The reason for the name was that there had actually been two other men who had used the Percival/Percy Pringle name.
Percival Pringle III
Moody spent a few years as Pringle before taking a break after the birth of his son. During his down time, Moody got certified as an embalmer and mortician.
Moody return to wrestling in 1984. Over the next six years, Percival Pringle III worked in Florida, Georgia, Texas and several other areas of the “Southern Corridor”. One of his charges was the Master of Pain aka The Punisher. That relationship would return to aid Bill Moody, up north.
Conversion to Paul Bearer
When Mark Calaway was recruited to appear in the WWF (as the Undertaker), it was decided that he would utilize a manager. Several people were considered and both Ted DiBiase and Brother Love did short runs as his manager. According to numerous sources, it was Calaway, himself, who brought up Percy Pringle as an option. Mark wanted to repay the man who had helped him, early on. When Creative learned that Percy was a legit mortician, he was offered the managerial position. The bleached hair of Percy Pringle was replaced by the boot black dyed hair of Paul Bearer. Paul raised his voice to a falsetto tone. Brother Love passed the managerial torch to Bearer on an episode of Brother Love’s talk show. (February, 1991)
A fun side story. My girlfriend in the early 90s was a blind girl named Donna. While the Undertaker was supposed to be the scary one, it was Paul Bearer that always scared her. She’d cuddle up close any time she heard that creepy voice. Made me appreciate him, that much more. Smile.
Paul Bearer helped lead Undertaker to a controversial World Title win over Hulk Hogan. The title would return to Hogan a mere 2 days later (Tuesday in Texas). Paul also hosted an interview segment called “The Funeral Parlor”. Bearer and Taker seemed like the perfect team but it would eventually fall to pieces.
Papa Bearer and Uncle Paul
In 1996, Paul Bearer turned on his long-time friend by joining forces with the twisted Mankind (Mick Foley). At one point, Undertaker threw a fireball into the face of the rotund manager. (Watch Legends of Wrestling to learn, from Foley, how that almost didn’t happen as neither could light the flash paper). Paul then came out bandaged and very disturbed. Eventually, Paul would abandon his goth-black hair dye and pancake make-up for a more natural look. He was much more like his Percy Pringle III character (only with light brown hair, not bleached blonde). Paul and Taker would eventually reconcile their relationship.
Paul began to discuss a “Deep, Dark Secret” from Taker’s past. The whole storyline got very disturbing when Paul revealed that he had worked for Undertaker’s parents at the Funeral Home that Undertaker grew up in…with a younger brother. Paul accused Taker of setting a fire that killed his parents and horribly disfigured the younger brother, Kane. Paul said Taker thought Kane was dead but he wasn’t. Paul said Kane wanted to face his big brother to settle the score. Kane was introduced at “Bad Blood” (October 1997)/ Kane cost his big brother a Hell in a Cell match against Shawn Michaels. Undertaker kept refusing to fight his brother but Paul Bearer kept pushing Taker until the two eventually met at Wrestlemania XIV. It would later be revealed that Kane and Undertaker were only Half-Brothers. Paul Bearer admitted to a love affair with the mother of the two men and claimed to be Kane’s true father.
Paul would eventually turn on his own “Son”, Kane, to return to Undertaker’s side. He helped Taker go back to being a heel. Paul Bearer served as the manager-of-record for the Ministry of Darkness. Paul and Taker would be taken off television, after Undertaker was injured.
Paul made a brief return in early 2000, as Kane’s manager. Eventually, Paul retired from active management to take a backstage position with the WWE. He worked out the last 2 years of his contract as a stage manager, road agent and talent scout.
The Return of Percy Pringle
Bill return to his earlier managerial character to help Jeff Jarrett create and build TNA. (2002-03) He made a few on-screen appearances but mostly worked in the back.
Back to being Bearer
Jim Ross (as a WWE Executive) contacted Bill about resigning with the WWE. He offered him a 3-year deal. Bill initially refused but Jim sweetened the pot by agreeing to cover the health costs of Bill, including Gastric Bypass Surgery.
Paul worked backstage, as he recovered from his surgery. Paul officially returned at Wrestlemania XX, at the side of The Undertaker. Paul was eventually written out of the storylines, due to complications from his earlier gastric bypass surgery. To cover the new gallstones surgery, Paul was “Kidnapped” by the Dudley Boys and Paul Heyman. Paul was supposedly “Killed” when Heyman put Bearer inside a glass crypt and filled it with cement. (Actually, Paul Bearer was at home recovering from the emergency surgery and had been previously taped in the crypt. A stunt double was “Buried Alive”). Only the live audience got to see Paul “escape” the deadly prison.
The final years
Paul Bearer would eventually sign a Legends Contract, which allowed the WWE to utilize his likeness for videos, video games, etc… Bill also went to various conventions and personal appearance under the “Paul Bearer” persona. Bill also made several videos (several with Jim Cornette) discussing the business. (many are available on YouTube).
In April 2007, Paul appeared on WWE.com to show that he had dropped 240 pounds, thanks to the bypass surgery. Paul Bearer made several appearance at indy organizations, leading men like Vader and John “Bradshaw” Layfield. Paul made a few appearances in the WWE but fully retired to be at the side of his beloved wife, Dianna, as she battled breast cancer. She passed away in 2009. Paul also helped his son, Daniel, launch his wrestling career, under the name of “D.J. Pringle”.
Bill had gone to the Gulf Coast Wrestling Reunion, in Mobile, Alabama, on March 2, 2013. “Cowboy” Bob Kelly had noticed that Bill was having issues with his breathing. Bill went to a medical facility, where a blood clot was located. 3 days later, William Moody passed away. It is believed that the clot may have triggered a heart attack.
Paul Bearer has been called one of the best and most unique managers in wrestling history. He had been a hero and inspiration for me for decades. As a final tribute to Paul, I wanted to share the photo that I sent to Paul Bearer, shortly after playing “Uncle Paul” for Pro Wrestling Destination.
Thank you, Mr. Moody, for all you brought us. As you Rest in Peace, I hope the love of your admiring fans brings a smile to your face…on the other side of the veil.
God Bless and congratulations.