In Memory of Paul Bearer
March 7, 2013 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Bill Moody, best known as professional wrestling manager Paul Bearer, passed away Tuesday at the age of 58.

He began his career as a manager in 1979, calling himself Percy Pringle III, and after a brief detour as--oh yes--a funeral director, continued this role, managing future-greats like Rick Rude and, incredibly, Mark Calaway in CWF and WCCW.

But Moody's big break came in 1990, when he was introduced to the world as the manager of brand-new WWF phenom The Undertaker. He quickly became a beloved character, both in his capacity as the Undertaker's mouthpiece (and Kane's father), and as host of his "Funeral Parlor" interview segment, known for his creepy, intense promos.

Bill is remembered fondly by friend and colleague Jim Ross (and, uh, Evanescence).

As Percy himself said, though, "As long as there's fans out there that have enjoyed what we've done through the years, Paul Bearer's never going to die."
posted by uncleozzy (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I was pretty much too old for the WWF when Paul Bearer and the Undertaker came on the scene, but my little brother was a fan, and I always thought the two of them had a great shtick going.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:03 AM on March 7, 2013


This was most unwelcome news on Tuesday.
posted by HostBryan at 10:03 AM on March 7, 2013


I'll miss that wonderfully rubbery face.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 10:14 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Quite possibly the best valet/manager character of all time. Iconic doesn't even begin to describe him.

The Undertaker barely spoke in the early days. He was just a guy in dark clothes and stringy hair. Slow in the ring, though captivating (chokeslam, tombstone piledriver, top rope walk.) Paul Bearer pretty much was the package in those days.

When the Undertaker would speak, at the end of each promo, it was always the same three words, more appropriate now than ever:

posted by SpiffyRob at 10:14 AM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

posted by KingEdRa at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2013

The FPP left out the coolest part of the whole thing: He was a real life mortician.
posted by Lusy P Hur at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

MY favorite Paul Bearer.
posted by THAT William Mize at 10:27 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

The FPP left out the coolest part

Well, I did just say "funeral director," I suppose I ought to have included "and mortician."

I've always loved Paul Bearer. As grossly over-the-top as his performances are, they're still crisp and calculated, designed to set a mood and tell a story. He was one of the greats of the business, no doubt.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2013

The wrestling business is filled with a lot of jerks and assholes, but I never heard anyone say a bad word about Bill Moody/Percy Pringle/Paul Bearer.

He will be missed.

The Undertaker (whose career was boosted tremendously after Paul took over as his mouthpiece for Brother Love) better cut a monster promo with three words for his old manager Monday:

posted by inturnaround at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure what you mean by Percy "incredibly" managing Mark Callaway. For the uninitiated, Mark Callaway is the Undertaker's real name. And its pretty common for people in the wrassling biz to work together in a lot of places on the "circuit".
posted by Billiken at 10:48 AM on March 7, 2013

It should be added that Paul Bearer (the name I met him under) continued to work in wrestling up until his passing. If you've seen The Wrestler, you saw a not-totally-inaccurate depiction of the downmarket regional wrestling promotions that stage their events around the country in spaces like high-school gyms or town meeting halls. And like in the movie, when big-name performers are retired from national promotions (WWE), they often pick up work on these regional circuits. Paul Bearer did just that, except with exactly zero of the stigma or negativity portrayed in The Wrestler. He showed up happy and smiling, having every bit as much fun as he looked on television in his heyday. He also worked his butt off to "put over" the local talent (ie, to get the audience invested in them).

When I worked for an indie record store, I once heard a story about The Presidents of the United States, the band. Our company had held a special anniversary party for the store managers who had been with the company the longest, maybe twenty people total. The company's owner splurged and hired the Presidents to perform. My friend, who related the story to me, was there and he said he'd never been a fan of the Presidents until that day, when they showed up and performed in a room of twenty people with as much zeal and excitement as if they were playing in a stadium.

That was Paul Bearer. If you went to meet him at a VFW hall, he gave you every bit the same enthusiasm as he'd given stadiums full of fans when he was working for WWE.

He was scheduled to appear this weekend at Soul Survivor IX in Melrose, Massachusetts. He would have been signing autographs and taking photos with fans beforehand, and there was also a luncheon scheduled just with him. (Don't quote me, but I believe the proceeds were going to go to charity.) Paul Bearer loved wrestling and he made wrestling lovable, and I absolutely don't believe it's merely coincidence that the wrestler he was most closely involved with has turned out to be one of the most respected and influential performers in the history of the business.

Paul Bearer will be missed.
posted by cribcage at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2013 [18 favorites]


I saw the news yesterday at a glance, and not being a wrestling fan, my first thought was 'Awww. Svengoolie died.'
posted by davelog at 10:54 AM on March 7, 2013

8 year old me, the die-hard Undertaker fan, is devastated. And I don't mean that in a snarky way. I LOVED those guys.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:10 AM on March 7, 2013

I really, really thought he and The Undertaker almost suffocated The Ultimate Warrior to death by locking him in that coffin. Scared the shit out of me.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:42 AM on March 7, 2013

posted by roll truck roll at 12:37 PM on March 7, 2013

The Undertaker (whose career was boosted tremendously after Paul took over as his mouthpiece for Brother Love) better cut a monster promo with three words for his old manager Monday:

I'll be curious to see how it's handled. In an age where wrestlers break kayfabe all the time WWE goes out of its way to protect Undertaker's image as not-quite-a-real-person. He's the only major WWE wrestler who didn't appear at all in the Eddie Guerrero memorial episode, for example.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:40 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

We named a drink after him at a party recently.

posted by activitystory at 12:42 PM on March 7, 2013

I heard the news yesterday, through Nick Mamatas of all people; had been catching up on Youtube videos all night. The Bleacher Report has a nice tribute to him as well.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:48 PM on March 7, 2013
posted by KillaSeal at 12:53 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, WWE and/or 'Taker himself are weird about the Undertaker character. (And I'm curious whether that judgment has been more McMahon or 'Taker.) He doesn't appear at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. He didn't come out of the locker room with everybody else at Ric Flair's retirement; he came out after everybody else, and more importantly, after the broadcast went off the air. Yet he showed up at UFC to trade words with Brock Lesnar, something that neither promotion ever followed up on. And they're not secretive about his travel; his "surprise" appearance on Raw last Monday was spoiled online by reports from people who spotted him at the airport.

So who knows.

Somebody on Twitter suggested that Undertaker bring out the urn at WrestleMania as tribute to Paul Bearer. I think that would be neat. I assume they'll do something, and probably this Monday. I'd like to think that 'Taker would insist on doing something—and this is a guy who has (presumably) earned more chits than anybody else and (reportedly) spent hardly any of 'em, so you'd think they would let him do whatever he wanted. But you never know with WWE.
posted by cribcage at 1:34 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

There's a new wrestling blog, The Mandible Claw, that had a pretty good collection of bloggers sharing their recollections of him. That, and Brandon Stroud at With Leather put together a slideshow of YouTube videos and awesome pictures. The comments section is worth a read (a rarity on a sports site, they've actually built a solid community there), with commenter after commenter sharing their memories of Paul Bearer.

I've never heard a negative comment about the man. I was stunned that he was so young, and that he'd been Paul Bearer for so many years. Just going by the timeline, he was scaring the bejesus out of kids while he was in his thirties. He was a central part of the spectacle, and seemed to realize the absurdity of it, and used the absurdity to make it even more astounding.

Still, there's a simple rule in wrestling: if you're being distracted by Paul Bearer, the lights go out, and you hear a gong sounding, just turn around. The Undertaker is behind you. Jeez, don't these guys watch tape?
posted by Ghidorah at 1:41 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've met Bill Moody a few times and he certainly came across as a good guy. One instance I recall was during the time he was managing Kane. They had an appearance at a local mall for autographs with a line longer than the full length of the building twice over. The two hour session was not enough time to get through the line but Bill was able to convince the staff and other wrestlers (Kane, Mick Foley, Edge) to stay until the line was gone.

posted by JakeEXTREME at 1:57 PM on March 7, 2013

posted by vrakatar at 6:36 PM on March 7, 2013

Definitely a character fondly remembered from my childhood and it sounds like he was a great guy to boot.
posted by Fister Roboto at 9:44 PM on March 7, 2013

I was in my late 20’s when he came to WWF and I was not too old to enjoy it. RIP.
posted by bongo_x at 11:19 PM on March 7, 2013

posted by radwolf76 at 7:37 AM on March 8, 2013

WWE's official tribute.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:11 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

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