William Alvin "Bill" Moody (April 10, 1954 – March 5, 2013), better known by his ring names Paul Bearer and Percival Pringle III, was a professional wrestling manager and former wrestler best known for his time in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and World Wrestling Federation (WWF—later WWE).
Professional wrestling career
He entered the wrestling business in his teenage years as a ringside photographer. After high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, serving four years on duty; during this time, he often wrestled for Indian Coast independent promotions during off-duty hours. In 1979, he began managing as Percival "Percy" Pringle, III in southeastern independent promotions. There had been previous Percy Pringles in wrestling who were not William Moody. Immediately after his first son's birth, he cut back his involvement in the wrestling business in order to obtain a degree in mortuary science and earn certification as a funeral director and embalmer.
In 1984, he resumed full-time involvement in the wrestling business, using his Pringle character in Florida Championship Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas, and the United States Wrestling Association (a successor to WCCW). During this time, he served as manager for numerous wrestlers; he notably managed Rick Rude, "Stunning" Steve Austin, and Mark Calaway in their early careers. As Percy Pringle, he was also associated with the careers of Lex Luger, Eric Embry, and The Ultimate Warrior.
World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (1990–2002)
He joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in December 1990, after being mentioned by Rick Rude to WWF owner Vince McMahon. McMahon used Moody's real-life involvement in the funeral industry to create the character of Paul Bearer (a play on pallbearer), a very histrionic, ghostly manager, who was almost always seen bearing an urn (which led to several storylines involving wrestlers stealing his urn), and whose catch phrase was "Ohhh yyyes!". The Undertaker was his only protege to make use of his urn, being able to draw mystical power from it that could revive his strength during matches, sparking up the phrase, "The power of the urn". While Bearer managed Mankind, Mankind had a tendency to hug up against his urn while rocking back and forth.
Pringle made his first appearance in February 1991 when Brother Love, who originally managed The Undertaker, passed him on to be managed by Paul Bearer. Paul Bearer took on a spookier, ghastlier character as time went on and referred to The Undertaker as "My Undertaker". Pringle played the character for over thirteen years. As Undertaker's manager, as a heel and later a face for over five years, he was a mentor to The Undertaker, playing a major role in his entrances by guiding him to the ring, undoing his tie, and collecting his trench coat and hat. Bearer also hosted the WWF talk show segment entitled The Funeral Parlor, which included memorable segments such as the Ultimate Warrior being locked inside a casket, among others. Eventually Bearer turned heel again by betraying his long-time protege at SummerSlam 1996 to align himself with The Undertaker's arch-enemy, Mankind. While managing Mankind, his new protégé always referred to him as "Uncle Paul". During this time, Bearer would also enlist the services of The Executioner and Vader to do battle against The Undertaker.
In April 1997 at In Your House Revenge of the Taker, The Undertaker set Bearer's face ablaze using a fireball. As a result, Bearer's head was bandaged for a time before changing his looks, shedding the makeup of ghostly pallor and jet-black hair to his natural brown hair and less make-up. No longer using his ghostly appearance and mannerisms, he became loudmouthed and shrill. Around mid 1997, Paul Bearer blackmailed The Undertaker (WWF Champion at the time) into being his protégé again by threatening to reveal a deep, dark secret involving him, often making references to "the fires of Hell". Feeling he had no choice, The Undertaker eventually accepted after several weeks of resistance. While "managing" Undertaker this time around, Bearer engaged in tyrannical behaviors towards him, harassing and nagging at him constantly. Eventually, Undertaker lost his patience and refused to allow Bearer to continue being his manager, leading Bearer to reveal the secret.
The secret suggested that Bearer had a traumatic past with The Undertaker which long preceded Brother Love's joining the two in January 1991. The secret, which involved the Undertaker's family, was: The Undertaker's mother had an affair with Paul Bearer and as a result, gave birth to a younger half-brother of The Undertaker, named Kane. Throughout The Undertaker's childhood and teen years, he lived in a funeral home with his parents and half-brother. According to Paul Bearer, The Undertaker killed his parents and caused his half-brother's face to be bruised and scarred by setting the funeral home ablaze. At the time throughout mid to late 1997, The Undertaker denied all this, claiming it was his younger half-brother's fault. Bearer accused The Undertaker of being a "murderer" and "liar". Because of the fire incident, The Undertaker thought his younger half-brother and Bearer's illegitimate son had been dead for years, that is, until Bearer introduced Kane in October 1997 at In Your House Badd Blood; during which, Kane would cost The Undertaker a Hell in a Cell match against Shawn Michaels. This led to an intense, bitter rivalry between The Undertaker and Kane with Bearer very much involved.
Bearer and The Undertaker became a team once again as heels toward the end of 1998 when Bearer betrayed his own son, Kane, in favor of managing The Undertaker once again. Once becoming a heel with Bearer, The Undertaker shamelessly admitted to setting the funeral home ablaze for which he had initially claimed was an accident or blamed Kane. Shortly thereafter, Bearer and The Undertaker formed the Ministry of Darkness. Bearer had partially reverted to his original appearance once in the Ministry of Darkness, having jet-black hair and mustache (minus the ghostly makeup). Both he and The Undertaker departed from the WWF unceremoniously in September 1999 as a result of The Undertaker suffering an injury.
In early 2000, Bearer, who turned face once more briefly, returned to WWF TV as Kane's manager, but he retired from on-screen performing shortly after WrestleMania 2000. Later that year, he went backstage to serve as a WWF road agent, stage manager, and talent scout. His contract with WWE ended in October 2002.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2002–2003)
He spent the next year working with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling under the ring name Percy Pringle III.
Return to WWE (2003–2013)
In October 2003, he signed a new three-year contract with WWE. When Jim Ross contacted him about rejoining the company, Paul at first refused the offer. Jim Ross then called again with an offer. At that time, he was suffering from health problems and depression related to his morbid obesity and underwent gastric bypass surgery in November 2003. As a signing bonus, WWE agreed to pay for the surgery, as Jim Ross promised.
Managing The Undertaker and backstage work (2004–2005)
After recovering, he reappeared as Paul Bearer in March 2004 at WrestleMania XX, alongside Undertaker in a match against Kane. Paul Bearer also appeared on TV as The Undertaker's manager.
In spring of 2004, Paul Bearer was kidnapped by The Dudley Boyz under the direction of Paul Heyman. This was set up in order to temporarily write Bearer out of WWE story lines because he had to undergo emergency gallbladder surgery after suddenly developing gallstones, a common side effect of gastric bypass surgery.
For the June 27, 2004 pay-per-view The Great American Bash, a match pitting Undertaker against both of the Dudley Boyz was booked. Paul Bearer would be encased in a glass crypt backstage, covered up to his chest in cement. In the storyline, Heyman demanded that Undertaker throw the match or else see Bearer suffocated in cement. By the time of the pay-per-view, Bearer had recovered from his latest operation and would appear on-screen.
Undertaker won the match but proceeded afterwards to pull the lever that sent cement into the crypt, completely burying Paul Bearer, suffocating him. (Bearer was not really at the event. The WWE had recorded footage of Paul Bearer in the crypt before the event. During the event, there was a stunt double in the crypt the whole time. That's why the TV audience could only see Paul Bearer and the crypt he was in – since he wasn't there, they couldn't actually show anyone on screen with Bearer). This shot ended the PPV and caused numerous complaints toward WWE, as in essence they had shown a simulated murder. The live audience, however, saw an extended ending in which Bearer surfaced for air and was carried from the arena on a stretcher. On the following week's SmackDown!, Bearer was acknowledged to be alive, although gravely injured, for storyline purposes. The rehearsal taping earlier in the day of the Bash – with Undertaker ad-libbing and only half of the stunt complete, in an empty arena – was leaked onto the internet dirt sheets and actually broadcast live by accident in many of the TV markets. As he had two years remaining on his contract, however, Bearer was used as a booker for the company up until WWE decided to terminate his contract on April 11, 2005.
Other WWE work and independent circuit (2005–2013)
On June 10, 2005, Bearer announced that he had signed a new deal with WWE which would allow WWE to market his personality and which would involve him attending autograph sessions and making promotional appearances and occasional appearances on TV and at house shows. Such an appearance occurred in late January 2007 at a SmackDown/ECW live event in Mobile, Alabama, where he joined the Brothers of Destruction at ringside, wearing his Paul Bearer attire, and carrying the original urn.
On April 11, 2007, Bearer appeared in the "Where Are They Now?" page, on the WWE website. He is said to have lost 240 pounds.
Bearer has been featured as a manager in the THQ video game WWE Legends of WrestleMania in 2009. In 2010, Moody did voice over work as Paul Bearer for the game, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011, where he was featured in one of the Road To WrestleMania storylines for the game, as well as a selectable manager.He was also on "WWE All Stars".
Bearer returned to the Boston-based Millennium Wrestling Federation as top heel manager along with John "Bradshaw" Layfield after four years, leading "Stalker" Dylan Kage at Soul Survivor VI against The Iron Sheik and "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal in the Sheik's retirement match April 24, 2010.
On October 12, 2012 Bearer managed Vader against Rikishi at Pro Wrestling Syndicate in Rahway, NJ.
Sporadic WWE appearances (2010-2013)
On the September 24, 2010, episode of SmackDown, Bearer returned after being brought out in a casket. Bearer would help The Undertaker, who was feuding with Kane over the World Heavyweight Championship, by restoring Undertaker's powers with the urn. Bearer officially became Undertaker's manager again by accompanying him to the ring for his match against Kane for the title at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. During the match however, Bearer once again turned on Undertaker, after shining a light in his eyes when he was about to tombstone Kane. Bearer would then let Kane use the urn as a weapon to help him win the match, thus, turning Bearer heel. On the October 15 episode of SmackDown, Bearer challenged Undertaker to face Kane in a Buried Alive Match for the World Heavyweight Championship at Bragging Rights, to which Undertaker accepted by attacking Kane. At Bragging Rights, Kane once again defeated Undertaker after interference by Bearer, who was almost thrown in the grave by Undertaker, and Nexus, who helped Bearer and Kane bury Undertaker.
Kane then entered a feud with Edge, after he was named the new challenger to Kane's World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series. On the November 12 episode of SmackDown, Bearer cost Edge his match against Nexus member David Otunga. After the match, Edge kidnapped Bearer by strapping him in a wheelchair. Later that night, Edge used Bearer to cost Kane his match against The Big Show. The following week, Edge tormented Bearer throughout the night by throwing a dodgeball at him and force feeding and throwing pizza all over him. Edge then used Bearer to call for Kane in the parking lot, but Kane wasn't able to get Bearer in time as Edge attacked him and drove off with Bearer. On the November 26 episode of SmackDown, Kane demanded that Edge to let Bearer go, but Edge refused. Kane attempted to track down Bearer, but was unable to find him. Kane offered a second title shot to Edge, which he accepted, but continued to keep Bearer with him. At the end of the night, Edge lured Kane to the parking lot, where Edge drove over a dummy version of Paul Bearer, with the actual Paul Bearer in the backseat of the car. On the December 3 episode of SmackDown, Edge continued his mind games with Kane by pushing a dummy version of Paul Bearer down some stairs. Then, after Edge defeated Kane in a non-title match, he brought out a Paul Bearer lookalike. Kane then went to search for Bearer again, but Edge drove away in a truck with Bearer tied up on the back. The following week, Kane begged Edge to return Bearer, but Edge once again refused. Kane then refused to participate in the main event that night and once again searched for Bearer. After what he thought was a dummy version of Paul Bearer on top of two ladders, Kane pushed them over. Afterward, Kane saw that he pushed the actual Paul Bearer off the ladders onto the concrete floor, thus, injuring him and writing him out of the storyline.
In April 2012, Bearer returned for a brief stint as a part of Kane's ongoing feud with Randy Orton. He was kidnapped by Orton and then stuck in a storage freezer while strapped to a wheelchair. Kane later came for Bearer, only to roll him back into the freezer and saying, "I'm saving you...from me."
Moody married Dianna in December 1978 and has two sons, Michael and Daniel. Daniel wrestles on the independent circuit as DJ Pringle. Dianna died due to complications resulting from breast cancer and chemotherapy on January 31, 2009.
Moody's health improved after his gastric bypass surgery. One year earlier, he admitted that he had weighed 525 pounds (238 kg) before the operation but now weighs under 300 pounds.
In September and October 2005, he conducted three shoot interviews for Ring of Honor. Two were done exclusively about him, talking about his career in wrestling. The third was with friend and fellow wrestling manager Jim Cornette. He returned full-time to his funeral business in 2006. In 2005, Moody, with three partners, started his own independent promotion known as Gulf South Wrestling, which he announced closed on his official blog in May 2007, due to his partners in the business wanting to continue the promotion without Moody. Moody in response dissolved the company. On September 21, 2014, his son Michael died.
On March 5, 2013, Moody died in Mobile, Alabama at the age of 58. On March 2, he attended a Cauliflower Alley Club reunion. According to club board member "Cowboy" Bob Kelly, Moody was having breathing difficulties at the event, was coughing, and told friends he was going to seek treatment for respiratory problems. Kelly said that Moody was treated for a blood clot after the reunion. On March 5, 2013, Moody died in Mobile, Alabama at the age of 58 due to a heart attack, the cause of the heart attack was Supraventricular tachycardia, which causes a dangerously high heart rate. On the March 11 Edition of WWE Raw, a promo and ten bell salute was made as a tribute to Moody.
Hall of fame and legacy
Following his death, Moody became a driving point in WWE storylines. The March 11th episode of Raw was held as a tribute to Bearer, The Undertaker paid tribute but was interrupted by CM Punk, his WrestleMania 29 opponent. Punk then mocked Bearer over the few weeks against both Kane and The Undertaker, including stealing his urn and attacking Kane with it. Punk even went as far as to do 'tricks' with it, including dropping it and mocking Undertaker with it using Bearer's voice. On the April 1st episode of Raw, Punk dressed as a druid while Paul Heyman dressed up as Paul Bearer, The Undertaker attacked the wrong druid while Punk attacked him and poured the ashes of the urn on The Undertaker. At WrestleMania 29, The Undertaker defeated Punk and took back the urn dedicating his victory to Paul Bearer.
On the March 3, 2014 episode of Raw it was announced that Paul Bearer would be inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame. Kane was the inductor whereas his sons Michael and Daniel Moody had accepted the induction. After the segment, The Undertaker came out in character and paid tribute.
- Wrestlers managed
- "The Father of Destruction"
- "Brother Bearer"
- "Uncle Paul"