We are heartbroken to report the passing of William "Paul Bearer" Moody, one of the top managers of the 1980s and 1990s. He would have been 59 next month.
Details aren't known as of this writing, but Moody had openly told several that he hadn't been feeling well for some time. He had pulled himself off some of his regular bookings next month, citing that he wasn't feeling well.
Moody was a lifelong wrestling fan (he and Michael Hayes were friends way before either broke into the business) before breaking in the Gulf Coast area as a photographer. After serving in the military, he returned to pro wrestling as a manager in Championship Wrestling from Florida, Percy Pringle III, not realizing at the time that he was indeed the third person to use the name.
Pringle would move onto World Class Championship Wrestling, where his high pitched promos, heavyset body and platinum blonde hair provided the perfect foil for the buff, cut, ripped, chiseled and jacked Rick Rude, who had a run as the World Class champion. He also managed the Dingo Warrior, who would go on to morph into the more famous Ultimate Warrior.
Amazingly, the Pringle character would eventually turn babyface, aligning with Eric Embry in his war against Skandar Akbar's Devastation, Inc. during a storyline that saw the USWA name replace the WCCW name during a time period where the Jarretts took over control of the company from the Von Erichs. While the storyline was entertaining as hell (and still holds up today), it was also the last hurrah for the promotion and in some ways, Texas wrestling.
In 1990, Pringle signed with WWE (WWE actually signed Konnan the same day, although his run was much shorter) and was immediately paired with The Undertaker after being re-christened as Paul Bearer. With jet black hair and ghoulish make-up, Moody was the perfect mouthpiece and mascot for the Undertaker during the heyday of Taker's undead persona, leading the way to the ring while carrying the mystical urn that held the power of the Undertaker.
The two were immediately inseparable as an act. Moody was in many ways born to play the role, as he was, in real life, an actual mortician, a job he returned to after leaving WWE full-time.
We all know the story. The streak. WWF title runs. Feuds with Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Mankind and any and every major name that came through the WWF and WWE doors from 1990 on. The duo were made to be together.
But in pro wrestling, nothing is ever forever and WWF actually booked Pringle to turn on Undertaker to side with Mick Foley's Mankind. The heel turn led to the introduction of another of WWE's longest tenured performers, Kane, who was the illegitimate son of Paul Bearer and Undertaker's mother in a story so convoluted that WWE jumped back and forth over the lines of good taste and continuity in order to tell it.
In the end, Undertaker went back to the dark side and was reunited with Bearer again. The pair remained together until 2000 when Moody was removed from TV and worked for the company as a talent scout and road agent/producer. He eventually left and made some forgotten appearances in TNA.
WWE wanted him back but Moody initially refused, citing his weight. It had gotten away from him and he was morbidly obsese, by his own admission. WWF signed him and paid for Moody to undergo gastric bypass surgery. Moody would tell everyone that WWE saved and lengthened his life with the surgery.
The Bearer persona returned with the return of the undead version of the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 20. Fittingly, it was against Kane. He remained with Taker until a silly storyline where he was kidnapped by Paul Heyman and the Dudley Boyz that climaxed with Bearer trapped in a concrete crypt and if Undertaker didn't agree to lose to the Dudleys, a switch would be thrown, filling the chamber. Undertaker won the match, then flipped the switch, effectively killing off the character, although since WWE didn't "do" murder - the explanation was that Bearer was badly hurt and he was written off.
Moody was done with the company at that point, but returned to once again turn on Undertaker during a storyline feud with Kane during another reprisal of that feud. This led to a storyline where Edge later kidnapped him to torment Kane. Beyond a few cameos for comedic purposes, including a funny bit where Kane left him trapped in a meat freezer, the Bearer character was not used again.
Moody was still active, however on the indy scene, working as a manager and appearing at different conventions and signings. He popped up in ROH for a show and filmed a number of excellent DVD interviews about his career. He was a regular on Championship Wrestling from Hollywood TV. He tried his hands at promoting independently in the Gulf Coast and was very proud of his son, Daniel, getting into the business. He regularly conversed with fans via Twitter, Facebook and his website. Through it all, he loved pro wrestling as much as he did when he was just a fan.
There are going to be a lot of people very saddened by Moody's passing and with good reason. He was loved by just about everyone. I talk to a lot of wrestlers and all of them have gripes and complaints about each other, promoters, etc. I can't remember one negative thing ever said about the man. In pro wrestling, that's pretty damn rare.
If there is one silver lining, it's that Moody is no longer left behind by his late wife Dianna, who passed away following a long battle with cancer. Moody spoke often and lovingly of her and how much he missed her, both privately and publicly during interviews. There was an obvious sadness and pain that he never recovered from after she passed away. One can only hope they are happily reunited in whatever the next world truly is.
There's no doubt that Percy, as everyone called him, left a unique, colorful mark on the world of pro wrestling. More importantly, he left as much of a mark on everyone he encountered. He was a good man. For all of that and so much more that can't ever be properly conveyed with words, we thank him. We will deeply miss him here at PWInsider.com, where he was a very good friend and supporter of the site.
We'd like to again express our deepest condolences to Percy's friends, family and fans. He was one of a kind.