WWF ATTITUDE PS1/era | Paul Bearer just standing there (2021) #77
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 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 an embalmer and mortician.
In 1984, he resumed full-time involvement in the wrestling business, using his Pringle character in Championship Wrestling from Florida and World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas. 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. 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 name given to him by Road Warrior Hawk and a play on the term pallbearer. In his portrayal of a very histrionic, ghostly manager, he was almost always seen bearing an urn (which led to several storylines involving wrestlers stealing his urn), and whose catch phrase was “Ohhh yyes!”
Paul Bearer holding his urn in 1996.
Moody made his first appearance in February 1991, as a heel, when Brother Love, who originally managed The Undertaker, passed him on to be managed by Paul Bearer. Bearer took on a spookier, ghastlier character. 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. In 1992, The Undertaker and Bearer turned face, when Undertaker stopped former ally Jake “The Snake” Roberts from ambushing Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth with a chair backstage.
Eventually Bearer turned heel again by betraying his long-time protege at SummerSlam 1996 to align himself with The Undertaker’s arch-enemy, Mankind. During this time, he hired The Executioner & Vader, in order to take out Undertaker. In April 1997 at In Your House 14: 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 color to his natural strawberry blond hair and less make-up. No longer using his ghostly appearance and mannerisms, he became loudmouthed and shrill. Around mid-1997, Paul Bearer coerced Undertaker (WWF Champion at the time) into being his protégé again with the ultimatum of revealing a deep, dark secret from the past. During this time, Bearer made references to “the fires of hell.” Feeling he had no choice, The Undertaker accepted after several weeks of resistance. While “managing” Undertaker this time around, Bearer engaged in tyrannical behaviors towards him, harassing 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 who was working under the Undertaker’s parents in the family funeral home, 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 accidentally killed his parents by setting the funeral home ablaze and caused his half-brother’s face to be bruised, burned, and scarred. 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 an “arsonist”, “murderer”, and “liar.”