Inducted by LWO4Life
A testament to how popular the Paul Bearer character was is this simple fact, the fans voted in Paul Bearer rather than Percy Pringle, the gimmick Bill Moody played for many years before WWE. But there is a good reason for this. In WWE, Moody did the best work of his career. Usually with performers of the old territory days, it usually feels like their best work was in the territories and then they moved to WWE to collect checks and be missed used. In this case, the Paul Bearer character became the WWE manager of the 90’s. Where as Jim Cornette or Ted DiBiase both ran stables, Bearer stayed close to one character, but in doing so became the center of era defining storylines which are still remembered today.
Funeral Home Connections
It might be that Moody ran a funeral home, but Bearer seemed more natural in WWE than he did in the Dallas territory as Percy Pringle. It was Rick Rude, who Pringle managed in Dallas, that suggested to Vince McMahon to bring Pringle in. Vince right away renamed him Paul Bearer, and paired him with the Undertaker, who had been wrestling for 3 months on the road after his Survivor Series debut. And Bearer fit the Undertaker almost too perfectly. Also, with a real-life funeral license, Bearer had access to many props which WWE would not be able to get themselves. So it was Bearer’s own connection that allowed the WWE to get real life caskets and body bags. Without Bearer, the Undertaker gimmick would not have worked. Yes, Mark Calaway was the man who perfected the gimmick, but Bearer added that little extra. From the ghostly “ohhhh yeeees!” to the funeral connections, to matching his appearance to the Undertaker, Bearer became the gimmick.
Mastering the Gimmick
We can fast forward to when Bearer finally split from the Undertaker. It was here that Bearer became more than Undertaker garnish and fully became his own manager. First managing Mankind, then later introducing Kane, Bearer was truly branching out on his own. Becoming the storyline father of Kane, the world around Bearer was able to become more in-depth. What really stood out though is how well Bearer sold the whole thing. In many ways, Bearer channeled the energy of an elder who has a deep faith in a religion. Bearer put that sort of energy into this Undertaker world. From shaming the Undertaker for burning his brother, to the way he supported the Undertaker, Bearer gave out the energy needed to pull off the gimmick.
The Undertaker/Paul Bearer/Kane gimmicks should have been dead in the water. Never had these types of gimmicks worked. They had been tried throughout wrestling history, but the usual results were something goofy and the fans booing the gimmick out the building. But the way Mark Calaway, Glenn Jacobs and Bill Moody pulled it all off, from the ridiculous stories to the crazy family soap opera and the supernatural, shows just how much of a professional each person is. It shouldn’t have worked, but it all did. With that said, even someone like Jim Cornette, who hates all unrealistic storylines, considered Bearer a close friend until Moody’s untimely passing.
Doing What It Takes
The reason why these sorts of gimmicks and stories never work is simple, the people performing them either don’t believe it, or they don’t have the background in the true art of wrestling. Yes, wrestling has always had cool and outrageous gimmicks, but the people who perform them are grounded enough in real life, that they can keep one foot of the gimmick grounded. A wrestler or manager who is in the business to just be a gimmick could not pull something like this. On the flip end, a wrestler or manager who is too grounded could not also pull this off. It takes a special performer who is not only grounded, but also gets the absurdity of wrestling. That very special balance of people who see wrestling for what it truly is. And since they are such small percentage of the business, rarely does this level of genius happen.
Bearer should be remembered for the way he mastered a gimmick that should have failed. A lesser performer would have never pulled it off. Bearer’s best work was obviously the WWE in the 90’s. What’s sad is he’s often left off many people’s top 5 list of best managers. Even looking at his WWE run, not only did he have Undertaker, Kane, and Mankind, but also the whole Ministry of Darkness. His Dallas run includes Rick Rude, Steve Austin, and of course “Mean” Mark Calaway. Yes, him and the Undertaker are forever linked.
Top 5 Manager of All Time
We often have Bobby Heenan, and Jim Cornette in our top 5’s, but few have Bearer. We should reconsider that. You can argue that the level of difficulty of the Paul Bearer gimmick was greater than any other manager. Instead of being that manager spending money on heel wrestlers, Bearer created more. A spiritual manager in a way, one that’s foot was always in darkness, even if the gimmick was in the light. The delicate balance which no other manager has ever achieved. He deserves to be in every hall of fame, and I am glad to induct Paul Bearer in the LOP Hall of Fame!
- PWI Manager of the Year, 1998
- WWE Hall of Fame Inductee, 2014
Wrestling Headlines.com welcomes Paul Bearer into the Hall of Fame class of 2021.
Related Links: Jim Ross Reflects On The Life Of Paul Bearer, Says Everyone Loved Him, How Vince McMahon Took Care Of Him and more
Trailer for WWE’s “The Mortician: The Story of Paul Bearer” Documentary