R.I.P. Paul Bearer, 1954-2013: The Definitive Video Anthology of His WWE Career
Ten videos to celebrate the dignified career of Paul Bearer.
In news that when transcribed sounds like some sort of weird mix between a scene from Inception and a Webcam installed in Vince McMahon's brain, William Moody, an actual trained mortician turned wrestling manager by the name of "Paul Bearer" and longtime WWE manager of the legendary Undertaker, died on Tuesday night at the age of 58.
Fans of the Von Erich-led World Class Championship Wrestling organization back in the 1980's will also remember Moody (perhaps even more fondly) as heel manager Percy Pringle, a character under which he guided the careers of, among others, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Lex Luger and a young "Stone Cold" (then "Stunning") Steve Austin.
Under the recommendation of Rude in late 1990, then-WWF owner McMahon brought Moody to the WWF to manage the burgeoning in-ring career of his next great creation, the ominous Undertaker (Mark Calaway). (Conveniently enough, Moody had actually managed Calloway previously in Texas.)
That's where our trip down YouTube memory lane begins...
10. Paul Bearer Debuts On The Brother Love Show, February 1991 The Undertaker debuted at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in 1990. Unveiled by his benefactor Ted DiBiase and managed at first by the conniving televangelist Brother Love, it was clear from jump that the Undertaker would be a major player in the WWF for years to come. (I refuse to refer to the company in the `90s as "WWE".)
In early 1991, Brother Love decided that apparently there weren't enough hours in the day to both manage the Undertaker and piss off the rest of the babyface roster in the WWF, so he handed the reins of the phenom over to a ghastly, pale-faced mortician of a newcomer whose name, conveniently enough, was Paul Bearer:
9. Paul Bearer Gets His Own Talk Show, Summer 1991 When you have a character whose voice sounds like a cross between a police siren and a Scooby-Doo villain, you don't walk, you run to give him his own interview segment, and that's precisely what the WWF did with Paul Bearer in 1991, giving him his own platform (the "Funeral Parlor") to advance storylines, both involving the Undertaker and involving other WWF superstars, like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair:
8. Undertaker and Paul Bearer on Regis and Kathie Lee, November 1991 So strong was the storyline between Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker in 1991 that it wound up getting some mainstream run on the Regis and Kathie Lee Show. In 1991, when television was far more cookie-cutter and conventional than it is today, watching Paul Bearer interact on a national morning talk television show was about as normal as watching a baby hippo stroll the aisles at Target.
7. Paul Bearer Calls Bullshit on Ted DiBiase's Fake Undertaker, Summer 1994 In January 1994, then WWF Heavyweight Champion Yokozuna fought the Undertaker in a casket match at the Royal Rumble. With the necessary help of seemingly every wrestler on the card, the big Samoan-sold-to-us-as-a-big-fat-Asian was able to roll the Undertaker into the casket, retain his belt and (presumably) celebrate by cleaning out the entire butcher's counter at the local Kroger.
The Undertaker, meanwhile, ascended into the heavens (They actually simulated said ascension on the broadcast. No, really), vowed he would return and then proceeded to take about eight months off. That summer, Ted DiBiase (who you might remember a few paragraphs and three videos ago originally brought the Undertaker into the WWF) announced the return of the Undertaker under his diabolical tutelage. Bearer called "bullshit" on that, because of Undertaker's tremors that he felt in the Force or something. It turned out Bearer was right:
6. Paul Bearer Turns Heel on the Undertaker, Summerslam 1996 For nearly six years, the Undertaker and Paul Bearer had been in a committed, exclusive wrestler/manager relationship. But as with many monogamous partnerships, around six years in, Bearer started to feel the beginning of the "seven-year itch" and decided to head it off at the pass. Apparently fed up with the Undertaker (because winning all the time gets very tiresome), Bearer turned his back on his longtime charge and sided with his archrival Mankind. Hey, it happens sometimes. Relationships go bad. Of course, very few of them end with one party hitting the other in the head with an urn (unless Chris Brown is involved):
Revenge is a dish best served warm, and the Undertaker was able to make Paul Bearer feel the pain of his anguish the old-fashioned way...by lighting up some flash paper and throwing a fireball in his face!
4. Paul Bearer Reveals the Undertaker Has a Brother Named Kane, Summer 1997 As it turned out, apparently the Undertaker's charbroiling Paul Bearer's face was the next chapter in a storied personal history of pyromaniacal behavior because shortly after Bearer's face healed from the third-degree burns (a healing that also miraculously cured Bearer's pale complexion, jet-black hair color and clownish goblin voice), he exposed a sordid tale from the Undertaker's past. As it turns out, according to Bearer, when the Undertaker was a child he decided to burn down his parents' house. For fun. With his parents inside of it. Um, yeah.
And oh, by the way, Undertaker's little brother Kane was inside the house, and the Undertaker thought he had killed Kane, too. BUT not so fast, my friend! Apparently, Paul Bearer, in Palpatine-rescues-Anakin fashion, was able to fish Kane out of the fire and keep him alive the last 20 or so years, likely in a Pulp Fiction gimp box in his basement somewhere. (Kane would reappear that October at the first ever Hell in the Cell match between Taker and Shawn Michaels.)
As you can see, the Undertaker vehemently denied any involvement in the barbecuing of his folks, until....
3. The Undertaker and Paul Bearer Create the Ministry of Darkness, Summer 1998 ....he and Paul Bearer decided to kiss and make up in 1998, at which time he was like, "Yeah, I fried 'em. So the hell what, fuckstick?!?" This would be the next in several twists and turns in the relationship between these two:
As if a character whose name is synonymous with death itself wasn't dark enough, the 1998 iteration of the Undertaker was pitch-goddamn-black, perhaps best embodied by this sequence where he and Paul Bearer kidnapped the ever-popular "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and attempted to embalm him alive on national television. So if you're scoring at home, within a scant few months, the Undertaker openly admitted to arson and murder and came within seconds of stabbing a man dead in front of millions of television viewers. And yet, amazingly, the cops never came and got him! Go figure.
1. Paul Bearer Gets Buried in Wet Cement, June 2004 When you consider that he was able to survive this cement bath in 2004, the last nine years had to feel like house money to Paul Bearer anyway!
Thanks for the memories, Paul! And I mean this in the most sincere possible way...
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