THE LIFE OF PERCY, AND A FINAL AWARD
The wrestling world of the past 20-plus years knew him as Paul.Â Those a decadeÂ or so older knew him as Percy.Â To old friends from around home in Mobile, Alabama, he was just Bill.Â And now, one of the most readily recognizable figures in modern wrestling history has left the ring for the last time.
Paul Bearer, handler of the mysterious Undertaker; Percival Pringle III, loquacious spokesman for the latest villains in the South; Bill Moody, the soft-spoken funeral director, passed away on the evening of March 5, 2013 in a Mobile hospital.Â He had faithfully attended the annual Gulf Coast Wrestlersâ?? Reunion just three days earlier and was clearly suffering medical problems there, which led to his hospitalization on March 3.Â His death has been attributed to a blood clot.
William Alvin Moody was born on April 10, 1954 in Mobile.Â Wrestling seized his attention when he was barely school-age, and never loosened its grip.Â By his mid-teens he was photographing the ring action in Alabama arenas for the Gulf Coast promotion and the mat magazines.Â On graduation from high school he joined the U.S. Air Force for a four-year tour of duty, but that wasnâ??t all that occupied him.Â Though he wasnâ??t physically gifted, he nevertheless learned wrestlingâ??s rudiments and in 1974 Gulf Coast booker Cowboy Bob Kelly gave him his chance in the ring.Â He wrestled intermittently through the rest of his military enlistment, and following that his early employment and education as a mortician.
Life for Bill Moody changed forever in 1978: in April, he signed on for a stint in Mississippi where the booker was Frankie â??The Great Mephistoâ? Cain; and on December 22 he married the love of his life, Dianna Lynn McDole.Â Just one match into his Mississippi run, Cain suggested that Billâ??s true forte was managing, and the next night he became Percival Pringle, again Cainâ??s idea, and marshalled The Mongolians, Tio and Tapu Taylor, into the ring.Â Shortly after he added the â??IIIâ? to his name, and for the next dozen years grew his reputation as the boisterous, bragging handler of such talent as Rick Rude, Blackjack Mulligan, Buzz Sawyer, The Great Kabuki and many more.
In the midst of this career growth, Bill took time out to further his education as a mortician, as insurance against the day the wrestling road ended.Â He graduated on the Deanâ??s List at San Antonio College in Texas in 1985, with a degree in mortuary science and certification as a funeral director.Â With that in hand, it was back on the circuit as â??PP3â? for another five yearsâ?¦..and then, WWE came calling.
In December 1990, Vince McMahon made an offer Bill couldnâ??t refuse: art would imitate life as he became Paul Bearer, manager and â??funeral directorâ? for the newly-signed Mark Calaway, introduced at Survivor Series 1990 as The Undertaker.Â The pairing was deja-vu; Percival Pringle III had managed the nearly seven-foot giant as the masked Texas Red in his very first pro match in Texas in 1984, againstÂ Bruiser Brody.
As 1991 dawned, the pair began to click immediately.Â WWE went into high gear, producing one dark vignette after another, showcasing the Undertaker in top matches on its TV shows, spotlighting the strange behavior of Paul Bearer with his ever-present urn that Bill pulled off to perfection.Â Taker and Bearer complemented each other completely, year in and year out through every variation on their theme.Â When Glen Jacobs entered the picture in 1997 as Kane, in storyline Takerâ??s half-brother and Paul Bearerâ??s son, Bill folded neatly into the altered situation and brought a new dimension to his character.
Perhaps one of the greatest tributes to Bill Moodyâ??s work in WWE came from Jim Ross in his daily internet blog.Â The worldâ??s foremost wrestling commentator wrote â??â?¦.as great as Taker’s run has been in WWE, arguably the most marvelous, long term run in WWE history, it would have not been the same without Paul Bearer being added to the presentation in the Phenom’s formative years.â?
Though Paul Bearer hadnâ??t been seen on WWE television since April 2012, he was still under a long-term Legends contract that would have given him periodic TV exposure and greater longevity than almost anyone in the company.Â WWEâ??s esteem for him came across vividly in a video retrospective of his career that opened the RAW telecast of March 11, 2013, and touchingly when both Undertaker and Kane saluted him on bended knee to close the show.
Bill was a lifetime member of CAC, and enjoyed our reunions as often as his schedule would allow.Â He was honored at the 2003 reunion with the Menâ??s Wrestling Award, and was scheduled to receive the Lou Thesz Lifetime Achievement Award at this yearâ??s reunion.Â It will be presented posthumously at the closing banquet on April 17.Â Just three days before his passing, Bill had asked a CAC board member if Cowboy Bob Kelly â?? the man who set him on the wrestling road â?? could be his presenter, and itâ??s a wish weâ??re pleased to fulfill.
Bill was predeceased by his beloved Dianna on January 31, 2009, and one grandchild.Â Â He is survived by his parents, Harry and Clarice Moody, sons Michael (Beth) and Daniel (Jami), three grandchildren, and a sister. Joan, as well as extended family.
The Cauliflower Alley Club extends its condolences to the family and friends of this fine gentleman, and thanks him for his presence in the Ring of Friendship.
Photos courtesy Scott Romer, Slam!Wrestling, Mike Lano, and www.percypringle.com