The iconic partnership was a perfect storm (Photo: WWE)
WWE legend The Undertaker wouldn’t have been the same without Paul Bearer – who in turn was shaped by John F. Kennedy and Gomez Addams.
Real-life mortician William Moody – who later went by the stage name Percy Pringle before taking on his most famous moniker – was able to combine his life long passion for both funerals and wrestling with his iconic character, and JFK’s assassination changed his life.
Speaking in new WWE Network documentary The Mortician: The Story of Paul Bearer, the late star said: ‘When President Kennedy was assassinated, 1963, I think I was about seven or eight years old – that had a big impact on me.
‘I’ll never forget watching the pomp and circumstance of his funeral ceremonies. The same year, my grandfather passed away.
‘That was the first memory I’d ever had of going into a funeral home and seeing – this is going to sound funny – a real life dead person. There was just something about it.
Bearer was inspired by JFK and his own grandfather’s death (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
‘So after that, I wanted to be a funeral director. So God help anything that died in my neighbourhood. A dog got hit by a car, if I saw a frog laying on the ground, they had funerals.
‘I’d make them a little casket, had a little cemetery out behind my house. If it lived and died, I gave it a funeral.’
The manager – who sadly died aged 58 in 2013 – first stepped into the wrestling business as a teenage photographer and even worked as a wrestler before turning into a mouthpiece for other stars.
Eventually, he was contacted by WWE’s boss Vince McMahon during the company’s search for someone to stand alongside The Undertaker as Brother Love performer Bruce Pritchard started to focus on his behind the scenes role.
‘So couple of weeks later, they call me back,’ he recalled. ‘They said, “Percy, you might not realise what all that laughing was about. We were looking for a manager for The Undertaker – and here you are, an undertaker!’
Remembering the reaction behind the scenes, Bruce chucked: ‘It’s perfect! You’ve got a mortician that can manage The Undertaker, and it was a match made in heaven.
Gomez Addams inspired this iconic look (Photo: WWE)
‘When someone would say, “What do you want him to look like?”, we started to see Gomez Addams from The Addams Family.’
Despite his real-life career, Bearer admitted the character involved drastic image overhaul.
‘They tell me that they wanted me to dress in a typical undertaker look, with the style and the suit,’ he said.
‘Then the big change was I’d always had bleached blonde, old Bobby Heenan wrestling heel hair. “Vince wants you to dye your hair cold black”.
‘And then they described the makeup they wanted me to wear, with the raccoon eyes and all that stuff. I certainly was going to do it, I wasn’t going to say no, but that was tough.’
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