William Moody, better known as the professional wrestling manager Paul Bearer, who could summon supernatural powers from an urn of cremated ashes whenever his 6-foot-10, 299-pound client, the Undertaker, was in trouble, died on March 5 in Mobile, Ala. He was 58.
His death was confirmed by Cowboy Bob Kelly, a prominent wrestler in the 1970s and a close friend. Mr. Moody, who underwent gastric bypass surgery several years ago, had recently complained of respiratory problems, Mr. Kelly said.
“Who’s the guy with the martini shaker?” a ringside announcer asked the first time Paul Bearer (yes, as in pallbearer) appeared alongside the Undertaker ( Mark Calaway) on “Monday Night Raw” in early 1993. It was the beginning of a long and dark relationship that proved a boon to World Wrestling Entertainment for the next two decades.
The martini shaker was in fact an urn, and as the story would unfold in the years to come, it contained mysterious powers that appeared to energize the Undertaker as thrilled wrestling crowds watched him conquer whatever foe was in the ring. Mr. Moody, his hair and eyebrows dyed black and his face caked in white makeup, was a strange sight: one eye cocked, his huge frame quivering, repeatedly mouthing his shrill cry of “Ohhh yess!” while he clutched the urn as if it were a puppy.
Things were complicated by many (staged) fallouts between manager and wrestler. Adding tension was a subplot in which Paul Bearer had an illegitimate son, the wrestler Kane, who also happened to be the Undertaker’s secret half-brother. “Casket matches” ensued on pay-per-view television. The manager was once buried alive in concrete, presumed dead, then emerged again at another match.
Mr. Moody has said in interviews that it was only a coincidence that he actually had a degree in mortuary science and worked in the funeral industry. A woman at the Coastal Funeral Home in Moss Point, Miss., said he had worked there until 2009 or 2010.
William Alvin Moody was born on April 10, 1954, in Mobile and lived there most of his life. His survivors include two sons, D. J., a wrestler, and Michael. His wife, Diana, died in 2009.
Mr. Kelly said Mr. Moody had been fascinated with wrestling since at least the 1970s, when he was regularly at ringside for Mr. Kelly’s matches in Mobile and sometimes took photographs for The Press-Register there.
While Paul Bearer was perhaps Mr. Moody’s best-known character, Mr. Kelly and others called him Percy, for his previous role as Percival Pringle III, another colorful wrestling manager in the late 1970s and 1980s. Back then he dyed his hair and mustache blond. (Courtesy New York Times)