I’d tuned into professional wrestling on tv on a few sporadic occasions over the years, but the summer of 1990 is when I locked in and became a regular. It was right off of the success of Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior from WrestleMania6 a few months prior. As an 11 year old boy, I immediately got fascinated with various characters. The Big Boss Man. The Legion Of Doom (Road Warriors). Demolition. They all had stories. Even as a kid, I tended to favor the heels.
Fast-forward to Survivor Series 1990. The Million Dollar Team, captained by Ted DiBiase, had announced all of their team except for one. That one, accompanied by the incomparable Brother Love, was The Undertaker. Tall. Mean. Menacing. Quiet. I immediately became hooked on the character. Three months after his debut, Brother Love would step away from his partnership with The Undertaker, and introduce his permanent manager/handler, Paul Bearer (William Moody).
Moody fit the character perfectly, with the pale face makeup and overdyed black hair giving him that extra-creepy image. He was also a certified and licensed mortician in real life, which came into play with his on-screen character. His instantly-recognizable voice spoke for The Undertaker. The two played off of each other perfectly for years, both as partners and as opponents, and were a big part of my growing up as a pro wrestling fan – both as characters on my tv screen, and in-person at the various events my father took me to over the years. I was along the aisle for an event in St. Louis where a casket match took place between Undertaker and Ultimate Warrior, and touched the casket as Paul Bearer rolled it by with The Undertaker in tow. As a young kid, that was AWESOME.
Last Tuesday, March 5th, we lost William Moody, due to gallbladder complications. Yesterday was the first Monday Night Raw following his passing, and as anticipated, WWE put together a beautiful tribute piece at the top of the program (along with several “Remembering Paul Bearer” clips throughout the three-hour show).
Where it gets interesting, in terms of on-screen storylines, is the interruption of The Undertaker’s in-ring tribute to Paul Bearer by his opponent at WrestleMania in 4 weeks, CM Punk. Punk, in standard heel form for him, manipulated emotions in what was a sensitive moment. I’m sure he crossed the line in the eyes of some fans. I’m fine with his actions/words, as it had been reported that friends and family of Moody had given the okay for it, stating that he wouldn’t have had a problem with his character being used for buildup to the match. The show would go off the air with Punk slipping away to the backstage area, away from The Undertaker (alongside his “brother”, Kane), with the trademark Paul Bearer urn in his possession.
Are the stakes raised for Undertaker in this year’s WrestleMania, as he looks to continue his WM undefeated streak which currently sits at 20-0? There is definitely something extra for his character to fight for, but will we see that emotion (which is not a common thing to see from him) somehow end up being his downfall? Few are better on the microphone than CM Punk, and as a fan of both Undertaker and Punk, but also as a fan of pro wrestling as a whole, I’m looking forward to the continued build-up and eventual match on April 7th.
The only downside is that Moody won’t be around to witness the match, or to be in-character and be a part of it. Part of my pro wrestling roots is gone, but so many memories will live on. Thank you for those, Mr. Moody. You entertained this kid for years, all the way up to your last on-screen appearance last April. Nobody could have done it better.