William Moody, 58; thrilled wrestling fans as manager

NEW YORK — 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 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, 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 1991. 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.

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Mr. Moody has said it was only a coincidence that he actually had a degree in mortuary science and worked in the industry. A woman at the Coastal Funeral Home in Moss Point, Miss., said he had worked there until 2009 or 2010.

While Paul Bearer was perhaps Mr. Moody’s best-known character, Kelly and others called him ­Percy, for his previous role as Percival Pringle III, another colorful wrestling manager in the late 1970s.