August 1, 2004

I have thought about writing this story for a long while now, in fact some have questioned my reasoning for doing it at all. Actually, I believe in my heart that I have four valid reasons. My first justification is for those of you that know first hand what it is like to fight the life-long battle of obesity. Secondly, for you folks that love someone who is fighting the dreaded disease. Thirdly, for those of you who have been blessed not having to experience obesity; the physical pain, the fears, the rejections,

the isolation, and the name-calling. Last but certainly not least, I am writing for my supporters; those that have enjoyed my work and respected the human being behind the characters I portrayed through the years.

One year ago at this time I was dying. I had gained so much weight, that I completely lost my passion for life, and for the business to which I dedicated 30 of my 50 years on this earth. If my faith weren’t firmly anchored in Our Dear Lord, I actually would have taken my own life; however, I knew that I would spend eternity in the fires of hell. Then again, everyday that I opened my eyes was nothing less than hell for me. Notwithstanding the hell I was putting those around me through.

I could spend several paragraphs detailing my road to becoming super morbidly obese. But when you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing right back at yourself. If you walk this planet of ours, everyone experiences life’s problems. Whether they fit into the categories of physical, emotional, financial, professional, or a combination of all of the above. Many times it can be overwhelming; my friends I was overwhelmed. I am not here to make any excuses, or ask for anyone’s sympathy. I feel that I have a story to tell. A personal testimony that some of my readers may benefit from. If my experience saves one life, my words here are not in vain.

I have been a big man practically all of my adult life. When I was discharged from The U.S. Air Force in 1976, at the age of 22, I weighed 240 pounds. The next 28-years was virtually a roller coaster for me. I would lose some weight, then gain back what I lost and more. With each year, I grew bigger and bigger. I had the unique opportunity to travel the world over and live my dreams, but my weight was killing me. I literally became a prisoner in my own body. I began living life from the background, watching everyone else enjoying themselves. My close friends and family helped and tried to make things easier for me, but I was dying a slow death. Through the years I tried every diet there was. I would lose 20, gain 30, lose 40, and then gain 60. It was a vicious cycle, as I fought severe morbid obesity for decades. The older I got, the more medical problems began to haunt me.

If you know anything about professional wrestling, you can understand that it can become an addiction, no different than drugs. Once it gets into your blood, it is almost impossible to get out. Through mutual agreement, my business relationship with WWE ended on October 14, 2002. As 2003 began, I practically accepted the fact that I would never actively return to the ring. As the months went slowly by and my weight increased, I knew that no wrestling company would ever have any interest in using me again.

How wrong I was. Completely unexpected in early September of 2003, a WWE official left a message in my voicemail. “Percy…” the message began, “…we have a possible idea for you. Please return this call the first chance you get.”

Even though I knew what the idea had to be, there wasn’t any possible way for me to return to television in the shape that I was in. That first call was followed by two more, and I refused to call them back. I didn’t have the balls to tell the truth. I was just an obese shadow of the man they once appreciated, as my health wouldn’t allow me to follow the rugged schedule on the road.

BEFORE (Left) - This photo was taken on November 22, 2003, at my “last supper,” three days before my gastric bypass surgery. I may have been smiling here, but believe me I was crying on the inside. The young lady with her arms around me is my niece, Donna Marie. Donna is a precious part of my life, and I am so proud to be her “Uncle Bill.” She is a Nurse-Anesthetist, and played a vital role in my recovery.

AFTER (Right) - Donna and I recreated the “before” photo on July 11, 2004, at my daughter-in-law’s baby shower. I think this photo is definitely worth a million words. At this point, I was 33-weeks post-op, and I had lost 190 pounds. It is truly a miracle!

A few days passed, then the email arrived. I was a bit more comfortable exchanging email, as I could easily hide behind my computer keyboard. Needless to say, I turned down their offer, not really giving any solid explanation. Knowing how much I loved our business, it was obvious that the WWE official realized that something was definitely wrong in my life. WWE followed with another email, “What can we do to help you?” It was then that I swallowed my pride and explained the situation with my health. I wrote that I had been researching weight loss surgery, and I felt that it was the only real possibility for me. However, I didn’t have any insurance to cover the cost and my bank account was practically bare.

On October 3, 2003, after several more email negotiations, WWE signed me to a new contract. As a signing bonus, the company agreed to assist me with the cost of the Gastric Bypass Surgery. My first appearance wouldn’t be until WRESTLEMANIA-XX, so I had plenty of time to have my surgery, and prepare for Paul Bearer’s return on March 14, 2004 with The Undertaker.

My surgery was scheduled for November 25, 2003. That was a day that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was a new beginning for me, a rebirth if you will, thanks to The Good Lord, and Dr. William Lightfoot. Together we decided that the ‘Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery’, would be my life saving option. The ‘Roux-en-Y’ is a combination of a restrictive and malabsorptive procedure. Basically in this major surgery, food intake is restricted because of the small stomach pouch that is constructed, and there is little absorption of food because the bile and pancreatic secretions do not come into contact with food until approximately 120 centimeters beyond the stomach.

However, you just don’t walk into a Doctor’s office and tell them, “I’ll take one of those fancy weight loss operations ya’ll do.” You must be at least 100 pounds overweight, and your obesity must be the root of your morbid medical conditions. The pre-operative process was extensive. The severity of the procedure was explained to me, as well as the post-operative complications. I knew if I didn’t have the surgery that I was going to die anyway, so it became a reasonable risk for me to accept. Before being considered for the operation I had to undergo several evaluations, including psychological, nutritional, pulmonary, cardiac, notwithstanding the x-rays, sonograms, and an echocardiogram. When I was cleared by all of the various departments, I knew that I was on the road to a new me.

The Saturday before my surgery, my family and friends gathered at my house for what was called my “last supper.” The idea being, that after the surgery you are limited to a restricted diet, as well as the amount of food you can eat. So it is a tradition for Gastric Bypass patients to have one final “hurrah”, where you can eat and drink anything you desire for the last time. Each guest brought one of my favorite foods, and we just had one big L.A. (Lower Alabama) wingding. Not to mention that day was also the annual Alabama versus Auburn football game, The Iron Bowl, which only added fuel to our party time fires.

After everyone left that night, it really hit me hard as to what was going to happen to my body, as well as the rest of my life. The facts being that the changes were going to be forever. There would be no turning back.

The surgery went better than expected. My Doctor told my family that I would be in the operating room for 3 to 4 hours. Everything was completed in 2 hours, as I opened my eyes in the recovery room to an extremely painful rude awakening. In hindsight, I don’t remember too much of the evening after the operation. I do recall the extreme pain, and the tubes and wires running in and out of me everywhere. I kept asking, "What have I done to myself?"

My first clear memory was the morning after surgery, which by the way was Thanksgiving Day. No turkey and dressing for me. They took me to x-ray, and I had to drink the most horrible concoction I had ever tasted in my life. It was explained that they were going to test my new plumbing for leaks, and the sickening cocktail was radioactive. Fortunately, I was leak free and given a ride back to my room, to my first sip of water in almost 48-hours.

Normally, weight loss surgery patients go home within 2 to 3 days after surgery. However, “Mr. Moody…” my Doctor said, “…we have a serious problem.” I developed an irregular heartbeat called an atrial flutter. My resting pulse was averaging between 160 and 180! They determined that it was the result of the stress on my body from the surgery, and a change in my blood pressure medications. To make a long story short, I was informed that the only way to get my heart back into normal rhythm was for them to give me what they called a cardio-version. In short, they were going to have to shock me with the paddles that you see them use on those hospital and paramedic reality television shows to start the heart of someone who had a heart attack. CLEAR!!!

My Gastric Bypass Surgery took a backseat as they rolled me into the cardiac lab, for my electrocution. Truthfully, I have never been so scared in my life as my family stepped in to wish me well. I just knew that my trip back to the darkside was going to happen within minutes, and it wasn’t going to be at the side of MY Undertaker. The procedure worked, and my heart went back into rhythm. They kept me captive for another day to make sure the heart stayed at it’s normal pace. I finally got to go home after a week’s stay. I almost forgot to mention that I was on a clear liquid diet, and it would be only liquids for the next 4-weeks.

I guess most of you are thinking, “The end of a nice story, right?” Wrong! I was home for 3-days, the atrial flutter returned, and it was straight back to the hospital again. I had to stay for another 3-days, getting electrocuted for the second time. The shock worked it’s magic again, and the ‘ol ticker went back beating normally. So it was back to the house, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t happen a third time! I was becoming a fixture at Mobile’s Providence Hospital. My cardiologist changed the medications that I was on and told me to prepare for another trip to the “shock-shop” the next day. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I really want to get skinny, and hang out with a bunch of pretty tanned wrestlers?” The decision had already been made; it was too late to turn back now.

My third trip to the electric chair was scheduled on a cool, wet, Mobile morning. I was sitting by a window in my hospital room, looking out at the gloomy skies, watching the raindrops hitting the glass. I had asked them to give me something to relax a little earlier, and I had my earphones plugged into my CD player. As George Jones started the second verse of “Bartender’s Blues”, one of my Doctors bolted into my room. “Put your hand on your heart.” She said, “Do you feel anything?” Needless to say, because of the change in the medications, my heart converted back into it’s normal pace on it’s own. I didn’t have to get shocked again! Praise The Lord! They kept me one more day to make sure it stayed that way, and I haven’t had a problem with the irregular beat since.

Any post-op problems with my weight loss surgery were minimal. I recovered fairly quickly, and the weight was literally falling off me. I can’t say it was a walk it the park, because it wasn’t. It was hard, and painful. If you ate too much, you got sick. If you ate too fast, you got sick. The food I used to love, made me sick. Chew…chew…chew… Drink water…water…water. Walk…walk…walk… Rules….rules….rules… Don’t get me wrong I am not complaining. I asked for it myself, and hey, it saved my life.

When March 14th rolled around, WRESTLEMANIA day, I was 16 weeks post-op, and had lost 129 pounds. That’s 129 pounds in 4-months! WWE flew me into Newark the night before WM-XX, so I could hide out. Considering the state of the wrestling Internet these days, it was amazing that my return was not leaked to the wrestling “dirt sheets” until just a week before my reappearance. It’s nice to know that here is still a little bit of “Kayfabe” alive.

WRESTLEMANIA morning they sent a stretch limousine for me, so it could sneak me in the back of Madison Square Gardens. When I stepped out of my ride, it was one of those priceless moments when the sunshine takes away all of life's shadows. The first person I saw was Vince McMahon himself. He welcomed me back with a big hug, and I was ready to renew a long association with my Undertaker. I felt like a million bucks, and it didn’t take long for me to get back in the swing of things. The toughest part was getting used to the traveling. The airports, rental cars, hotels, and making certain that I ate properly. I was enjoying life again, and loving my job more and more as each day passed.

Before I knew it, it was Friday afternoon, May 21st. I was sitting at this very keyboard, when out of nowhere it felt like someone stabbed me in my right side. I knew just about everything associated with weight loss surgery. In the back of my mind, I was expecting gallbladder problems down the road, but not this soon. You see, 30% of gastric bypass patients develop gallbladder problems, because of the rapid weight loss. If you have gallbladder problems at the time of surgery, they will usually remove it at the same time. However, mine was fine back in November. I went into denial for a couple of hours, but it wasn’t long before my dear wife Dianna, had me on the way to the Emergency Room. Diagnosis…. Gallstones.

Surgery was scheduled, and I called WWE powers-that-be and informed them of my situation, and that I would be out of work for at least three weeks. The next thing I knew poor ‘ol Paul Bearer, was abducted by Paul Heyman and The Dudley Boyz. I recovered from the surgery quickly, considering that my WWE character was being held captive in parts unknown. What happened to Paul Bearer after that is cemented in wrestling history.

The title of this story “How Paul Bearer Saved Bill Moody’s Life,” speaks for itself. You may have seen the last of Paul Bearer, but William Moody has just begun to live again. I am continuing to drop the weight, and will do so for approximately another year. On July 31st, I was 35-weeks post-op, and I have lost right at 200 pounds! I feel better than I have in many years, as almost all of the health problems I had just one year ago have disappeared. I am a new man to say the least. My goal is to drop at least another 75-pounds. However, I am finding out as time goes by that it is becoming harder and harder. But I have no doubt in my mind that I cannot do it.

If you are suffering from severe obesity, I encourage you to research Gastric Bypass Surgery. It may just be the thing for you, you never know. Take your troubles to Our Dear Lord. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. If you are interested, I have a link to an excellent site on weight loss surgery in my ‘Favorite Links’ section of the website. I appreciate you reading my story, and thank you all once again for your support through the years.

God Bless!

~Percy