vince mcmahon

“Where have you been all these years?”
-- Vince McMahon to William Moody

When William Moody signed his very first contract with the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE), his life was forever changed. He was brought in to manage The Undertaker in his biggest break ever in professional wrestling. It was understood that his character, Paul Bearer, was a package deal with his new charge, and if the run of The Undertaker ended, so did his WWF career. But this was an opportunity no one could turn down.

William replaced Brother Love (Bruce Prichard), who had served as manager for The Undertaker from the very start. Love was a riff on televangelists of the time who was loud, brash and obnoxious. WWF creative wanted a personality that would mesh better with the darker, more sinister qualities of their new superstar. Initially, Vince McMahon was only considering the erstwhile Percival Pringle III due to his years of managing experience in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) and Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF). It helped that Mark Calaway (The Undertaker) had experience working with Moody in WCCW years before. But, truly, McMahon and his staff had no clue that William Moody had a license in funeral service. It was a marriage that was simply meant to be.

William and Vince had a very unique relationship. When most people took a more conservative, measured approach to being around Vince McMahon – the most powerful man in professional wrestling – William was just himself. William would speak to Vince in a more open, informal way, which was just his natural style of communicating. He made Vince laugh. Vince genuinely liked him, and this honesty of character made him trust William in a way he didn’t treat many of his contemporaries. At a time when everything was becoming increasingly controlled, even micromanaged, Vince allowed William and Mark Calaway tremendous leeway with the creative direction of Paul Bearer, The Undertaker and their ongoing saga.

And William Moody produced. As Paul Bearer, he became one of the most iconic figures in the history of WWE. His personality, style and ability led to more memorable moments than one could list. From hosting The Funeral Parlor to casket matches to ushering in his “baby boy” (Kane) and everything in between, no one could forget “the fat man.” For a solid 10 years on screen, he had a fire and a glow and a resonance that both enraged and inspired.

When personal and physical issues came into play, WWE gladly found other roles for him. At various times he was a talent scout, a road agent and stage manager at the famed “Gorilla position.” From a creative and administrative side, William had few peers. He was a stickler for details. Everybody loved working with him, for he was both a leader and a father figure to many. He may have been working for the office, but he was always just “one of the boys.”

But as his issues worsened, William Moody ended his relationship with WWE. He returned home to Mobile, Alabama and started to shut down. His weight, which was a lifelong issue, rose well above 500 pounds. Not only did he feel he would never return to wrestling, he thought his own life was coming to an end. He had very little light left in him.

I felt like I was trying to swim against a current that was too strong. There was a waterfall not too far down stream, that would no doubt end my life.

William mentioned many times how he never would have lived if there wasn’t that helping hand, that lifeline given to him by World Wrestling Entertainment in 2003. He knew it came down to the man in charge of it all, Vince McMahon. WWE gave him that second chance that he never thought he would get.

My gastric bypass surgery gave me a rowboat to paddle my way up the river, away from the danger. You must understand that the operation wasn't a cure, but it made the impossible possible. It was far from taking the easy way out— it was one of the biggest challenges I have ever experienced. I will have to fight the battle against obesity for the rest of my life. At least now I have a life to fight for, as the surgery put me back on the right track.

The surgery gave him another ten years of life. He was able to take care of the love of his life, Dianna, as she struggled through cancer. He was able to witness the miracle of life through the birth of several grandchildren. He was able to take care of his parents as they went into their twilight years. He was able to spend time with friends and family, and for the first time in a long time, while actually living life fully. The twinkle in his eyes hadn’t shown so brightly in years.

I thank the McMahon family and company, and a handful of dear brothers, that made this return possible. No matter how long it lasts, it has been a good thing for me.

William Moody truly was a gift to the world, who gave his love and heart freely to so many people. And it was the gift of life afforded him by Vince McMahon and WWE that allowed him to go out on a high note. On behalf of all of us who knew him and loved him, thank you.