Today I read the news: Paul Bearer passed away. I remember when I first started watching wrestling was just before Wrestlemania XII. And one of the most unique characters of that time was Paul Bearer. I was a huge Undertaker fan and still am. Out of the wrestlers I mark out for the most-Piper, Double-A, Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer-few of them compare to the mark-out feeling I get when I see the Undertaker. The Undertaker was unique. He had one of the greatest ring presences to ever grace our screens, with respect to Flair. And when it came to aura and mystique, there were few who could touch The Undertaker, if anyone.
So why am I talking about The Undertaker when I’m reflecting on the Life of Paul Bearer? Well, it was hard to separate the two. As imposing and terrifying as the Undertaker was, Paul Bearer was the other half of him. You could not have had the Phenom Undertaker without Paul Bearer in his early days. They tried with Brother Love, but the character just missed something in the early days. It wasn’t until Paul Bearer became part of the Undertaker’s character that the character clicked. Eventually the time came for Paul to break away and the Undertaker soared, but without Paul, I’m not sure we would have seen the Undertaker we have now.
One thing that stands out to me is how Paul was able to take anything, no matter how awful and make it into something good. Let’s face it. The Impostor Undertaker storyline in ’94 is one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever seen in wrestling. (And I’ve lived through Katie Vick, Kane-Shane McMahon and The Giant falling off Cobo Hall yet winning the world title.) Yet with all the players involved-Ted DiBiase, Brian Lee, The Undertaker & Paul Bearer-they made my inner kid believe in everything going on. Take the Kane storyline. Out of nowhere Paul Bearer was revealed to be the father. As preposterous as that sounded, through that interview with Jerry Lawler where they didn’t know the camera was running, he put together all the pieces. There was his return in the mid-2000’s that caused him to be buried alive in concrete by the Undertaker himself. With respect to all involved, there wasn’t anyone who could salvage that.
The Undertaker and Paul Bearer were something special. How many times has the WWE tried the supernatural thing since then to little or no success? Mordecai? The Boogeyman? Kevin Thorn the Vampire? Countless other names I can’t remember because of their failure? Due to the stage presences of both men, they were able to make this something special and make countless dollars off this.
There were so many great memories from him. There was the aforementioned Impostor Undertaker storyline. There was the feud with Diesel where Diesel did the unthinkable. He put his hands on Paul Bearer. That was back in ’96 when things still mattered. There was the Paul Bearer turn that broke my heart for a long time. Kane didn’t have much of a shelf life. Paul helped to give him fuel that kept him around today. There was the surprise appearance at Wrestlemania XX, where I remember marking out like a little kid for seeing him again. In 2010, Undertaker once again feuded with Kane. I remember seeing turning to Smackdown (which is something I never do), and I waited for him to appear from the casket. I was like a little kid watching him over and over again.
He had so many signatures. There was the “Ohhhhhh, yyyeeeeeeesssssssss” he was so famous for. I still do that. It’s not at the same level as “Brother” or “What?” but it’s still pretty impactful. When I was telling my wife he had passed away this morning, I described him as the “Oh, yes” guy. (And yes, I did it in his voice, or my feeble attempt at his voice.) I still remember how he would say, “The urn.” Any time I hear the word urn, I immediately think about him. And that voice was so eerie and so spooky. With respect to the Macho Man, it was probably one of the most recognizable voices of his time.
I never had the chance to meet Paul Bearer. I swear I had to have seen him live a time or two. (My first ever then-WWF show had a Kane appearance that must have been around Badd Blood ’97, so I think Bearer was there. It was just a long view from where I was.) I used to follow him on Facebook and after the birth of a grandchild, there were comments congratulating him and wishing him well. He took the time to like every one’s comments, including mine. I know it may have been little, but I thought it was pretty awesome. In the pre-Attitude era and in the Attitude era, there were fewer personalities who made a bigger impact. Brother Bearer, Uncle Paul, Mr. Pringle, thank you for your time on this Earth.