The Undertaker is one of the most legendary figures in WWE history. He’s won world titles and The Royal Rumble. He main evented three separate WrestleManias. He was a pioneer of celebrated gimmick matches like Hell in a Cell, The Buried Alive Match, The Casket Match, and The Boiler Room Brawl. He was a key part of great matches and storylines, and been that rare icon who has not only lasted but thrived as a major star for over twenty-five years.
The Undertaker and Paul Bearer are one of the most iconic wrestler-manager pairs of all time. When the twosome first appeared on WWE TV together, The Deadman was a zombie-esque, big man villain and Bearer as his ghoulish sidekick. Later The Undertaker was a force of good, and Bearer not only a sidekick but someone for The Phenom to protect. From heading up The Ministry of Darkness together, to feuding when Bearer backed The Undertaker’s storyline brother Kane, to multiple nostalgia runs, the pair offered more than their share of memorable moments to WWE fans.
For everything The Undertaker and Paul Bearer did together on screen, there’s plenty more to their story both on screen and off. From interactions long before either man set foot on WWE programming, to statistical anomalies on air, to developing commonalities behind the scenes, there are plenty of interesting facts and figures about this twosome. This column will discuss fifteen elements of the relationship between The Undertaker and Paul Berar that might have escaped your attention.
15 The Undertaker And Paul Bearer Worked Together Years Before Either Came To The WWE
When he broke into the wrestling business, Paul Bearer was a photographer and even a wrestler himself, before he really hit his stride as a braggadocios heel manager, working under the moniker of Percy Pringle for a number of regional promotions, and most prominently World Class Championship Wrestling.
While Pringle had higher profile clients, according Steve Austin’s book, The Stone Cole Truth, one of the young studs who entered the rotation was none other than young Mark Calaway, about five years before he found his way to the Undertaker gimmick. At the time, it would have been easy to dismiss Calaway as another in a series of bruisers that Pringle acted as a mouthpiece for before they learned to cut their own promos. Little did fans know that the pairing would become legendary when they took it to the biggest stage in wrestling—the WWE—and the twosome became all but synonymous with each other.
14 While The Undertaker Played A Mortician On TV, Paul Bearer Was A Real One
In Pat Patterson’s book, Accepted, he recounts the early development of The Undertaker character—that Vince McMahon talked bout picturing the big man dressed as the sort of doctor who came through old west towns to handle corpses. Patterson filled in the blanks, telling McMahon that he was pretty sure he meant a western mortician. So, the early seeds were planted for The Undertaker’s original look, mostly black and accessorized with long gray gloves unlike those worn by any fighter.
While The Undertaker ostensibly played a mortician on TV, Bearer actually worked in the position. On his website, Pringle referenced how working as an Emergency Medical Technician for the Air Force as a youngster led him to an interest in Mortuary Science, which ultimately resulted in him becoming a licensed mortician.
13 They Each Thought They Blew Their WWE Tryouts
According to an interview with former WWE higher-up Bruce Prichard, initially, Vince McMahon wasn’t all that interested in the performer who became The Undertaker, and had to be convinced by trusted advisers and ongoing conversations with the man himself. To make matters worse, when The Undertaker got the opportunity to have an informal tryout—a match he knew McMahon was watching—he had to do so wrestling with a dislocated hip.
The road to the WWE was little less nerve rattling for Paul Bearer. From Pat Patterson’s Accepted, when Patterson and McMahon learned in conversation with Bearer that he was a licensed mortician, they laughed out loud about their good fortune of pairing a manager with his background to this new wrestler. Bearer thought he’d said something horribly wrong to get laughed out of the interview, only to have the matter clarified shortly thereafter.
12 Neither Finished College Right Away
According to Tim O’Shei’s book, Undertaker,after high school, The Undertaker did matriculate to college, playing basketball for both Angelina College and Texas Wesleyan University. He never finished a degree, though, and ultimately committed himself to pro wrestling instead. Understandably, based on his success, he never looked back.
Meanwhile, Bearer joined the Air Force out of high school. According to his biography on his website he started taking classes at the University of South Alabama after he left the service, but switched gears to pursue wrestling full-time, too. A few years later, however, Bearer did finish up a degree in Mortuary Science at San Antonio College, which allowed him to work as a licensed mortician on and off alongside and after his full-time career as a wrestling personality.
11 Paul Bearer Turned Heel On The Undertaker Twice
It’s not so unusual for wrestlers to turn on each other, and if two performers are paired together over a period of years, it’s almost to be expected that at some point one will turn on each other.
Paul Bearer turned on The Undertaker not once, but twice, though. The first instance occurred at SummerSlam 1996 when the manager helped Mankind defeat The Undertaker, and then aligned himself with Mankind on a more permanent basis, thus becoming one of The Deadman’s arch-rivals.
The on-again, off-again relationship between the two carried on over the years. In the 2010, Paul Bearer returned ostensibly to support The Undertaker in a rekindled feud with his brother Kane, only to wind up siding with Kane and helping him soundly defeat The Phenom in match after match.
10 The Undertaker Turned On Bearer Once
For the times when The Undertaker and Paul Bearer have been at odds on screen, The Undertaker is generally thought of as the good guy and the victim of Bearer’s machinations. There was one time when The Undertaker was the more morally dubious of the two, though. At The Great American Bash 2004, Paul Heyman aimed at taking control of The Undertaker and imprisoned Bearer in a structure set up to smother him in cement. While The Undertaker played the part of the concerned friend, he ultimately flipped the switch to bury Bearer himself.
This was not the heel turn it appeared to be on the surface. On contrary, The Undertaker applied a stern sense of pragmatism to the situation, ultimately explaining that Bearer had become a liability, so he eliminated the distraction and vulnerability so he could move on unencumbered.
9 The Undertaker and Paul Bearer Are OneTwo Wrestler-Manager Pairs To Appear In Three Different Decades Of WWE
From The Undertaker’s debut at Survivor Series 1990 and throughout the 90s, to Bearer being in The Undertaker’s corner sporadically during various nostalgia runs in the 2000s, to their brief interaction in 2010, the pairing of The Undertaker and Paul Bearer defied the odds to appear together in three distinct decades.
Interestingly enough, the only wrestler-manager team to match this record in WWE was that of Paul Bearer and Kane. The three are inextricably linked given that, in storyline, The Undertaker and Kane were half-brothers, and Bearer was Kane’s biological father. Fittingly, Bearer introduced Kane for the very purpose of feuding with The Undertaker, had a one off appearance managing both brothers as a tag team in the 2000s, and finally helped Kane overcome The Undertaker in 2010.
8 The Undertaker And Paul Bearer Have Worked More PPV Matches Together Than Any Wrestler-Manager Pair In WWE History
The working relationship between The Undertaker and Paul Bearer extended from the relatively early days of PPV, through the PPV boom in the WWE when the big events became monthly occurrences. That boom coincided with fewer and fewer managers on the landscape. Take all of that and combine it with the sheer longevity of both The Undertaker and Paul Bearer in the wrestling business, and they easily take the crown for most PPV matches worked as a tandem (over 30), and move even further ahead when we add in matches they worked on opposing sides, with Bearer backing Kane, Mankind, Vader, The Executioner, and others.
While pairs like CM Punk and Paul Heyman, Hulk Hogan and Bobby Heenan, and Randy Savage and Elizabeth hold their own, no pairing really compares to The Undertaker and Paul Bearer in the complementary metrics of most matches worked together and against one another.
7 Bearer Knew How To Scare The Undertaker
It's hard to imagine pudgy little Paul Bearer being able to frighten The Phenom, but fortunately for Bearer, he was aware of one strange phobia of The Undertaker; cucumbers. Yes, The Deadman has a perpetual fear of cucumbers. One time, Bearer was with 'Taker in a Waffle House and when there were cucumbers on his plate, The Undertaker lost his appetite.
Bearer decided to take this knowledge and use it to put a scare in his friend. One day, Bearer took 'Takers iconic hat and filled it to the brim with cucumbers. As soon as 'Taker picked up his hat, the sight made him sick and he ran off to vomit.
This just goes to show how close they were. You really have to be close to someone to know they have a bizarre fear like cucumbers.
6 The Undertaker Has The Most WrestleMania Wins; Paul Bearer Is Tied For Most WrestleMania Wins By A Manager
The Undertaker’s record of success at WrestleMania is very well documented. He went undefeated in his first 21 outings, and though he eventually fell to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX, his next two ‘Mania outings were victories again.
Interestingly, The Deadman’s impressive record also helped Bearer tie for the winningest manager in WrestleMania history with seven victories, each of them backing The Undertaker (he lost when he managed Kane and was part of a no contest when he backed Vader and Mankind). Only Jimmy Hart matches that mark, and you can argue whether that’s more or less impressive for Hart who was in the corner of a wider array of performers, but mostly in lower profile matches and with a far lower overall winning percentage.
5 They Both Reinvented Their Characters In The Attitude Era
The Attitude Era—that edgy period when the WWE lifted the lid off profane language, sexuality, and over-the-top violence—was designed to help the WWE compete with surging WCW and reinvent itself after the cartoonish style of the 1980s and early 1990s wore thin. Understandably the talents who succeeded prior to and during The Attitude Era were few and far between, because the WWE was looking for different skill sets and presentations. The Undertaker and Paul Bearer both survived the transition, and even the subsequent transition back to PG programming, because of their ability to adapt.
The Undertaker took on a variety of different personas during this time period. First, he showed a more human side—conflicted at the prospect of fighting his brother Kane. Then he embraced the darkest aspects of his character as the leader of The Ministry of Darkness, before reinventing himself altogether as a biker character. Bearer, meanwhile, went from a shrill character who mostly spoke in catch phrases (“Oh yes!”) to a much more verbose manager in the heel mouthpiece tradition as he backed a wider range of performers after turning on The Undertaker.
4 Paul Bearer Inducted The Undertaker Into His Personal Hall Of Fame On His Website
In 2014, not long after he passed, Paul Bearer was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame—an honor that The Undertaker himself has not yet achieved (though you have to assume it’s only a matter of time or WWE waiting until he’s fully retired). Kane inducted him and Bearer’s sons accepted the honor on their father’s behalf.
While it’s not as well-known or highly regarded, Bearer did induct The Undertaker into a different Hall of Fame—his personal one on his website. Bearer started the sub-page of his site to honor friends and colleagues who had made a difference in his personal or professional life. Bearer paid tribute to his long time on-screen partner, calling him a brother, recalling the breadth of their history, and alluding to treasure trove of memories between them that the world may never know.
3 They Worked For Competing Companies For One Year
While Bearer and The Undertaker’s careers overlapped for many years, they did spend one year playing for opposing teams. Neither man jumped ship during the famous Monday Night War, when so many talents defected between the WWE and WCW, but in the nascent days of Total Non-Stop Action (TNA) Wrestling, Bearer did appear for that promotion. He gave a few interviews teased joining the Sports Entertainment Xtreme stable, but was more of a backstage player than on-air talent at that stage.
A year later, Bearer was back in the WWE fold, though he wouldn’t appear on air again until WrestleMania XX, the perfect accessory when The Undertaker returned after a particularly brutal attack from Kane, to get revenge and go on a nostalgia-fueled run as a top face.
2 They Made An Untelevised Appearance Together In 2007, When Bearer Was Not Under WWE Contract
By 2007, Paul Bearer had been off WWE television for over two and a half years. Though he had continued to work backstage for a spell, he ultimately left WWE altogether to move into semi-retirement, only working sporadic dates on the independent scene and, according to a feature on WWE.com, concentrating more on family and managing a full-service funeral home.
When the WWE rolled through Mobile, Alabama, though, Bearer made a stand-alone untelevised appearance to show up in the corner of The Undertaker and Kane. The moment was a special treat for the live audience, largely lost to the sands of time. Fortunately, Bearer would make one more run on WWE TV, from fall 2010 to spring 2012, to properly send off his character on the national stage a few years later.
1 After He Died, Paul Bearer Was Still Involved In One Last Angle With The Undertaker
In real life, Paul Bearer passed due to a heart attack just a month before WrestleMania XXIX. The WWE worked quickly to arrange for him to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame that spring, but also saw an opportunity.
There’s no wrestler-manager pair better equipped to pull of a posthumous angle than The Undertaker and Paul Bearer. While some fans thought it was in questionable taste, WWE had The Undertaker’s arch-rival of the day, CM Punk, come out to offer his condolences—about The Phenom losing at WrestleMania. Later, he would attack The Undertaker with the urn that Paul Bearer used to carry for him, and scatter ashes over the fallen foe. This angle all added just that little extra heat to elevate the 'Taker-Punk rivalry, and help them build to a classic match at WrestleMania.
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