Long Piece on Percy “Paul Bearer” Pringle and His WWE Demise

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From: Lords of Pain

For the record, here is what Michael Cole and Tazz actually said regarding Paul Bearer’s condition on the July 1, 2004 SmackDown broadcast following the cement burial twist at the previous Sunday’s Great American Bash pay-per-view:

Cole: “We’d like to update you on the condition of Paul Bearer at this time. The Undertaker’s once friend and confidant suffered severe internal injuries he also suffered injuries to the lungs, severe injuries to the lungs, and also to the trachea.”

Tazz: “It is extremely doubtful that we’ll ever see Paul Bearer on Smackdown ever again, due to the horrifiying injuries the man sustained. It’s horrible.”

Reportedly, WWE received a number of fan complaints because they had essentially shown a “murder” on television, so they changed his status in the storyline to alive, although gravely injured.

A few weeks ago, John Morrison and The Miz held a seance for Bearer on their WWE.com webshow “The Dirt Sheet” to gain information about Kane, presuming that Bearer is dead, even though WWE last said he was still alive.

Pringle originally parted ways with WWE in October 2002. Over the next year, he would often rant about the state of his former company and their storylines on his official website and message board, obviously expecting never to work with them again. For starters, he ripped the Katie Vick storyline, ranted on the direction of the Kane unmasking angle, said the fans “couldn’t care any less” for an “unknown China Doll” winning the WWE Women’s Championship (current TNA wrestler Gail Kim), criticized the WWE writing team (“However, in my heart I just know sooner or later they are going to screw something up. No matter how hard Glen Jacobs works, or how much blood he spills, his fate is in the hands of writers who have never stepped foot in a wrestling ring before.”), and chastised WWE for their piece on Confidential on the death of Miss Elizabeth. Apparently, Pringle even once took a dig at the Undertaker in a website column following the June 23, 2003 Kane unmasking angle.

Compared to Mark Calaway, he said that Kane was the “superior athlete” and that “Glen Jacobs was indeed treated like the red headed stepchild, while big brother got the big paydays and the glory.” He also added, “With Mark Calaway’s big boot resting on the bar, Kane had a snowball’s chance in hell of any type of character elevation.”

Pringle also felt “robbed” regarding the unmasking storyline, saying “The Kane character has been used, abused, and kicked to the side, by writers that didn’t have a damn clue of what to do with him. So tonight, they took the easy way out.”

During all this, Pringle had a brief foray in TNA, but only worked a few shows before disappearing. There apparently was an idea for him to manage a character they were developing at the time, who you may know as Abyss, but it never came to pass.

In September 2003, Jim Ross contacted Pringle about rejoining the company. Pringle was initially hesitant about calling him back because he thought there was no possible way he could return to television in the shape he was in at the time as he was suffering from morbid obesity. “When I left the road, I had a lot of problems. My wife was sick, I was depressed, and I gained a lot of weight. I was a big man for a lot of the years that I managed Undertaker, but I carried it well. At this point though, I could barely walk around my house,” Pringle said in an interview with WWE.com. Pringle also said he weighed 525 pounds during this time period. He initially turned WWE’s offer down without offering a solid explanation.

“I knew I couldn’t go back to wrestling with my health being what it was,” Bearer said in an interview. “I was too ashamed to admit to my friend (Jim Ross) that I had gained so much weight and my health was so bad. So, I just dodged his calls. Finally, a couple weeks later, he emailed me. I felt comfortable there, behind the computer keyboard.” Ross then asked, “What can we do for you?”

Pringle explained the situation with his health, saying he had been researching weight loss surgery and badly needed it. However, he didn’t have any insurance to cover the cost and his bank account was practically bare. After some contract negotiations via e-mail, WWE signed him to a three-year contract in October 2003. As a signing bonus, the company agreed to assist him with the cost of the Gastric Bypass Surgery, which he underwent in November 2003. “To make a long story short, I had the surgery and lost 240 pounds. The surgery saved my life, and without it, you wouldn’t be hearing from me today,” Pringle told WWE.com.

After recovering from surgery, he reappeared as the Paul Bearer character in March 2004 at WrestleMania XX, alongside Undertaker in his match against Kane. Pringle said he lost 129 pounds by this time, so he was down to 396 pounds for the event. Bearer would accompany Undertaker to the ring for the next two months, often staying in the background and rarely getting involved, but on Friday, May 21, 2004, something unexpected happened.

Pringle was sitting at his computer that Friday night “when out of nowhere it felt like someone stabbed me in my right side,” Pringle wrote on his website. Pringle was diagnosed with gallstones, which he had suddenly developed. This is a frequent side effect of gastric bypass surgery. Pringle informed management about his situation and told them that he was going to be out of work for three weeks. In the meantime, the creative team came up with a storyline for his Paul Bearer character to be abducted by Paul Heyman and the Dudley Boyz. Pringle said he was very weak and the road was taking a toll on his well-being. The creative team then developed the cement burial angle to write his Paul Bearer character off of television altogether.

As expected, Undertaker trounced the Dudley Boyz in the main event of the 2004 Great American Bash. During the match, Heyman frequently tried to divert Taker’s attention by threatening to pull the lever to the fill the glass crypt in which Paul Bearer was in, with cement. After the match, a lightning bolt struck, preventing Heyman from going to the cement truck. Undertaker then walked over to it and told Paul Bearer to “Rest In Peace.” He then pulled the lever himself, which sent cement into the crypt, completely burying Paul Bearer and suffocating him in the storyline. Despite practically murdering his long-time manager in the storyline, Undertaker remained a babyface and soon went on to feud with John “Bradshaw” Layfield over the WWE Championship.

After the cement burial angle, WWE kept Pringle on the payroll until they decided to terminate his contract, giving him ninety days notice on April 11, 2005. Regarding his release from the company, Pringle wrote, “I would like to say that our conversation was a courtesy, very cordial, and definitely not unexpected. The WWE creative department has not been able to come up with a viable storyline for the Paul Bearer character since he was “buried” in cement at THE GREAT AMERICAN BASH on June 27, 2004.”

Pringle made one last appearance under the Paul Bearer character in late January 2007 at a SmackDown/ECW taping in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama, where he joined Kane & Undertaker at ringside for a dark match.

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