By Kaija Wilkinson
MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - The professional wrestling community on Wednesday mourned the death of William Moody, a real-life undertaker who gained fame as a wrestling manager with the ring name Paul Bearer.
Moody, 58, who managed the entertainment sport's champion The Undertaker and helped launch the careers of wrestlers Kane and Mankind, died Tuesday night at a hospital in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama, according to a hospital employee. The hospital did not release a cause of death.
"WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of William Moody, aka Paul Bearer," the wrestling organization said on its website.
"Moody made his WWE debut in 1991 as the manager of The Undertaker and went on to become a memorable part of WWE over the course of the next 20 years," the site said.
For his spooky character, Moody wore pasty makeup, carried an urn and spoke in a high-pitched wail. He made his last television appearance for WWE in April 2012, the organization said.
Angie Daniel-Poteet, co-owner of Coastal Funeral Home and Cremations in Moss Point, Mississippi, where Moody worked for about five years until 2010, described him as an upbeat person who always made time for fans and friends.
"He could still put us in our place with 'that look,'" Daniel-Poteet said on Wednesday, referring to Moody's signature facial expression, a wide-eyed scowl. "But it wasn't serious, and he never trash-talked fellow wrestlers like others in the wrestling community."
Moody earned the respect of both the national professional wrestling and local funeral home communities, said Phillip Gilmer, a close friend and owner of Gilmer's Funeral Home in Mobile.
Moody had been having problems in recent months with breathing and sleep apnea, Gilmer said.
"Bill Moody was a gentle giant, a great person with a heart as big as Texas," he said.
(Reporting by Kaija Wilkinson; Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Dan Grebler)