Fans of professional wrestling have been hugely saddened today by the news that William Moody, who played manager Paul Bearer in the former World Wrestling Federation (now Entertainment) passed away last night aged 58 years old.

With WWE owner Vince McMahon’s wife Linda active in the field of politics for the past decade or so, as well as increased scrutiny from the media at the amount of premature deaths effecting those who’ve stepped inside the squared circle, the company is a different landscape from the one which Moody was at his peak in in the 90’s. Now with its PG rating and an attempt to appeal to families, there aren’t many edgy story lines these days. However, Paul Bearer was in his prime during the golden era of the gimmick, the 90’s where the then WWF would seek to push outrageous and fantastical story lines and characters, culminating in the Attitude Era, which saw the company defeat rivals World Championship Wrestling in the ratings war and eventually buy them out.

Paul Bearer played manager to The Undertaker, the infamously ‘undead’ character who appeared at Survivor Series in 1990. Bearer followed soon after, a supposed funeral director (in actual fact Moody did work as a funeral director and embalmer outside of wrestling) and father-like figure to the Undertaker, who possessed an urn with which it was said his protégé drew his powers from. The pair were together for the best part of a decade, constantly being involved in each other’s story lines. The pinnacle of this was perhaps a long build up in 1997 which saw Moody’s character betray the Undertaker and bring his story line brother Kane into the company, whom the Undertaker had allegedly burned alongside his parents in a fire when they were children.

Moody was a great actor, and was unmistakeable with his high-pitched outrage and exaggerated facial expressions. He made increasingly sporadic appearances over next decade or so, and seemed to be killed off an inordinate amount of times – including being buried in cement by the Undertaker – only to come back again. Outside of the ring and backstage, however, he had a great many friends and admirers, with the likes of HHH, Shawn Michaels, The Miz, Jim Ross, Michael Cole among the many WWE stars past and present paying their respects on Twitter today.