Medical steps were taken to properly re-debut The Undertaker's Dead-Man persona at WrestleMania XX.
Speaking with Conrad Thompson on the latest episode of his Grilling JR podcast, the AEW commentator talked about how, in an attempt to get Paul Bearer healthier after being classified as morbidly obese, WWE paid for him to have gastric banding surgery. Here is what he said:
"Gosh, everybody liked Billy Moody. Percy Pringle. Paul Bearer. Any incarnation, he was a hoot. Smart guy, really a student of the game. Loved wrestling as much as anybody I've ever been around. He was becoming morbidly obese... First time I saw that was with Yoko, from a doctor that was trying to get him licensed and passed his physicals. He's morbidly obese is the reason they wouldn't license Yoko at that point in time. So I told Paul Bearer, I said the only way we're gonna get you back here is you gotta get healthier and you got to drop some weight. I also knew that being a good ole Southern boy like you are and me, it was going to be hard to change his dieting lifestyle... So we financed, paid for, more specifically, surgery to help him. I don't know if it's that Lap-Band thing or something along those lines, I should remember but I'm not a doctor, never played one. on TV. I think we knew that it was a heart attack waiting to happen if we didn't do something."
JR shares that the company wanted to bring back The Undertaker's original character for the anniversary show, but wanted the whole package, of which Paul Bearer was an integral part. He said the following:
"We knew that we wanted to bring The Undertaker back in the original incarnation and to do that without Paul Bearer was going to be really challenging. We wanted to put that package back together and in order to do so, we had to take some medical steps to make sure that Paul Bearer was as healthy as he could be. He never got svelte, but he got healthier and he lost significant weight. It added some years to his life, thank God, and got him back in the line and back making money. So I thought that was a good thing for us to do."
Although he came up with the plan, Jim Ross notes that Vince McMahon deserves the credit for following through and paying for everything. He also notes that he made a similar offer to Yokozuna back in the day, but was turned down by the Hall of Famer.
"I oversaw it and came up with the plan, but in all honesty, Vince had to prove it. It was a lot of money. Somebody is gonna say that well, he's got money, he's got money. Okay, asshole. Yeah, he's got money. He didn't have to do it. He went above and beyond to take care of this guy who had come in and been very loyal. Let's not bullshit each other, Paul Bearer was an instrumental part of that Undertaker persona. So we had to try to figure out how can we replicate that and that's what we decided to do. It was a novel approach to get somebody back at work. It was unique. I don't know if it had ever been done before. I tried the same thing, I mentioned it to Yoko. He wouldn't go for it. We offered the same thing to him. A different time, old school. [Imitating Yokozuna] 'I'll get this under control.' It didn't happen."
Bearer returned at WrestleMania XX alongside The Undertaker, who defeated Kane at the event.
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