Jim Ross has discussed the steps WWE took to ensure the health of Paul Bearer prior to his return to the company at WrestleMania XX in 2004.
Bearer would make his return at the event by the side of his longtime partner The Undertaker. Undertaker would revive his Deadman persona after 4 years as the motorbike-riding American Badass. Bearer had last been seen on WWE television in the spring of 2000, leaving his on-screen role shortly after WrestleMania that year.
WWE Hall Of Famer Ross would detail Bearer’s return in an episode of his Grilling JR podcast. Ross would discuss approaching Bearer for a return and what it took to get the legendary manager back in the company.
“Everybody liked Bill Moody, Percy Pringle, Paul Bearer – in 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. But he was becoming morbidly obese. The first time I saw that was with Yokozuna from a doctor that was trying to get him licensed and past his physicals. Being morbidly obese was the reason they wouldn’t license Yoko at that point in time.”
“So I told Paul Bearer, ‘the only way that we’re gonna get you back here is you gotta get healthy and drop some weight.’ And I also knew it was gonna be hard to change his dieting lifestyle. His nutrition. You know, ‘we’re not gonna have no goddamn grilled chicken, I want fried chicken.'”
Jim Ross then discussed the expensive route WWE would ultimately take to get Bearer back to work:
“We [WWE] financed, paid for more specifically, the [gastric band] surgery to help him. We knew he was a heart attack waiting to happen if we didn’t do something. And we knew we wanted to bring The Undertaker back in the original incarnation. To do that without Paul Bearer would have been really challenging. It wasn’t the package and we wanted to put that package back together. In order to do so, we had to take some medical steps to make sure Paul Bearer was as healthy as could be. He never got svelte but he got healthier. He lost significant weight and it added some years to his life thank god and got him back in the line and back making money. So I thought it was a good thing for us to do.”
“I oversaw it and came up with the plan, you know in all honesty Vince [McMahon] had to approve it. It was a lot of 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 bullsh*t each other, Paul Bearer was an instrumental part of that Undertaker persona. So we had to figure out how to 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.”
Bearer would accompany The Undertaker to the ring for several months before leaving television once again in the summer of 2004. Paul Bearer would make his last appearance for WWE in 2012. He would feature as part of the feud between Kane and Randy Orton. Bearer passed away on March 5th, 2013 after suffering a fatal heart attack.
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