Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Paul Bearer and Jim Cornette Straight Shooting

Two all-time great managers cover wrestling history, Kevin Dunn, Divas, WCCW, near death experiences, why wrestling is dying and much more

With Jim Cornette offering ROH’s “Straight Shooting” series of shoot interviews as part of his holiday merchandise push, I figured now was as good of time as ever to check out Cornette’s dual shoot with Paul Bearer from that collection.

Recorded in October of 2005.

Bearer grew up on the Gulf Coast. He was a wrestling fan and watched “Cowboy” Bob Kelly, Mike Boyette, Greg Pederson, Stan Frazier and many other southern journeymen.

Both Cornette and Bearer put over Bobby Heenan as the best manager ever.

Bearer was working as Percy Pringle III in Florida in 1985 when he first met Cornette.

Pringle jokes about how Michael Hayes and Dutch Mantel’s booking in Florida drove Eddie Graham to suicide.

Many men owned a piece of the Florida territory, and Graham’s death caused an attempted power grab from all the outside forces.

Dusty Rhodes promised Pringle that he was going to make him a star in JCP.

Rick Rude, Barry Horowitz, Rip Oliver, the Missing Link and Buddy Rose were part of Pringle’s Florida troop.

Dusty decided to put the Florida wrestlers on TBS to help get them over. Wahoo McDaniel took over as booker in Florida.

Pringle ended up only making one TBS appearance for JCP before the plans changed again.

Pringle, McDaniel, and Rude were riding in an airplane when both engines died out. After a moment of panic, the pilot realized he needed to flip to the back up gas tank and a disaster was averted.

The Percy Pringle gimmick started in 1978. Pringle ended up leaving the business to return to school before going back to managing in the early 80’s.

Biloxi, Mississippi built an 18,000 seat arena in a city that only had 32,000 people. No one ever came close to selling it out for wrestling.

“No Class” Bobby Bass worked in the early 70’s in the south as “Percy Pringle”. Another “Percy Pringle” worked in Detroit. Bearer says he had no idea about the second guy and just made himself “Percival Pringle the 3rd” in an effort to sound snooty.

After finishing up in Florida, Pringle went to Dallas for a 6-year run. He went from WCCW to the WWF after the USWA came in and closed things down.

Pringle was preparing to retire when he talked to Rick Rude, who hooked him up with the WWF. JJ Dillon, Pat Patterson and Vince McMahon met Pringle in the office. Pringle had a legit mortician’s license and it fit Vince’s plans for a new manager for the Undertaker perfectly.

The guys put over how Eric Embry managed to constantly get himself over in Texas despite being an average talker and worker, with no body.

The Sportatorium has huge rats. The food there was great though.

Pringle claims the rats would fall in the cooking grease and then just became part of the meals for the next few months before it was changed again. They’d find the bones in the grease in the rare times they actually switched it out.

The Sportatorium ring was bolted into the ground -therefore it was rock hard. There was a pit under the ring where the trash was washed into.

They skip ahead to late 1993 when Bearer and Cornette finally got to work together during the Yokozuna vs. Undertaker feud. Bearer puts over Taker being able to have good matches with everyone but Giant Gonzalez.

The heels were ordered not to touch Bearer once he and Taker turned face.

Bearer and Corny could both tell Unibomb (Kane) was going to be a star in the business, even though he stunk in his early days at SMW.

They joke about how convoluted the Taker/Kane/Bearer angle became.

Bearer was sent to work in OVW in the early 2000s, he was then brought back for Wrestlemania 20 and sent away again a few months later.

Pringle was given a backstage job where he had to time out RAW, which was nerve wracking because the scripts would change all afternoon, then guys would work longer than they were suppose to, causing Bearer to get heat for things going long.

Corny and Bearer make fun of Kevin Dunn’s teeth.

Bearer was then sent around the country to be a stooge for the WWF in their developmental territories. Bearer didn’t like that job either.

Taker and Bruce Pritchard fought with creative over Bearer being written off of TV after he was covered with concrete on PPV.

Vince and the wrestlers would make fun of Bearer constantly for being fat. It got to the point where Bearer would not eat in front of his coworkers.

Bearer almost quit when he was asked to be part of the talent weigh-ins. Cornette snapped and told Vince he would quit if they pushed Corny to lose weight because it did not cause him to cut any less effective promos.

Bearer weighed 525 lbs. by the time the WWF called him to come back for Wrestlemania 20. He avoided the WWF’s calls for several days out of embarassment. He finally sent them an email. He and Jim Ross worked out a new plan.

Vince ended up sending him a new 3-year contract, with a signing bonus that included the company paying for his stomach band surgery.

They make more fun of Kevin Dunn for hating wrestling. Corny and Bearer both admit that they hate him.

Cornette was tasked with being Sunny’s babysitter, so he was in charge of her expense reports and such. Jim had to try and rectify a constant stream of heat that Sunny managed to get herself. Bearer and Sunny had at it backstage constantly- behind each other’s back.

One day Bearer found his Halliburton glued shut and his shoes were in the toilet. It took years for Bearer to find out it really wasn’t Sunny who did it, but the Smoking Gunns.

Bearer bitches that Sable, Sunny and Marlena had their own ladies’ dressing room, while often times the men were crammed in a similar sized room, but there were 30-40 of them.

Steve Keirn shit in Jerry Lawler’s crown at a TV taping – Bearer was more than willing to watch the door.

Sean Waltman shit in a sandwich that Sunny supposedly then ate without knowing, and he also shit in Sable’s traveling bag.

Bearer was in charge of helping get Taker from place to place because Taker loved to party in his younger days.

One time, Bearer pissed himself while driving to an arena. By the time he got to the arena, Vince had a box of Depends wrapped in a bow waiting for him. Taker had snitched right away.

After Summerslam ’94, Vince thought it would be funny to make Bearer drag his new oversized urn from town to town. Bearer no sold the rib and even made it a point to polish the urn whenever Vince was around.

Taker would get sick at the sight of cucumbers. This led to Bearer putting them in his hat, gloves and drinks.

Bruce Pritchard, Brian Adams and Bearer call Taker “Wendy” because of his red hair.

Bearer is known as “Pooh Bear” by Vince.

Vince constantly ribs Howard Finkel because Howard loves the business so much that they have to fuck with him. One time Vince made him do take after take of eating sardines with the Bushwackers until Finkel puked. Other times, things got so mean spirited that Bearer would see Finkel crying afterwards.

Bearer buries the Katie Vick angle. Paul is friends with George Jones and got his kids tickets to go to the arena the night – the angle was so bad that Bearer called and apologized to Jones.

The guys discuss their experiences dressing in drag in order to hide in the audiences for angles.

Gary Hart got pissed at the Missing Link saying something about the Von Erich’s wives and Hart sliced him with the blade he kept in his cigarette package.

Corny called Sunshine a “slut” on WCCW TV, knowing full well it would be beeped. Fritz Von Erich wasn’t around, so Corny didn’t get yelled at.

Cactus Jack fell off a scaffold in WCCW. He broke his wrist and never had it fixed due to having poor pay and no insurance. It bugs Mick to this day.

Pringle took part in several six-man scaffold matches .

Pringle’s race baiting promos earned him a letter from the NAACP chastising him.

Bearer’s first match was in 1974. He worked outlaw promotions.

Eventually he got a gig as a Memphis jobber. He was paid 15 dollars. Pringle worked Paul Orndorff on TV in one of Mr.Wonderful’s first matches.

Pringle met Michael Hayes before either man broke into the business.

Cornette drove 4400 miles in one week for Mid-South. That included 8 cards.

They cover how WCCW was set up for greatness but the Von Erich’s self-destructed.

The modern locker room is much different than the old days. Today you’ll find a lot of suits, hanger-on’s and such in the back.It used to be the boys and some beer.

Corny would like to manage Ric Flair just once.

Bearer would like to start an indy promotion.

OVW is still owned of Corny, but he is not allowed to run the business due to his heat with the WWE.

Lou Thesz worked with Bearer in his early days as a manager. Bearer blew a spot and feared Thesz would have him blackballed.

Cornette’s first World title match he saw live as a fan was Jerry Lawler vs. Jack Brisco, Pringle saw Dory Funk Jr. vs. Don Fargo go to a one-hour draw.

Bearer thinks the Internet really hurts the business as no one is surprised anymore and a lot of natural heat is no longer possible.

Here is Corny’s column on Bearer’s 2013 death: http://jimcornette.com/fighting-spirit/paul-bearer-rip-fsm92

Final thoughts: This was a fun 3-hour chat between two friends. It would have benefited with a bit more structure in the topics. Bearer also was in the middle of doing some other shoots on his career for ROH and thus refused to tell some stories he wanted to save for the other DVDs, which was annoying. You can find this for free online, but give Cornette your money instead – because he’s great!

Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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