The WWE is mourning the death of Paul Bearer, manager of legendary star The Undertaker, at the age of 58.

Although the cause of Bearer's death has yet to be established, he suffered serious health problems for more than a decade. In 2008, he underwent gastric bypass surgery to address a chronic weight problem.

Bearer, real name William Alcvin Moody, was a qualified embalmer and undertaker in real life, and he took his profession into the ring to create one of wrestling's most famous double acts.

Bearer managed The Undertaker for six years from 1991, wearing ghoulish makeup and dressed in a black suit at ringside. He carried an urn for The Undertaker, which was often used in creepy ceremonies at the beginning and end of bouts.

Bearer's name was a pun on the role of pall-bearer, the person who carries the coffin at funerals.

After making his first appearance on TV screens in 1991, Bearer went on to present wrestling TV chat show The Funeral Parlour. In one dramatic incident, he shut the Undertaker's arch rival, the Ultimate Warrior , inside a casket.

Bearer's association with The Undertaker ended after his head was turned into a ball of flame by the wrestler as part of a storyline in 1997. That led to an image change and less funeral palour makeup.

Although he is most famous for his work with The Undertaker, Bearer managed a number of other marquee stars including Steve Austin, Rick Rude and even the Ultimate Warrior.

Bearer's health problems intruded on his work in 2004, when he suddenly developed gallstones and required emergency surgery. A storyline was hastily scripted in which he was kidnapped by rival wrestlers.

A statement was issued by the WWE in the wake of his death in Mobile, Alabama.

"WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of William Moody, aka Paul Bearer. 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.

"Our deepest condolences go out to Moody's family, friends and fans."