|LOOKING BACK AT THE BEGINNING|
The year 2004 marks my 30th year in the wrestling industry. An old-timer told me many years ago that you must remember where you came from, so you can appreciate where you are. In this Story Time I would like to look back on the beginning of my career in the sports entertainment business.
After high school graduation in 1972, I enlisted in The Air Force during the final years of The Vietnam war. I was blessed that I didn’t have to see any of the horrible battles. Staying stateside I was able to begin my professional wrestling training. Believe it or not, I was in the best shape of my life. I was in the gym or the ring almost every day. I was young, and hungry to live my dreams.
I had my first professional match in Greenville, Alabama during 1974. Even though it was a small VFW hall, with only 50 or 60 fans in attendance, that didn’t matter whatsoever. I might has well been in Madison Square Gardens. Working under a hood as “Mister X”, I went against my best friend, Michael Hendrich. Michael and I went to high school together and had reached for the same stars in the wrestling skies. However, as I went off to the military, Michael began law school. He wrestled throughout college, and did indeed become a lawyer. Today he is the vice-principal of a local middle school. Anyway… my debut should have been easy since I was wrestling a friend, and my workout partner. But, I was scared to death. I will never forget those knots in my stomach. I lost, of course. I even got a $20 payoff. But none of that mattered, I was a ‘rassler!
Back in the day, independent organizations were called “outlaw” territories. I wrestled for those promoters all over the southeast, while continuing to serve in the military. I was discharged from The Air Force in 1976, and immediately went to work as a licensed apprentice Funeral Director and Embalmer, while attending college at night. I began using the names “The Embalmer”, “The Mortician”, and “Dr. Rigor Mortis” during those early Funeral Home days.
On April 10, 1978, which is my birthday by the way, I received a call from Terry Lathan. Terry was a well-known wrestler in the south at the time, and helped me get my start in the business. He told me that he was working for George Culkin, the promoter in Mississippi. They needed someone to fill in that night in Vicksburg, and he wanted to know if I was interested. You know what my answer was. I rode with Terry and his partner Ricky Fields to Vicksburg. Ricky Fields is the son of the late Gulf Coast Wrestling promoter Lee Fields, and was an outstanding ring talent.
I ended up working against “Doctor X”, who was Jim Osborne under a mask. The match was pretty much unremarkable, except for the fact that I was scared as hell, as this was my first “real” territory. Later booker Frankie Cain, “The Great Mephisto”, asked me if I would be interested in working in Biloxi the next night. Biloxi is only 45-minutes from home, but it didn’t matter, it could have been 45-hours. I would be there with bells on.
That evening in Biloxi, “Mephisto” asked if I had ever tried managing. He told me that they would call me Percy Pringle and I would go to the ring with “The Mongolians”, Tapu and Tio. It didn’t take but that one match to realize that managing is where my place should be in the business. They offered me a permanent job, and I didn’t waste any time quitting the Funeral Home and college, to go on the road fulltime.
I was on my way!