|LOOKING BACK AT THE BEGINNING - Part 2|
If you know anything about Jim Cornette and Paul Heyman, we were all pretty much cut from the same cloth. All three of us got into the business in the same way, as we were all ringside photographers. We all paid our proverbial dues in the “old school” tradition. Needless to say, we are talking about the 1970’s, with Jim in Kentucky, Paul E. in New York, and of course the Alabama Gulf Coast was, and will always be home for me.
When I began creating the Percy Pringle gimmick, I took a bit from my two favorite managers, James E. Cornette, and Bobby Heenan. Percy used Jimmy’s “rich mama” gimmick, and dressed and bleached his hair like Bobby “The Brain.” The rest just came naturally for me. I had been a fan all my life, and it was so easy for me to have the best seat in the house, and get paid for being there.
Plus, the icing on the cake was the fact that I had the honor of managing two veterans, who literally sat me under the learning tree every night. Like I have mentioned before. My first charges were “The Mongolians”, who actually were two Samoan brothers, Tapu and Tio. They were The Mississippi Tag-team Champions and always worked with the top talent in the territory. In fact, Tio once had a singles match with the late great, Lou Thesz. I’ll never forget that one.
First of all, I was so intimidated at the fact that I was at ringside with Lou Thesz himself. There was a spot in the match where Lou was going to hit the ropes right in front of me. I was supposed to pull his leg, distracting him, so Tio could get the "one-up" on him. Well… Lou hit the ropes right were he should have. In my nervousness, I reached for his leg, and missed it! He stopped dead in his tracks, turned around, and looked down at me and said, “you stupid son of a bitch.” My God, he may have well shot me in the head with a 357 magnum. I just knew my career was dead, before it ever got off the ground.
I had the best teachers in the world in my first territory, there in Mississippi. Frankie Cain, who worked for many years all over the world as “The Great Memphisto” was certainly one of the best teachers I ever had in my early years. I think the world of him, and fortunately I get to see him every year at our Gulf Coast Wrestler’s Reunion. I even had several matches against him. He made me look like a million bucks, when I wasn’t even worth a plugged nickel. I know I mentioned it before, but it was Frankie that gave me the name Percy Pringle. I later added, the third to it, after I learned that I wasn’t the first.
In other stories, I have written that I wasn’t the only one to begin my career at that time in Mississippi. My peers were The Freebirds to be Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy, “Sugar Bear” Harris (Kimala), Rip Rogers, and Troy Graham. Other talents that were in and out of the area included, Porkchop Cash, Oki Shikina, Joey Rossi, King Cobra, Tom Shaft, Izzy Slapawitz, Bill Ash, Tom Jones, Terry Lathan, Ricky Fields, Grizzly Smith, Ernie Ladd, Tiny Frazier (Uncle Elmer), Dr. X (Jim Osborne), and Don Jardine (The Spoiler), just to name a few. To say that I was in heaven was an understatement.
I spent a year and a half in my first territory, and I must say that if it weren’t for those early lessons, I would have never made it as far as I have in this industry. Not only was I a manager, I also participated in many “gimmick” matches, wrestling and boxing, as well.
One of my Mongolians, Tio, wrestled AWA Champ Nick Bockwinkle one evening in The Jackson Mississippi Coliseum. Bobby Heenan was with him, and that was the first time I got to meet my hero in person. They came in several times during my stay there, as we were promoted under The AWA banner. Back to the match, the rules were that if my man didn’t win the title, that my head would be shaved in the middle of the ring. Well, you can look in my photo gallery and see the results, a bald-headed Percy, of course. They even brought in my “Mama” for the night. Mid-Atlantic referee Stu Swartz’s wife Bonnie, played the part. I still call her “Mama” when I see her every year at the reunion.
The haircut worked out pretty good, because shortly after that I embarked on a tour of Japan with The Mongolians. It was summer time, and it was so much easier not having to deal with my long bleached blond hair in the Land Of The Rising Sun. You can find some memories of my first trip to Japan in my STORYTIME ARCHIVES.
I appreciate you stopping by, and we will have some more memories of the early days of my career up for you here very soon.