Terry Lathan & Ricky Fields were the two men who really opened the doors for young Bill Moody in professional wrestling. After years of doing backyard wrestling, working “outlaw” shows throughout the Gulf Coast region, even doing enhancement work on Memphis television, his big break finally arrived: a shot with International Championship Wrestling (ICW).

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 he 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.

Though he was adequate in the ring and displayed a great deal of heart and respect, booker Frankie Cain saw something else in this personable young man. That night, April 11, 1978 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, MS, Bill Moody’s life was forever changed.

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 full-time.

Tio Taylor and Reno Tuufuli were two highly skilled brothers of Samoan descent. They were The Samoans in professional wrestling long before Afa & Sika Anoa’i (who were originally The Islanders). They wrestled all throughout the world under various names including The Manchurians and The New Guinea Headhunters. In ICW, The Mongolians were the top tag team.

Not only do I give them credit for kick-starting my career, they taught me more than I could ever write about.

Moody was under the proverbial “learning tree,” and everything started from the top. George Culkin, the ICW owner, promoted for many years with his son Gil Culkin in the Gulf Coast region. George also had a 30-year in-ring career under the name George Curtis. Frankie Cain (real name James Ault) became a major tag team player as one of The Infernos (with partner Rocky Smith and manager J.C. Dykes), then morphed into a major singles star as The Great Mephisto. Cain also served as a booker in Roy Shire’s promotion in the San Francisco Bay Area.

With a territory full of young, hungry wrestlers and very capable veterans, there was no way Bill Moody couldn’t learn. On the veteran side, you had men like The Missouri Mauler (Larry Hamilton), Tom Jones, Len Rossi, Tom “Boogaloo” Shaft, “Plowboy” Stan Frazier, Ernie Ladd and Porkchop Cash. The young talent included Troy Graham, Ron Sexton, Bill Ash, Joey Rossi, Gene Lewis and Johnny Mantell.

Though George Culkin was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), ICW was technically considered an independent, with ties to the American Wrestling Association (AWA). Stars of the AWA, including AWA World Heavyweight champion Nick Bockwinkel, made appearances on the circuit. To add further prestige to their group, Culkin frequently brought in legendary former NWA World Heavyweight champion Lou Thesz, who spent his later years as an independent player.

Many young talents used this opportunity to springboard into bigger and better things, including Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy (The Fabulous Freebirds), Mark Sciarra (Rip Rogers), Jim Harris (Kamala the Ugandan Giant) and Jeff Smith (Izzy Slapowitz).

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 Mephisto” was certainly one of the best teachers I ever had in my early years. 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.

The original incarnation of Percy Pringle was very much a classic “southern gentleman” type, in the mold of Colonel Saunders. He was a mama’s boy, as well, using elements of this to draw enormous heat. Many of his traits were lifted from Bobby Heenan, who was Bill Moody’s idol in the wrestling magazines. Percy Pringle had bleached blond hair because Bobby Heenan did.

Moody got the Percy Pringle character over so well that his stable was expanded to include “Japanese” star Oki Shikina (who was actually Mexican wrestler Pedro Zapata) and the world famous Spoiler (Don Jardine). Then Pringle was able to use his personality and skill to turn the likeable but green Jim “Sugar Bear” Harris into Ugly Bear Harris, who served as a comedy foil for the colorful manager. For a time, Pringle called himself the “General.”

A feud with fellow manager Izzy Slapowitz led to several matches between the two, some of which ended up quite bloody. As managers, their matches were mostly seen as comedic affairs, but that doesn’t discount the amount of heat they both had.

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 did in this industry. Not only was I a manager, I also participated in many “gimmick” matches, wrestling and boxing, as well.

Percy Pringle ended his run with ICW on June 20, 1979 in a loser leaves the state match, with Izzy Slapowitz and his charges coming out on top in their feud.

Many new opportunities arose from this run in ICW, including a 5-week tour of Japan. But with the birth of his first child, Bill Moody knew he had to make many changes in his life. After returning from Japan, Moody decided to move back to Alabama and continue his career in mortuary service, which seemed like a much more stable path than professional wrestling.

Little did I know, that when the nurse carefully placed my newborn son in my arms that July 1979 morning, it would mark the beginning of some major decisions in my life.

NOTE: For further reading on this time period, please read...

The Mississippi Wrestling Territory: The Untold Story by Gil Culkin

Raising Cain – From Jimmy Ault to Kid McCoy by Frankie Cain & Scott Teal.


I had the honor of managing two veterans, who literally sat me under the learning tree every night: Tapu and Tio, who worked as The Mongolians. They were the Mississippi version of the Southern Tag Team champions and always worked with the top talent in the territory.

On occasion, they would work singles matches against major stars. One night Tio had a singles match with the legendary Lou Thesz.

I was so intimidated at the fact that I was ringside near 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 where he should have. In my nervousness, I reached for his leg… and missed it! He stopped dead in his tracks, turned around and looked at me. “You stupid son of a bitch,” he said. My god, he may as well have shot me in the head with a .357 Magnum. I just knew my career was dead before it ever got off the ground.


Moody got to meet Bobby Heenan working the ICW territory, as they had a working agreement with the AWA. It was yet another opportunity for him to sit back and absorb from the amazing talent around him.

Tio wrestled AWA World Heavyweight Champ Nick Bockwinkel one evening at 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.

Moody used everything he had developed to get this match over in front of his managerial idol. This was a big moment for him, as well as the Percy Pringle character. In fact, it was such a big moment that Mother Pringle made her one and only appearance in professional wrestling.

The rules were that if my man didn’t win the title, that my head would be shaved in the middle of the ring. How did it end? With a bald-headed Percy, of course.


I’ll never forget the first time I saw James Harris. James, as many of you know, eventually evolved into Kamala, the Ugandan Giant. It was just like yesterday, the city was Cleveland, Mississippi. I just happened to look out the dressing room window, and saw a giant of a man crossing the rock covered parking lot, carrying one of those old cardboard blue suitcases. I told the boys, “Check this guy out. I wonder who will be the lucky one to work with him tonight?”

By the way, the reason I distinctly remember it being a rock covered parking lot, was the fact that the fans would fill their pockets up, and half of the lot usually ended up flying through the air into the ring at us.
It took a bit of work on Mephisto’s part, but James learned the ropes pretty quick and was given the name of Sugar Bear Harris. “Sugar Bear” got over fairly well, and learned quickly, but then he was drafted into my stable of grapplers. I immediately changed his name to “Ugly Bear” Harris. However, I began to discover that he was getting more heat at home than in the arenas.

You see, I treated poor “Ugly Bear” pretty badly. If he lost a television match, I sometimes made him bend over and I would plant foot on his backside. One time I even got carried away and slapped his face. The next night, James showed up in the dressing room and asked me if we could talk in private. “Percy…” he began, “I just don’t know how much more I can take.” I asked him to explain, “You see, I knows what we do ain’t for real, but my wife don’t. Every time you do something bad to me on TV, when I gets home, she be waiting on me on the front porch with a shot gun.”

Now keep in mind, this was the mid-70’s in rural Mississippi. James continued, “Last night, after she saw you slap my face. She chased me across the street into the lumberyard, and Percy I had to stay out there all damn night! Please let’s try something different this week, so we can keep her and her friends happy.”

So, I eased up on ‘ol “Ugly Bear” for a while, but then came the night of the big TV Battle Royal. The winner would receive $5000! Mephisto made the decision to put James over. But James knew what would be waiting on him when he got home.

As he pulled into his muddy driveway, there she was, with all her friends. It was party time, hell after all her husband had just won $5000, by beating up 12 men. “”Let me see it James.” Ugly Bear’s wife commanded, “The $5000 you won on TV, I want to see it!” Stuttering like Mel Tillis, James tried to tell her he didn’t get any money. Well boys… it was back across the street to the lumberyard, to spend another cold wet night! Needless to say, the next morning, I believe Mr. James Harris finally decided it was time for Mrs. James Harris to get smartened up, if you will.