japan - 1979

In mid-1979, Percy Pringle was managing The Mongolians, Tio & Tapu, for the International Championship Wrestling (ICW) group based out of Mississippi when a huge opportunity came his way.

Tio wrestled AWA World Heavyweight champ Nick Bockwinkel 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.

Percy was shaved bald. And his willingness to do what was right for business shown through. This impressed the powers that be, who felt Bill Moody was ready to go to the next level.

On June 20, 1979 Mr. (Yasu) Fuji & Oki Shikina (with manager Izzy Slapowitz) defeated AWA Southern Tag Team champions The Mongolians (with manager Percy Pringle) in a steel cage match, where the losers would be forced to leave the state.

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.

We were invited on a five-week tour of Japan. I had a guarantee of $500 a week, and that was a lot of money to me at that time in my career. It was highly unusual for Japanese promotions to accept managers then. Of course, I jumped at the chance.

The bad part of the story was that the day I had to leave for Japan, my wife was 7½ months pregnant with my oldest son. That really made it hard to go. Although she was behind me 100% in whatever career decisions I had to make, it didn’t take a genius to look at a calendar and realize that our new baby would be due almost to the day I would return from Japan.

We were living at home in Mobile, Alabama. However my wife Dianna was from East Liverpool, Ohio, which is a very small town about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh, PA. I decided that Dianna really needed to be with her family while I was gone. So, I sent her to Ohio to stay until I returned.

The wrestlers on my tour included Andre The Giant, Haystacks Calhoun, Ox Baker, Dynamite Kid, Alexis Smirnoff, Ed Moretti, Bobby Bass (who was the second Percy Pringle, by the way), and of course my Mongolians and myself. What a crew we had! But five weeks in a foreign country is a very long time.

I was really fortunate to have so many veterans with us, and I spent as much time as possible sitting under the learning tree. The stories were endless, and I soaked each and every one of them up like a sponge. Dynamite was truly a “kid” at the time, and he couldn’t have weighed 190 pounds with his boots on. Fortunately, Andre, Haystacks, Ox, and Smirnoff took a liking to me, which really made the tour pretty easy for me. You didn’t want to be on any of their bad side, for obvious reasons.

There are a lot of stories to pass on from those five long weeks in Japan. But I only have the space to share my favorite story with you. We were about two weeks into the tour. We never stayed in the same place more than one night a time, and traveled Japan from top to bottom. Usually we were on a bus, but I did have the opportunity to ride the bullet train while I was there.

I am never late. In fact if I wasn’t the first one on the bus in the morning, something was very wrong. This particular morning was a rough one. I had been out almost all night with the boys, eating Korean Barbecue and drinking Japanese whiskey. I dragged myself out of the bed, threw my bags together and headed downstairs to the hotel lobby.

I just had enough time to stop into the restaurant for a quick bite before the bus was scheduled to leave. I had picked up a few necessary words of Japanese, like “bathroom,” “water,” “please” and “thank you.” I am sure you are beginning to get the picture. As I walked into the restaurant, Andre was just getting up from his table. I said, “Morning Boss. How’s the food?” He just chuckled and told me that it was the usual and that I had better hurry up.

The waiter walked up almost immediately, and I figured that in order to save time I should just order what Andre had. Looking down at his almost empty plate, I could see a bit of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. So I pointed to Andre’s plate and told the waiter, “Same-same.” He bowed, poured me a cup of coffee and headed to the kitchen to get my food.

I started seeing some of the guys starting to board the bus, so I was really starting to get nervous. Finally the waiter headed my way, with one of those giant trays, with about eight plates on it. “Damn!,” I thought. “My food still isn’t ready.” How wrong I was! That entire tray was for me! As I was screaming, “No…no…no!,” one of the Japanese wrestlers walked up and I tried to tell him I didn’t order all this food. He said, “You told the waiter ‘same-same’ right? Well, this is exactly the same breakfast as Andre had!” Lord, Lord… How was I going to eat all that, much less pay for it? Fortunately, the Japanese wrestler worked everything out for me, and I ran to the bus with my bags and a bacon sandwich.

I learned another valuable lesson for the rest of the tour. Never go into a restaurant after Andre and tell the waiter to bring you the same thing the Giant had. It is a good thing we were not in a bar, I never would be able to drink a case of beer at a time.

I returned to the United States on the morning of July 27th. I made sure my flight connections took me straight to Ohio, where my wife was waiting to deliver anytime. At 3:00 pm the very same day, she went into the hospital and gave birth early the next morning to my oldest son, Michael Thomas Moody.