Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Paul Jones Passes Away

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It is with real sadness that we learn of the death of one of our childhood heroes, "No. 1" Paul Jones. Paul passed away this week at his home near Atlanta, GA.

Late edit: We're getting lots of calls and questions about what more we know about Paul Jones. Sadly, no details are yet available on cause of death or even exactly when he died. Our friend Peggy Lathan, who was a close friend of Paul's, received word from Paul's son this afternoon (4/18) that he had been notified of his Dad's passing and he was on the way to Atlanta, where Paul lived. That's all we know at this time, but more information should be forthcoming in a day or two.

Edit #2: We have no further word on the circumstances surrounding the death of Paul Jones as of Thursday evening 4/19.  It may be several days before cause of death and funeral arrangements are announced. The Mid-Atlantic Gateway will be on hiatus for the next several days regardless, but we will update early next week, and plan on sharing lots of memories about “No. 1” Paul Jones. Please keep Paul’s son (Paul Jr.) in your thoughts and prayers.

When David Chappell and I first got hooked on wrestling in the mid-1970s, Paul Jones was one of the top stars for Jim Crockett Promotions. My first major memory of Paul was in early 1975 when he was upset by the brash young upstart Ric Flair for the Mid-Atlantic TV title, only to rebound months later to defeat the Anderson Brothers to win the NWA World Tag Team titles with partner Wahoo McDaniel. Later that same year he defeated Terry Funk for the United States Heavyweight championship. It was an amazing year for him. Funk would win the NWA World title a few weeks later and Paul would be one of his top challengers in our area during Funk's entire reign as champion.

Jones was one of the most popular wrestlers in the Mid-Atlantic territory but that would all change a few years later when he would turn on his young protege Ricky Steamboat and the two had one of the most bloody and violent feuds of the 1970s in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Jones always insisted, though, it was Steamboat that turned on him, continuing to have fun at wrestling conventions with that story. It was his story, and he was sticking to it.

As loved as he had been by fans as a "good guy," he was as equally hated as a "bad guy" and formed one of the more memorable heel tag teams with Baron Von Raschke in 1979. The two held the NWA World Tag team titles and feuded with teams such as Ric Flair/Blackjack Mulligan and Jay Youngblood/Ricky Steamboat.

In the final years of his in-ring wrestling career, he feuded with old Florida rival Jack Brisco over the Mid-Atlantic Championship. He retired from regular in ring competition in 1983 and became a manager for the next seven years. After a brief return to the ring in the early 1990s, he retired from the business for good.

He began his career in the 1960s in Texas and California before becoming a huge star in the 1970s in the Georgia, Florida, and Mid-Atlantic territories. His most memorable period for David and I, though, will always be that 1975-1979 period where everything he was involved in was gold.

With Paul Jones in 2003

David and I were blessed to get to know Paul not long after starting the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, and stayed in touch with him over the years. We last saw him at the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest in August of 2016 in Charlotte.

We will be posting some of our fond memories about Paul in and out of the ring, as a wrestler and as a friend, in the upcoming weeks.

Rest in peace.