Wednesday, May 02, 2018

A Visit With "Number One" Paul Jones & George South (2003)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published May 2003

When George South was ten years old, his brother would drop him off right in front of the Charlotte Park Center every Monday night. He would wait in line, ticket in hand, ready to continue his forays into the exciting world of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Those Monday nights at that venerable old building that sat in the shadow of Charlotte Memorial Stadium would form the foundation of a lifetime of adventures in the world of professional wrestling.

George South (circa 1984)
Wrestling was what kept George South on the straight and narrow. Born in Boone, NC, his parents died in an automobile accident when George was six years old, and he would move to Charlotte, living at different times with his brothers and his grandmother. Largely unsupervised, every opportunity presented itself for George to find himself in a lot of trouble, but what kept him on course was his love of wrestling. If he got in trouble, he wouldn't be allowed to watch Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling that Saturday on TV on channel 3, and he wouldn't be allowed to go to the Park Center on Monday night. Worse yet, he wouldn't be able to follow the exploits of his childhood hero, "Number One" Paul Jones.

George South loved Paul Jones. He celebrated when Paul won the U.S. belt from Terry Funk; he missed three days of school when Paul lost the U.S. belt to Blackjack Mulligan. "What do you mean, why don't I have my homework?" George would ask his teacher. "Don't you know? Paul Jones lost the belt!" Anyone ought to understand how such a traumatic and disastrous event could disrupt one's life for days at a time. Or so George thought.

It was only a matter of time, though, before Paul Jones won that belt back. And all would be right with the world.

With Paul Jones in Charlotte in 2003

Now here we were 28 years later (in 2003), George South inviting David Chappell and me to Charlotte to meet and have dinner with "Number One" Paul Jones. Paul wears the scars of over 30 years in the ring. He moves pretty slowly, the pain of all those bumps showing in every step he takes. But he still has that twinkle in his eye when you get him to talk about drawing a sold out house in Greensboro to beat Terry Funk for the U.S. Championship. Or shocking a sold out Charlotte Coliseum by turning on Ricky Steamboat (which he insists was really Steamboat turning on him.) Or once working a 90-minute time-limit "broadway" with Wahoo McDaniel against the Anderson Brothers in Richmond. Get him talking about those glory days, and it seems as though "Number One" is ready to get in the ring again at that very moment.

Heck, George wants him to! It's George South's dream to have Paul put the Indian Death Lock on him in the center of the ring. It's not going to happen, but that doesn't stop George from talking about doing what in his mind would be the ultimate tribute doing the ultimate job.

After our dinner, we close out the evening by taking a "Mid-Atlantic" tour of Charlotte, with Paul taking us by the old Crockett offices on Carmel Road and Briarbend Drive, the old Charlotte Coliseum, and of course the old Charlotte Park Center, where 28 years ago George South bought his ticket and took his seat.

George South's van in front of the Charlotte Park Center in 2003

As we came to a slow stop, George has come full circle. As he did all those years ago, he waits in front of the Charlotte park center, but this time his childhood hero isn't getting in the ring, he is sitting beside him in his van parked right in front, right at the spot where he used to patiently wait, ticket in hand. Paul Jones is telling us about all of those Monday nights in that jam packed smoke-filled auditorium. These days it sits empty, bruised and battered. George South has tears in his eyes.

We sit quietly for a moment, and then pull away from the curb. Paul Jones smiles and starts in on one more story. 

(Originally published May 2003. This story is rededicated to the memory of Paul Jones who passed away in April 2018.)