Paul Jones was laughing as he remembered back to his recent reunion
with Terry Funk.
"Terry was sitting there with a big
grin on his face," Jones recently told me in a phone conversation
from his home in Tampa, Florida. "He was looking at me and saying
Gee, it's good to see you Paul after so many years. We were
laughing and telling old stories. Terry was pretty lit after his Q&A
(earlier that night at the Mid-Atlantic Legends Fanfest). Tommy
Young kept bringing him beer and mixed drinks all during that thing.
So later we're visiting in the hospitality room, and suddenly Terry
got real serious and says
"Paul, why in the hell did
you hit me so hard?"
Funk was laughing as he and Paul
reminisced in the VIP suite for wrestlers appearing at the NWA
Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte this past August.
"He just kept asking me that. We
were laughing, we had both had a few beers and were talking about
that night in Greensboro."
Paul and Terry were remembering the famous US
championship tournament held after that title had been vacated
following Johnny Valentine's injury in the October 1975 Wilmington
NC plane crash. Funk had won the tournament, defeating Jones in
the finals. Both men wrestled four times that night, culminating in
an 18 minute championship match.
"We were exhausted, yet we were both
feeling great for that match. Everything had gone well that night.
Everything was clicking."
Many of the details were forgotten
about that night. Neither Funk nor Jones remembered exactly who they
had wrestled that night 30 years ago, but Terry Funk remembered one
detail very clearly.
"Paul, why did you hit me so hard?"
Funk asked again. Funk was referring to a hard punch Jones landed
above Funk's left eye that had opened him up and required 18
stitches to close later that night in a Greensboro hospital.
"Well Terry, you called it." Jones
"I know I called it, but why did you
hit me so hard?" They were both laughing now, two old friends
telling old war stories.
I asked Paul if the shot that opened
Terry up was an accident (wrestlers call them "potatoes") or was it
done to add something memorable to the match.
"I think Terry called that as a way to
say thanks." Jones told me. "He never actually said so, but he was
going over in my home territory, in my town. I had worked awfully
hard all night and especially hard in that match. In those days,
guys rarely came right out and said thanks. I've always thought it
was Terry's way of saying thanks."
"I remember that show like it was
yesterday," Jones said. "There was a lot of
pressure on everyone during that time because the territory was in
such a state of change after the plane crash. I was being set up as
the top babyface. Ric Flair was getting ready to be given his first
big break as one of the top heels, stepping into Valentine's shoes.
Who knows if or when he would have had that break had the plane
crash not happened. That's a tough way to look at it, but it's true.
He certainly made the most of it."
The Tournament drew a record gate for
the city of Greensboro and the entire southeastern United States at
"Traffic was backed up all the way down
High Point Road, out Holden road, all the way to I-85. Thousands
were turned away. Everyone knew it was a special night and a big
moment for the promotion. It's hard to believe it's been 30
- Dick Bourne
from telephone conversations with Paul
PAUL JONES PHOTOGRAPH © BILL JANOSIK;
GRAPHIC PRESENTATION BY DICK BOURNE © MID-ATLANTIC
PHOTOGRAPH FROM TOURNAMENT BY GENE GORDON
PROVIDED BY SCOOTER LESLEY © DITCH-CAT