By the time the world got to see Paul Jones in the mid-1980s, he was a shell of his former self. Hobbled by back injuries, he couldn’t work in the ring anymore, but he was tight with NWA Mid-Atlantic promoter Jim Crockett, so Jones became a manager, leading his “Army” against “the Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant.
“No. 1, Paul Jones.” From Babyface to Heel
But it’s important to remember that Jones, whose real name was Paul Frederik, was also a standout wrestler in his day. First trained in his native Texas by Houston promoter Paul Boesch, Jones broke in with a stint underneath for Big Time Wrestling–the promotion that would eventually become World Class–and then in Nashville for notorious tightwad Nick Gulas. But then Jones found his footing, working in Florida for Eddie Graham as a young babyface.
In 1965, Jones left for Australia, working as “Al Fredericks” for promoter Jim Barnett for nearly two years. He came back to the U.S. in 1967, working first in Oregon and then for Mike LeBell in Los Angeles. In 1969, he formed a partnership with Nelson Royal and won the Americas tag team title (the precursor to the WWA “world” tag team titles). After that, Jones toured Japan and then went to the Mid-Atlantic territory. But he wasn’t ready to settle down. He worked again in Florida–this time as a top heel–and captured every singles title in the promotion, which led to his gimmick as “No. 1, Paul Jones.”
Jack Brisco had to talk Jones into working as a heel, betting him a case of Canadian Club whiskey that Jones would make more money in a year as a heel than he ever did as a babyface. A year later, Jones walked into the dressing room and gave Brisco the case of whiskey.
“… I should have asked for more,” Brisco said.
Jones also went to Georgia, again working as the territory’s top heel. And then finally, he returned to Jim Crockett Promotions, where he would hold championships 23 different times in the promotion, including a slew of tag titles with diverse partners like Royal, Wahoo McDaniel, Blackjack Mulligan, and even Ricky Steamboat. He held the Mid-Atlantic championship, as well as the U.S. title. The only title that eluded him was the world championship.
Jones was versatile. He could be a lovable babyface. But he could also be the evil heel who would do anything to get his way, as he portrayed when he paid Manny Fernandez $25,000 in cash to turn on Jimmy Valiant.
The Jones-Valiant angle finally culminated in a hair-vs.-hair match at Starrcade 1986, which Jones lost. He wore a cowboy hat on TV after that until his hair grew back in. Jones would go on to manage Fernandez and Rick Rude to the NWA world tag team titles. He also managed a slew of hall-of-fame contenders, including Abdullah the Butcher, the Powers of Pain (Warlord and the Barbarian), Dick Murdoch, Jake Roberts and others.
A favorite Paul Jones story:
As the leader of “Paul Jones’ Army,” he began to dress in a khaki uniform and highly polished boots. He also wore a mustache. Before TV each week, Jones began to trim his mustache a little narrower. And then a little narrower still. When the booker realized that Jones was using his dark, side-parted hair and narrow mustache to affect a look similar to Adolf Hitler, he made Jones stop.
Jones died on April 18, 2018.