'Chilly Willy' goes big time with WWE
By David Williams
Published in Sports on November 9, 2004 1:55 PM
William Jones has a dream he hopes he can accomplish in the next five years -- to become the World Wrestling Entertainment Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion.
"I'm not thinking of the world championship that fast," he said. "But I am aiming for titles. I'd love to be Intercontinental Champion."
William Jones has signed a development contract with the World Wrestling Federation. Jones is a 1986 graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School.
But unlike the millions of young boys and adult men who watch professional wrestling every week on television, Jones has a chance to actually do it.
After 14 years of toiling in independent wrestling circuits and a tour in the Army that saw him go to Iraq, get wounded and earn several medals, Jones signed a performance contract with WWE last month. He left in late October to go to Louisville, Kentucky to begin his WWE career in WWE-operated Ohio Valley Wrestling, a development group for future WWE stars.
"I'm still very young in this business," he said. "I am blessed. Guys have wrestled 14 and 15 years and have not gotten a contract."
Jones cut his teeth on wrestling as many others did -- watching local shows on television on weekends. "Nature Boy" Ric Flair has always been a favorite of his, and he rattled off names of the old stars as if he was looking at a high school yearbook.
"Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, Wahoo McDaniel -- I got to meet him," Jones said. "Ivan Koloff -- I got to wrestle him."
Jones spent much of his time in Goldsboro or in New Jersey growing up. He graduated from Charles B. Aycock High School in 1986, but he could not see himself playing college sports. Wrestling was what he loved, and what he wanted to do.
He wrestled in this area as an independent under the name "Chilly Willy" and worked with local area wrestlers, such as "Big Slam" and "Flex Phenom."
Jones got married, got divorced, worked at variety of jobs, and tried to keep his dream alive.
He worked at a lot of regional independent circuits, where he learned to "take bumps," the heart of the wrestler's trade. He was on the ring crew and spent much of his time on the road between shows.
He got his big chance in 1997 with a tryout for World Championship Wrestling -- and was cut. Jones also spent some time working for East Coast Wrestling (ECW) before it folded in 1999.
"I just kept my focus," he said. "No matter what happened. Even when I was in the Army, I kept focused. God saw me through."
After the World Trade Center was attacked, Jones enlisted in the Army and was assigned to Fort Drum, New York. He was a regular infantryman assigned to a Special Forces unit inside Iraq, and was wounded by mortar fire while on a mission. He earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and came home to recuperate.
Just before Jones was supposed to go back to Iraq, the phone rang.
"Paul Heyman, who was the head of ECW, called me and offered me a job," Williams said. Heyman was working with WWE.
Jones and Heyman swapped phone messages and e-mail until Williams left Iraq in March. Finally, Williams met with WWE founder and owner Vince McMahon, who signed him to a development contract on Sept. 15.
Jones said the contract does not offer him anything but a chance.
"Mr. McMahon gives you an opportunity," Jones said. "There are no guarantees about what you will become. They have the chance to withdraw from the contract if you don't produce. You have to learn your skill."
Jones said going to OVW is like starting in the business all over again -- three years removed from the last time he wore tights. He will be working hard on "getting over" and working with the current crop of OVW stars. Then Jones will hit the road for shows, both for OVW and "dark shows" for WWE -- shows that are not taped for television.
There will be a lot of television taping and interviewing -- all to help Jones develop his charisma and stage presence. Jones said the moves the wrestlers do now are not that different from when he actively wrestled. The effort goes into bringing psychology into the ring.
"The guys doing the fancy moves are innovative, but the McMahon family wants more old-school wrestling," he said. "It's about the plot, the good versus bad. It's not so much about the wrestling as it is about setting up the plot. That's what OVW is going to do for me."
Jones played a "babyface" -- a good guy -- as "Chilly Willy," but has no idea what path OVW will set him on. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, Jones is not worried about bigger men and competitors that outsize him.
"The guys they are getting now are more like a regular guy, as long as your body is tight and you have put your heart into it," he said. "Guys the size of Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Shelton Benjamin -- even Spike Dudley. They are not huge, but tight."
Jones said his wife, Freda, would not see him much while he is in OVW.
"My wife is a great supporter, I'm really blessed to have her," he said. "We didn't know this would happen. (The separation) will be hard at first, but not as hard as me being in Iraq."
Jones is hoping his career can put him in a position to help others reach for their dreams, as he has. He has a support system that includes his wife his family, and his in-laws. They have helped him stay true to what he wants -- most of the time.
"A lot of them told me to get a real job," he said with a laugh. "My mom is still not real sure about this."
He remembers one of his friends from the Army -- Master Sergeant Kelly Ornbeck, who died in Iraq. His memory keeps Jones focused.
"Don't let your dreams go," he said. "No matter what -- keep it going. Who knows what comes down the road."
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