RIP, Paul Morton, Memphis wrestling referee, father of Ricky Morton
I was saddened to learn of the passing over the weekend of longtime Memphis wrestling referee Paul Morton. Along with fellow official Jerry Calhoun, Morton was a staple of the territory for years during its heyday, officiating countless matches involving the biggest stars of the era, including Jackie Fargo, Don & Al Greene, Jerry Lawler, Tojo Yamamoto, Bill Dundee, the Fabulous Ones and even his son, Ricky.
With his short stature, bald head, crudely handsome face, and tattoos, Morton looked the part of a Southern rasslin’ referee. Morton was often viewed as the babyface ref, as he was more apt to deliver a quick count for the babyfaces, especially after a heel’s attempt to cheat had backfired. Likewise, he would often count slowly if a babyface had been wronged behind his back, perhaps because Memphis fans could be very unforgiving. Like all the good refs, he never upstaged the boys and blended in with the action.
His son, Ricky, became enamored of his father’s profession and accompanied him on many road trips, eventually setting up the ring before breaking into the business by the time he was 17 or 18.
On more than one occasion, dastardly Memphis heels attacked Paul as revenge against Ricky, most notably the Bruise Brothers and Jimmy Hart, who brutalized the aging official to the point it appeared they’d killed him as the old man sold it perfectly. Afterward, Ricky and partner Robert Gibson–the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express–cut a memorable promo by Paul’s hospital bed vowing revenge to set up a rematch between the two teams.
Rest easy, old timer. You were one hell of a referee.
For more on my memories of Memphis rasslin’ refs–including my own stint–click here.