Chief Jay Strongbow, 1928-2012
Chief Jay Strongbow is one of those iconic names that people in their 40s and 50s and 60s still remember to this day when they think back of professional wrestling.
Strongbow, whose real name was Joe Scarpa, passed away today at the age of 83. Strongbow was one of the babyface mainstays of Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wide Wrestling Federation in the 1970s and 1980s.
In fact, according to Graham Cawthon’s wonderful website, The History of WWE, Strongbow headlined the first ever WWWF wrestling card at Poughkeepsie’s Mid-Hudson Civic Center on Jan. 8, 1977 where he and Billy White Wolf (Adnan Kaissie, later known to younger fans as General Adnan) faced the Executioners, which I believe would have been the late Walter “Killer” Kowalski and the late Big John Studd under masks.
Strongbow held the WWE Tag Team Championship four times in his career with three different partners, winning it with Sonny King in 1972, Billy White Wolf in 1976, and twice with storyline brother, Jules Strongbow, in 1982 and 1983.
Strongbow often worked as sort of a warmup for many top heels of the day, before and after they faced whomever the WWWF champion was, whether it was Bob Backlund or Pedro Morales. He continued working throughout the 1980s and 1990s for Vincent K. McMahon as a road agent and is remembered fondly by many younger wrestlers and performers who had the opportunity to get to know him in that capacity.
He was so fondly remembered by a generation’s fans that no less an authority than the famous author Stephen King immortalized him in literature in his 1992 book, “Needful Things.”
The passage went: “Wilma cared not a fig for football — baseball, basketball or hockey, either, as far as that went. The only pro sport she liked was wrestling, and although Pete didn’t know it, Wilma would have left him in the wink of an eye for Chief Jay Strongbow.”
Scarpa was not, in fact, an actual Native American, but was actually an Italian-American and did work under his real name before assuming the Chief Jay Strongbow persona in the early 1970s. He also worked in the Georgia and Florida territories in the pre-Strongbow years and wrestled for “The Sheik” Ed Farhat’s Big Time Wrestling promotion out of Detroit.
Scarpa retired in 1985, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994, and last appeared on WWE television on the November 17, 2008 edition of Monday Night Raw in Atlanta. He was inducted, along with many others, into the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Here’s a few remembrances via Twitter of Chief Jay Strongbow:
Matt Hardy: “Saddened to hear about the passing of Chief Jay Strongbow. Chief was a major factor in helping Jeff and I get our break at WWE. RIP Chief…
Paul Bearer: “…a true legend and friend for so many years.”
Matt Borne: “RIP Jay Strongbow. The man who taught me many lessons about this business. You will be missed my brother. Love for you, always!!!!”
Rowdy Roddy Piper: “LOVED YOU CHIEF JAY STRONGBOW. My best to the family.”
I’m sure there will be many more throughout the next day and beyond.