Name: Chief Jay Strongbow
Year Inducted: 2009
Induction Category: Television Era
Chief Jay Strongbow
Born in 1928 to hard-working Italian-American parents in Philadelphia, Joseph Luke Scarpa was brought up in a modest working-class neighborhood. In 1947, he headed to the West Coast and made his professional wrestling debut in Los Angeles under the name of "Joltin" Joe Scarpa. The young Scarpa was strongly influenced by such high profile stars such as Chief Don Eagle and The Orchid Man, Gorgeous George. He soon demonstrated that he had the physical aptitude as well as the temperament for the wrestling business and he quickly recognized the importance of the showmanship aspects of his chosen profession.
In the late 1950's, he was wrestling in the Memphis territory and soon carved a niche for himself as a headliner. Joe "The Rebel" Scarpa took a liking to the Southern territories. He ventured into Florida, Alabama and Georgia. In 1960, he won his first major singles title, the NWA Gulf Coast Heavyweight Championship. In August of 1961, he earned a title shot at the NWA Heavyweight Champion Buddy Rogers. In 1964, he was matched against Lou Thesz for the NWA belt. During the decade of the 1960's, he held numerous NWA tag team titles with Lester Welch, Don Curtis, Lee Fields, Alex Perez, Chief Little Eagle and Jose Lothario. In 1967, he defeated Johnny Valentine for the NWA Florida Heavyweight Title and in 1968 he defeated Boris Malenko for the NWA Florida Brass Knuckles Championship. In 1969, he defeated Paul DeMarco for the NWA Georgia Heavyweight title. Extremely active, Joe Scarpa returned to the West Coast in 1966 and 1967 and wrestled in San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland. Always a fan favorite, he once wore boxing gloves in Georgia to knockout The Mighty Hercules with Archie Moore acting as referee. Scarpa even donned a mask to wrestle as "The Proud Rebel".
In 1970, at the age of 42, Joe Scarpa made the decision that would make him a professional wrestling legend. He answered the call of Vincent J. McMahon and headed north to the WWWF territory. Drawing from past influences, namely his Los Angeles promoter Jules Strongbow, he assumed the name Chief Jay Strongbow. He let his hair grow, donned traditional Native American garb and transformed himself into one of the most beloved wrestlers in the history of the WWWF. Throughout the 1970's and early 1980's, Madison Square Garden fans pounded out an Indian drum beat on the undersides of their hollow metal seats whenever their hero was on the receiving end of punishment meted out by Fred Blassie, Tora Tanaka, Stan Stasiak, Ken Patera, George Steele, Billy Graham, Ivan Koloff, Spiros Arion, Greg Valentine and others. His ritual war dance would spell the end for a villainous opponent. Master of the Sleeper hold, the Tomahawk Chop, the knee-lift and the Indian Deathlock, Strongbow was the true baby-face. He was consistently able to control the fans' emotions with his ability to sell his moves and those of his opponents.
In 1972, he teamed with Sonny King to win the first of four WWWF tag team titles by defeating Baron Mikel Scicluna and King Curtis. In 1976, he teamed with Billy White Wolf to defeat The Executioners and then Nikolai Volkoff and Tor Kamata in a three team tournament. In 1982, Jay and Jules Strongbow, twice defeated the team of Fuji and Saito. Although competing primarily in the WWWF circuit, Strongbow also worked matches, including the infamous "Shark Cage" match against Don Kent, for Ed Farhat in Detroit. One of his most famous feuds occurred in 1979 when Greg Valentine fractured the Chief's leg later culminating in a fierce Indian Strap Match at MSG.
Jay Strongbow wrestled professionally in five decades and retired in 1985 He made several appearances after that and remained in the business working in the WWF front office as a road agent in the 1990's. The Chief was indeed the consummate professional wrestler and master of his craft, a tireless worker, a reliable team player and consistent box office draw. Always willing to give back to the business he loved, he has diligently helped many young "up and comers" and mentored others including Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin and Jack Brisco. He is presently happily retired and living in Georgia with his wife Mary.
- Johnny Griffin