Ex-pro wrestling star Chief Jay Strongbow dies

Chief Jay Strongbow
Chief Jay Strongbow

Chief Jay Strongbow (Joe Scarpa), one of the mainstays of Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wide Wrestling Federation during the 1970’s, passed away yesterday at his home in Georgia. He was 83.

WWE released a statement on Strongbow’s death. “WWE was saddened to learn of the passing of Jay (sic) Scarpa, who was better known to the WWE Universe as Chief Jay Strongbow. Over the course of his WWE career, he participated in many memorable matches. WWE sends our deepest condolences to Strongbow’s family, friends and fans.”

Strongbow , the son of Italian-American parents, was born Joseph Luke Scarpa in Philadelphia in 1928. He began his pro wrestling career in 1947 as “Joltin’” Joe Scarpa. He spent time in many regional wrestling territories, including Memphis, Georgia, Florida, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

But it was the East Coast based WWWF, today WWE, where the Chief Jay Strongbow character was born. Scarpa joined the the WWWF in 1970. He took the last name Strongbow after Los Angeles wrestling promoter Jules Strongbow. Ironically in 1982, Strongbow would win the WWF tag team titles with partner Frank Hill, who was billed under the name Jules Strongbow. Jay Strongbow first won the WWWF tag straps with partner Sonny King in 1972.

Strongbow vs. Tanaka

During the 1970’s, Strongbow was the WWWF’s number two babyface (good guy) after champions Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, and Bob Backlund. Ring announcers would say Strongbow hailed from Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Before Hulk Hogan, Strongbow was a pioneer in his “Superman comebacks” in the ring. After his opponent had the upper hand during the bout, Strongbow would all of a sudden recuperate and go into an Indian war dance. He then would give the heel (villain) a knee lift or two, a tomahawk chop, and finally applied the sleeper hold for the win.

Strongbow feuded with several superstars in the WWWF, often after some sort of storyline incident. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine “broke” Strongbow’s leg in 1979, leading to Indian Strap matches between the pair. Strongbow’s 1975 battles with ex-tag team partner Spiros Arion began after the “Golden Greek” destroyed Strongbow’s Indian headdress during a Philadelphia TV taping. Strongbow also clashed with WWWF champ “Superstar” Billy Graham, George “The Animal” Steele, and “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant. He teamed, too, with another wrestler portraying a native American, Iraqi native Adnan Al-Kaissie as Billy White Wolf.

Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Jose Estrada

Strongbow also spent a short amount of time in the 1970s wrestling for The Sheik Ed Farhat's Big Time Wrestling promotion out of Detroit. A 1977 "Shark Cage" match between Strongbow and Bulldog Don Kent, from The Sheik's territory, is featured on the DVD, "Wrestling Gold Volume 4:No More Mr. Nice Guy".

Strongbow vs, Kent:Shark Cage Match

Strongbow retired from the ring in 1985, and became a WWF road agent. He returned to WWF television in 1994 as a mentor for Native American wrestler Tatanka (Chris Chavis). But as in nearly 20 years earlier, the Native American headdress would play a role in the storyline. This time Strongbow had given Tatanka his ceremonial Indian headdress, but evil Irwin R. Schyster (IRS aka Mike Rotunda) said that Tatanka hadn’t declared it on his taxes. After a WWF Superstars match between Tatanka and the masked Kwang (Savio Vega), Schyster got the headdress and destroyed it. Tatanka was tied up in the ropes after receiving the “deadly green mist” from Kwang. Enter Strongbow into the ring, who tomahawk chopped Schyster to get the remnants of the headdress. Schyster than attacked Strongbow, left him laying, and finished ripping up the remaining feathers from the headdress.

Strongbow, Tatanka, and IRS incident

Strongbow was part of the first WWE Hall of Fame class in 1994, inducted by Tatanka. Last year, he was honored at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. His final WWE appearance came in 2008, when Stephanie McMahon introduced him to the crowd at a WWE Monday Night Raw Atlanta TV taping.

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Comments 4 comments

AWAFlashback profile image

AWAFlashback 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Glad you posted this. As an AWA fan, I wasn't that familiar with him but enjoyed watching your clips.


MarshFish profile image

MarshFish 4 years ago Author

Thanks for the kind words. Back in 1982, Jay Strongbow teamed with his "cousin" Jules to win the WWF tag team title. Jules Strongbow was Frank Hill, who had previously competed in the AWA.

AWAFlashback profile image

AWAFlashback 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Cool! Yes, Frank Hill worked vs. Stevens and Patterson and was really good.

MarshFish profile image

MarshFish 4 years ago Author

I just recently saw some video from around 1980 taped at L.A.'s Olympic Auditorium, and there's Frank Hill wrestling there, too. He was billed as Chief Running Hill.

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