WWE Hall of Famer Chief Jay Strongbow died today, according to Jim Ross.
Ross announced on Twitter that he was sad to hear about the passing of Strongbow, whose real name is Joe Scarpa, on Tuesday morning. He called Strongbow a “beloved member of the WWE family… RIP Chief.”
Strongbow was 83.
Strongbow was a top attraction in the WWE in the 1970s and early 80s, when the company was known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation. He was a fixture in Madison Square Garden when the company would run its top shows in the building on a monthly basis.
According to WWE, Strongbow began his wrestling career in 1947. “Over the next two decades, he became one of the most successful Superstars in the business, racking up dozens of regional NWA championships in the southern United States,” WWE’s Hall of Fame web site said.
Strongbow teamed with Sonny King to win his first world tag team championship in 1972, and did so again partnering with Billy White Wolf. In the late 1970s, he competed largely in the singles ranks, including in a violent feud with a young Greg Valentine.
In the 1980s, he returned to the tag team ranks with his “brother” Jules Strongbow and won the tag title for a third time.
Strongbow semi-retired in the mid-1980s, but remained in the WWE for years as an agent. In 1994, he was featured on television as a mentor of sorts for WWE’s newest Native American act, Tatanka.
In 1994, Strongbow was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. In November 2008, he made a special appearance on Monday Night Raw, being introduced by Stephanie McMahon and coming out to wave to fans.
“Chief Jay Strongbow was a great champion, a charismatic showman and a warrior, and his imprint on sports-entertainment will be felt forever,” WWE wrote on its Hall of Fame site.
Fellow WWE Hall of Famer Johnny Rodz, who worked closely with Strongbow in the 1970s and 80s, was devastated to hear the news about his friends. Rodz said he was just putting up a picture of Strongbow in his office at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn minutes earlier.
“We traveled together. We worked together. He was a good drawing card for the company with the Indian stuff,” Rodz, who promotes shows for the World of Unpredictable Wrestling. “He was a regular guy. He knew his stuff and he lasted quite a few years with the company.”
Rodz said that Strongbow’s long tenure with WWE was a testament to how much he was liked and respected.
“If you’re able to be great with them, the company doesn’t want to let you go,” Rodz said. “He was a credit to the game that he loved so much.”