He was one of the most beloved Native American wrestlers to ever set foot in the ring. In more than 20 years in the ring he battled the best in the business.
Chief Jay Strongbow
Real Name: Joe Scarpa
Stats: 6′ 2″ 265 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
“Chief” Jay Strongbow was arguably the most famous, beloved Native American wrestler of all time, and a consistent box office draw. As both a main event and mid-card performer, Strongbow was one of the most reliable, professional wrestlers of his, or any, day. A man who truly loved the wrestling business, when his ring career ended, Strongbow displayed his professionalism in another important, but far less glamorous role — that of a WWF road agent. Be it as a performer or as part of the management team, Strongbow made many sacrifices, and selflessly gave himself to the “sport.” As a role model — for people of all races — there was none better, and “The Chief” proudly wrestled his entire career as a beloved fan favorite. And like all of the greatest champions in pro wrestling, he never allowed his ego to get the best of him. Strongbow understood how the wrestling business works, and was never above “doing the job” in order to help “the team.” Truly, “Chief” Jay Strongbow was a consummate wrestler…
Strongbow began his career in the mid-1960’s, and worked primarily for Vince McMahon Sr. and the World Wide Wrestling Federation. However, “The Chief” did venture outside the parameters of the WWWF on occasion, and was (for a time) a high-profile figure on TBS’s NWA Georgia Championship Wrestling, the predecessor of WCW Saturday Night. At 6`2 and weighing 260, Strongbow was a formidable opponent for anyone who faced him in the ring. His Tomahawk Chop was a weapon to be feared, and led to many victories of the course of his 20 years in the ring. “The Chief” was also well-schooled in the science of “rasslin” and had a solid repertoire of moves, such as the Indian Deathlock (a punishing submission move) and several variations of the suplex. Strongbow could also brawl with the best of them, especially once his fiery temper had been ignited. If the Chief started his War Dance, the tens of thousands of fans in attendance knew the end was near, because no one could (or, perhaps more appropriately, was allowed to) stop him once Strongbow began circling his opponent with his “ancient tribal dance.”
Winning titles was never the primary goal for Strongbow, especially during his latter years in the ring. Still, a wrestler as popular as Jay Strongbow couldn’t help but pick up a fair share of championships. The most notable being the WW(W)F World Tag Team championship, which he won on 4 separate occasions. His first WWWF Tag title came on May 22, 1972 when he teamed with Sonny King to defeat Baron Mikel Scicluna & “King” Curtis Iukea at New York’s Madison Square Garden. But Strongbow & Sonny would only hold the belts for a short time, as they were defeated by the powerful duo of Prof. Tanaka & Mr. Fuji on June 27, 1972. Then, on December 7, 1976 Strongbow regained his tag team campionship, this time with partner Billy White Wolf. Together, they defeated Nicolai Volkoff & Tor Kamata in the finals of a tournament for the then-vacant WWWF Tag Team championship. The Native American duo of Strongbow & White Wolf held the title for over 8 months before being forced to vacate the championship when White Wolf’s neck was “broken” by Ken Patera’s devastating finisher, the Swinging Neckbreaker. After seeking revenge on Patera for the loss of his partner, Strongbow then went on to face the WWWF World Heavyweight champion “Superstar” Billy Graham in a top-drawing feud. Strongbow also engaged in a notable feud with “The Big Cat” Ernie Ladd in the WWWF, a feud that carried over to the NWA’s Georgia Championship Wrestling a few years later. Then, on June 28, 1982, Strongbow again brought home the gold, teaming with his “nephew” Jules Strongbow to defeat the Japanese tandem of Fuji & Saito. Lou Albano’s rulebreaking team quickly regained the title, though, on July 13, 1982. But The Strongbows were not to be denied, and they regrouped, again defeating Fuji & Saito on October 26, 1982. This time, the Native American duo held on to the title belts, and defended them against the WWF’s best teams. Finally, after nearly half a year as champions, The Strongbows were defeated by another Lou Albano-led team…this time the impressive and dangerous Wild Samoans.
After losing the title, The Strongbows remained a top WWF tag team, until Jules left the promotion. From that point forward, it was back to singles wrestling for Jay. Still one of the most popular wrestlers in the WWF, in the eyes of the fans, Strongbow was now the “elder statesman” for WWF wrestlers, having been with the promotion for so long. Despite his advancing age (and subsequent reduction in ring prowess) Strongbow was still one of the WWF’s top draws as the 1980’s rolled on. But with the creation of Titan Sports, and the transfer of the WWF from Vince Sr. to Vince Jr., Strongbow decided to pursue new challenges in the wrestling business. “Chief” Jay quietly faded away, while Joe Scarpa settled into his new life as a WWF “suit.”
Throughout his long, prestigious career, Strongbow feuded with some of the biggest names in the wrestling business; Billy Graham, Ken Patera, George Steele, Ernie Ladd, the Wild Samoans, Larry Zbyszko, Ivan Koloff, Harley Race, Mr. Fuji, and many, many others. For over 30 years, Strongbow has been a role model for his fans, a teacher and friend to his co-workers, and a fair and respected boss to the wrestlers on the road. A man of both character and talent, the Ring Chronicle is proud to induct this important figure from wrestling history into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame….