Chief Jay Strongbow, one of the most colorful characters in the world of professional wrestling, died last week at the age of 83.
Strongbow worked for longtime Greenwich resident Vince McMahon in the days when the current WWE was known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation. With McMahon and his wife, Linda, at the helm, the WWE expanded in popularity and profitability from the days when Strongbow was in his heyday.
With Vince McMahon guiding his career, Strongbow won the tag team championship four times and was later named to the Hall of Fame – an honor reserved for only a small number of legendary wrestlers.
Born as Joseph Luke Scarpa to a mother who was part Cherokee Indian, he adopted the ring name of Strongbow and delighted numerous fans.
Strongbow was also known for a feud with Superstar Billy Graham, who ranked among the greatest professional wrestlers of his generation – winning the WWWF championship and helping to sell out Madison Square Garden nearly 20 times. Graham traveled around the world and made plenty of money, but it came at a steep price. Graham admits that he took steroids for 25 years – building up his body to super-human proportions with 22-inch biceps. But the steroids also made him sterile and weakened his body to the point where he needed six hip replacements.
Graham spoke out in the last election cycle against Linda McMahon, who was running for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Christopher J. Dodd and then against Democrat Dick Blumenthal after Dodd dropped out. Graham later apologized, as he had in the past. The McMahon campaign had dismissed Graham as a disgrunted, retired wrestler with zero credibility.
Today, McMahon is running again for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut against former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays in a Republican primary that is scheduled for August 14.
In two interviews with The Hartford Courant in late 2009, Graham had a wide variety of opinions on a range of topics, including his years in professional wrestling. On his relationship with the McMahons, he said, “It’s always been a love-hate. It was a love-hate with Vince. It was a love-hate with Linda. They’re joined at the hip.”
But an attorney for the WWE, Jerry McDevitt, said that Vince McMahon had actually gone out of his way through the years in various attempts to help Graham.
Vince “kept him on the payroll when he wasn’t really doing anything to earn it,” McDevitt said at the time, adding, “They don’t hold any hatred toward Billy.”
McDevitt noted that Graham had complimented Linda McMahon on page 328 of his autobiography, “Tangled Ropes,” that had been co-written with author Keith Elliot Greenberg. The book was published by a division of Simon & Schuster of New York City, but the copyright is held by World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
“Linda McMahon was extremely warm, especially considering what I’d done to her husband and the company,” Graham wrote. “With that beautiful North Carolina accent, she noted, ‘Well, Billy, you sure don’t look like a man who’s had a liver transplant.’ ”
Graham continued, “Her children, Stephanie and Shane, were equally as friendly, with Shane remembering how Vince used to sit him on a bench backstage in Boston Gardens while I gave the kid a bicep shot.”
Aside from her interaction with Graham, Stephanie McMahon introduced Strongbow in his final appearance on WWE in 2008.