The late Luke Scarpa, of Nutley, took on the character of Chief Jay Strongbow in professional wrestling.
Not many people knew it back in the day, but the World Wrestling Federation’s Chief Jay Strongbow was an Italian-American who hailed from Nutley.
During his career, Joseph Luke Scarpa was called the Rebel and Joltin’ Joe Scarpa, but he was best known as the professional tag-team wrestler Chief Jay Strongbow.
Sal Scarpa recently talked about his late brother’s career at a Nutley Museum program. The event gave accounts of Nutley’s ties to professional wrestling, along with the history of Nutley High School wrestling.
Among the Chief’s memorabilia on display were a tag-team championship belt, headdress, tomahawk and action figure. The model wrestling ring, which was the table centerpiece at his WWF Hall of Fame induction in 1994, was also featured.
The wrestler was inducted into the Nutley Hall of Fame in 2013, a year after his death.
Called Luke by his family, Scarpa graduated from NHS in 1951, his brother said.
“He was always strong,” Sal said. “He used to rip a phone book like it was a piece of paper.”
For a promotion, Scarpa was asked to tear apart a rubber basketball to prove Wilson’s leather basketball was better. When he did, a wrestling agent took notice.
His first match was a tag-team event on Jan. 7, 1956, at the then-Laurel Garden sports arena in Newark, noted Sal. “He wrestled 118 times in the Garden, more than any other wrestler,” his brother recalled.
Early in Scarpa’s career, when offered 10 cents on the dollar, he opted to get paid a straight fee for matches, Sal said. “He always regretted it because he would have been on ‘high street’ had he taken a percentage, but…