Born in Introdacqua (Abruzzi) Italy, November 8, 1926, Ilio DiPaolo left Italy in 1949 for Venezuela. While he was wrestling in Caracas, he met Tutz Mondt, promoter of the wrestling alliance and the Madison Square Garden Arena. He signed a contract at this time to wrestle in the United States, but while he was waiting for the documents and visa, he wrestled in the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
In August 1951, he arrived in New York with his working visa, and within a few months he met Pedro Martinez, the promoter of the New York territory. At this time he met his lovely wife Ethel, while she was working in the office of her father, Pedro Matrtinez. It was love at first sight. They married May 22, 1952 in Baltimore, Maryland and the following day, they celebrated with a picnic on the White House lawn.
Ilio left the country in 1953 after spending time on Ellis Island. He traveled to Haiti to wait for his permanent visa Papers. While in Port of Prince, he talked with local promoters and challenged Omelio Agromonte. At that time, he was ranked in the top ten (10) in Ring Magazine in boxing. Ilio pinned him in the third round at Stadium Magloire with 17,000 in attendance. He wrestled three more times while there including with Pontera Negra who he defeated twice and Tarzan De Las Pampas from Argentina, who he defeated in 27 minutes. On May 23, 1953 he received his visa and traveled back to New York City.
Ilio went on to wrestle for Frank Tunney, promoter in the Toronto territory. He had great success in single matches and also in his tag team, winning the Canadian Championship with Wipper, Billy Watson, his partner. This occurred after many difficult times; Ilio and Ethel had slept on the side of the road, Ethel saying she was not hungry so Ilio could eat her dinner to keep up his strength for the next night fight. They lived on the road from one wrestling match to another. During this time he wrestled in Montreal, Toronto, Quebec City, Ottawa, Hamilton and many other towns.
Ilio went to Minneapolis to wrestle for Vern Gagne who was the promoter at the time, traveling extensively between Toronto and Minneapolis. It was during this period that he made his appearance in Buffalo. Ed Don George was the promoter then.
He again left the United States with his wife Ethel and son Dennis (16 months old) and traveled to Australia where he was extremely busy. He had continued success over the next four months and upon returning back to the U.S., he stopped in San Francisco and teamed up with the great Leo Nomellini the West Coast Championship at the Cow Palace. Ilio and his family stayed in San Francisco for six months where their daughter Barbara was born in 1957. They then traveled to Texas to wrestle and then returned to Minnesota
With the upcoming birth of son Michael, the DiPaolo family decided to make Buffalo their home. Ilio traveled to Detroit, New York City, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Montreal, Syracuse, Hamilton and other cities continuing his success here to raise their family, but the people and location always brought him back to Buffalo.
In 1960, his son Michael, was born and in 1962 his daughter Lisa was born. Continuing to travel, in 1963 Ilio went to Japan with Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer. It was a tremendous experience for him. He had much success and wrestled for 40 days straight. He won the All Asia Championship from Mr. Togo and Ricki Dozene with his partner Buddy Hoston. Ilio and “The Destroyer” were asked to come back because of their popularity, but Ilio said no because he wanted to open a restaurant. “The Destroyer” said yes and the rest is legendary history.
Ilio wrestled for the World Championship against Pat O’Conner and it ended in a draw. He also went to a draw with Lou Thes in Winnipeg, Canada for the World Title. Dick Hutton wrestled Ilio in Minneapolis, all three matches were a one hour time limit and all ended in a draw.
Ilio retired from wrestling in November 1965. His ankle had been giving him trouble and he realized he needed to start a new career. Back in Buffalo, he decided to start a restaurant. In 1965 Ilio opened a pizzeria with four employees. They worked hard and eventually their work paid off and they enlarged the restaurant putting much emphasis on good food and friendly service. Ilio always said that the people in Western New York were the best he had encountered throughout his travels worldwide. He was happy and proud to be a part of a community who made him feel part of its family and friends.
Tragically in 1995, Ilio DiPaolo passed away leaving his family with wonderful memories of a Great Man. He re-joined his daughter, Lisa and granddaughter Tara, who also tragically died in an automobile accident on October 20, 1989.
Ilio is currently enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Canadian Hall of Fame along with being highly recognized by his peers in the Cauliflower Alley Club in 1994 just before his death.
After his passing, friends and family organized a scholarship fund in his name led by Bud Carpenter, Jim Kelly and Randy Ribbeck. Today the fund has awarded close to $1 million in scholarships and donations for the less fortunate in our community. The Scholarship Fund has been honored by the Section 6 Hall of Fame, the Buffalo News Prep Hall of Fame, Western New York Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame and numerous other organizations thanking them for their contribution. Twenty years after his passing, the “Wrestling Legends of the Aud” returns July 22 and 23, 2016 in Buffalo New York, a fitting tribute to a special man whose community contributions still continues today.
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