The Champ & Other Legends

Hall of Fame – Photos

Ilio DiPaolo

Born in Introdacqua (Abruzzi) Italy, November 8, 1926. He 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, she was working in the office of her father, Pedro Matrtinez. It was love at first sight. They Married May 22, 1952.

Ilio left the country in 1953 and traveled to Haiti to get papers for a permanent visa. 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. Ilio wrestled with Pontera Negra defeating him both times, and Tarzan De Las Pampas from Argentina, defeating him in 27 minutes. On may 23, 1953 he received his visa and traveled back to New York City.

He went on to wrestle for Frank Tunney, promoter in the Toronto territory. Ilio had great success in single matches, and also in his tag team, winning the Canadian Championship with Wipper, Billy Watson, his partner. During this time he wrestled in Montreal, Maple Leaf Gardens, Quebec City, Ottawa, Hamilton, and many other towns.

Ilio went to Minneapolis to wrestle for Vern Gagne, he 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.

Ilio again left the United States and traveled with his wife Ethel and son Dennis (16 months old) and went to Australia. He was extremely busy, and had continued success over the next four months. 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 returned to Buffalo, and made this his home base. Ilio continued to travel to Detroit, New York City, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Montreal, Syracuse, Hamilton and other cities continuing his success here to raise their family.

In 1960, his son Michael, was born and in 1962 his daughter Lisa was born. Continuing to travel, in 1963 Ilio went to Japan. That 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.

Returning to Toronto he wrestled against Pat O’Conner for the World Championship and it ended in a draw. He also went to a draw with Lou Thesiz in Winnipeg, Canada for the World Title. Dick Hutton wrestled Ilio in Minneapolis, all three matches were a one hour time limit.

Back in Buffalo, he decided to look to start a restaurant. His ankle had been giving him trouble and he realized he needed to start a new career. 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 retired from wrestling in August of 1965.

Ilio always said that the people in WNY 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 us with wonderful memories of a Great Man. He now rejoins his deceased daughter, Lisa and granddaughter Tara, who also tragically died in a automobile accident that occurred on
October 20, 1989.