Sad news from the pro wrestling world today as PWInsider is reporting the death of Gilberto Melendez, known to fans as Gypsy Joe. He’d been suffering from illness for some time, and his death is said to not be a surprise. He was 82 years old.
If you aren’t familiar with Joe’s work, trust us, he’s worked everywhere you love. His career spanned seven (!) decades, starting at age 18 in his native Puerto Rico until his retirement at Tennessee’s Southern Wrestling Federation in 2011. That run included the NWA, World Class, the USWA, the WWWF, Puerto Rico, Stampede, Memphis and pretty much anywhere you can name. He competed in Japan for W*ING and even Tajiri’s SMASH promotion in 2010, and made appearances for both CZW and Ring of Honor. He’s a legend without the mainstream success of a legend, and is known for helping influence the hardcore style. Hell, some stories have him as the first man to ever jump off a steel cage onto somebody, long before Jimmy Snuka.
Amazingly, Joe’s cause of death wasn’t New Jack. In maybe his most famous moment (unfortunately, in a lot of different ways), a Gypsy Joe vs. New Jack hardcore brawl got out of hand and became one of the first things you see on MOMENTS WHEN WRESTLING GOT REAL countdowns. If you’ve got a strong stomach and don’t mind watching a guy legitimately try to kill his opponent with weapons while a crowd screams racial slurs in the background, you can watch that here.
In 2007, WWE Magazine recognized him as the oldest active wrestler, when he was 73. He didn’t retire until three years later.
We send out our thoughts and prayers to Joe’s family.