June 22, 2011
SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Ilio DiPaolo
BORN: Abruzzi, Italy in 1926
Thanks to George Key for his help with this bio.
I never had a chance to meet Ilio DiPaolo in person, but I did get a chance to meet his son while at Ilio's restaurant....I live close to the restaurant and had a wrestling banquet there...I found it interesting to meet his son....I heard from everyone how great he was and I will miss him just from hearing stories about him....His son left early to go to a WCW event for the Ilio DiPaolo fund......It is a shame I never got to meet him........
I always go to his restaurant and just think about how he inspired wrestling to grow at an early age.You hear about the Bruno Sammartino's,the Lou Thesz's,the Andre the Giant's,and of course,the Hulk Hogan's,But you never really hear about Ilio Dipaolo that much as a man who made wrestling but the truth is he did.Nobody really knew that until now.We'll always remember how he shaped Wrestling into the great sport it is today.Long live the memories of The True Icon,Ilio Dipaolo.
George Key, Ilio's great nephew
I grew up in Woodlawn, New York, just south of Buffalo, and had attended pro wrestling cards at War Memorial Auditorium, 'the Aud', since the early 60's.
My favorite wrestler was Ilio Di Paolo. He was always such a class act, whether wrestling solo, or in tag team with such stars as Johnny Barend. The matches were taped live, generally on Friday nights, and then shown on Buffalo TV on Sunday evenings. Local broadcaster Chuck Healy called the action, and my dad & I were regulars at the shows.
All of the greats of the time did the local shows; Moose Cholak, the original Shiek, Hans Schmidt, Magnificent Maurice, the Gallagher Brothers, Bulldog Brower, Ivan & Nikita Kalmikoff, Bobo Brazil, Argentina Rocca, Whipper Watson, and so on....
Maybe because he was Buffalo's own superstar, or maybe because of his moxie, charisma and ring skill, but the best 'pop' of the evening was when Ilio came down the aisle to exhibit his brand of action in the squared circle. Seemed like no one ever sat down during one of Ilio's matches!
After the show, my dad and I would go to Ilio's restaurant in Blasdell, NY, for one of those excellent pizzas that are still a Buffalo tradition. Ilio would almost always appear at the restaurant near closing and make sure his customers were happy, and to sign a few autographs. The place was electrified; 'Ilio's here!' was spoken at every table when he would make his entry, and the place was packed late. The numerous pictures of wrestling stars of the day added to the air of pro wrestling in his establishment.
I remember Ilio as very kind to all, very gracious, and always a gentleman, even when he was tired or in obvious pain. His 'pleased to meet you, glad to know you' style was one of my earliest examples of conduct that I have carried into mid-life.
I have lived in the western USA for the last 20 years, and when my mom sent me the clipping from the Buffalo News of Ilio's tragic death, I was overwhelmed with sadness over the passing of one of my earliest heroes. I last visited Buffalo in 1994, and going to the Di Paolo restaurant was mandatory. Ilio's son, Dennis, carried on the tradition of personally visiting each table to assure customer contentment. Although I thanked him for all the memories I carry, he, gracious as his dad, thanked me for remembering Ilio's legacy as a champion and a decent human being.
Ironically, almost appropriately, my father's funeral in 1975 was held at the Kaczor Funeral Home in Blasdell, across the street from Ilio's restaurant.
You, Ilio, live on in memory for us all. Thanks..... Mike Trayford, Los Angeles, CA
I lived down the street from the restaurant that Ilio owned. To this day I think of him fondly. He would offer to show old wrestling footage to the kids at the local playground, Halloween would come he would free slices of pizza to the kids. Always show local amateur wrestlers support. When I first met Ilio , I was young (8 or 9 yrs.) , sitting on a bench when this huge foot step next to me looking up to see this massive man asking me if I enjoyed the films we were watching. At first I was scared, but the I felt that everything was good like someone I knew for a long time.
I only met Mr. DiPaolo once. I was at his restaurant, which is about 2 minutes from my house by walking, with my parents eating dinner. He was walking around asking the customers how things were. He was at my table and shook my parents' hands, and pinched my cheek. I was only about 6 or 7 at the time and I don't remember much of the conversation, but from what I do remember he was a very nice and special man.