An early star in the beginning days of the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and a longtime personality in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it was announced on Monday that “Jumping” Johnny DeFazio had passed away at the age of 80 years old. A professional wrestler with the WWWF, and later the WWF, he wrestled from the early 1960s until the mid-1980s, before getting into local politics in his later years.
Today we lost a Pittsburgh legend: Johnny De Fazio has passed away at 80 years old. Johnny was a valued public servant in our community – first as a union leader for the US Steelworkers, representing every steel worker in Pennsylvania and eventually as a County Councilman.
— Senator Jay Costa (@Senatorcosta) February 26, 2021
As a Pittsburgh native, he began wrestling in 1962 with Spectator Sports, the Pittsburgh territory run by Joseph “Toots” Mondt as part of his bigger venture, Capitol Sports, that he ran with Vince McMahon Sr. When Capitol Sports became the WWWF in 1963, Spectator Sports continued to be Pittsburgh’s WWWF affiliate, even more so in 1966, when it was purchased by WWWF World Champion Bruno Sammartino. As “Jumping” Johnny DeFazio, he became one of the area’s top babyfaces, behind only Sammartino, and frequently tagged with thee WWWF World Champion.
In 1965, he defeated Paul DeGalles to win the WWWF Junior Heavyweight Championship, and over the next few years became the standard-bearer for the title, winning it four times between 1965 and 1972. The title was deactivated in 1972, during his fourth reign, when DeFazio abruptly retired. He would return to pro wrestling in 1974, but the title would remain inactive until 1978, and soon became a WWWF sanctioned title used primarily in Japan with their then ally, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Upon returning to the ring, he remained loyal to the WWWF and worked primarily live events around his home state of Pennsylvania, as well as shows in Ohio and West Virginia.
Johnny DeFazio continued to compete for the WWWF, and then the WWF when Vince McMahon Jr. took over the company in 1982, before retiring from the ring in 1984. His last match was a victory over The Red Demon (Puerto Rican star Jose Luis Rivera) at a WWF house show in Pittsburgh that April. In 2000, he entered local politics, when he joined the Allegheny County Council, where he would go on and serve as Council President until 2019.
Last Word on Pro Wrestling sends its condolences to the DeFazio family and his friends and peers during this time.
KSWA Wrestling is saddened by the death of KSWA Hall of Famer and Studio Wrestling legend Jumpin Johnny DeFazio.
Prayer go out to his family, friends and fans during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/xZC3a5dj9l
— KSWA Wrestling (@kswawrestling) February 26, 2021
Sad to hear about the passing of “Jumping” Johnny De Fazio!
He was one of Pittsburgh’s Top Babyfaces along with Bruno Sammartino and Dominic Denucci in the 1960s.
He was one of my dads heroes! 😟 pic.twitter.com/oEMZO6RANB
— Sam Adonis (@RealSamAdonis) February 26, 2021
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