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Gypsy Joe passes away

Gypsy Joe

Gilberto Melendez, who for years was known as the oldest active pro wrestler, passed away Wednesday night.

Melendez wrestled regularly until about five years ago, and was one of the few people who wrestled in seven different decades. While there was a 1950s era Midwest junior heavyweight start Gypsy Joe who preceded him and who his records are sometimes confused with, he was a legitimate name from the 60s through the early 90s when he worked under a mask as El Grande Pistolero.

He wrestled under a number of other names, including Gene Madrid, not to be confused with Jan Madrid.

He was best known as a mid-card regular in the 70s and early 80s with All Japan Pro Wrestling with his gimmick being his toughness and his ability to absorb wickedly hard chair shots, often to the back but sometimes to the head.  He was also a training fanatic who maintained an impressive physique into his late 50s and, to a degree, into his early 70s.

He wrestled regularly in Japan from 1977 to 1993, starting in the IWE promotion where he had bloody matches with Rusher Kimura, including being the first person to come off the top rope in a cage match. After IWE went down, he began as a regular with All Japan, working mostly mid-card matches.  At the end, he was working for the W*ING promotion, although he wrestled as late as 2002 in Japan. He was known for hardcore brawling and bloody style matches.

He was best known as a journeyman wrestler in Tennessee with his best success coming from 1977 to 1980 working for Nick Gulas where he held a multitude of tag team championships with Frankie Martinez under a mask as The Blue Infernos.

He started wrestling in 1951 in Puerto Rico, and came to the U.S. in 1963, working for the WWWF.

Joe had serious health issues with gout in recent years which caused his right foot to be amputated in 2013.