Joe Savoldi

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This article is about the football player and 'original' pro wrestler named "Jumping Joe" Savoldi. For the pro wrestler of the 1980s and '90s with the same ring name, see Joseph Savoldi.
Joe Savoldi
Joe Savoldi.jpg
Joe Savoldi (left), using his trademark "dropkick", against an opponent
Born (1908-03-05)March 5, 1908
Castano Primo, Italy
Died January 25, 1974(1974-01-25) (aged 65)
Henderson, Kentucky, U.S.
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) "Jumping Joe" Savoldi
Billed height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Billed weight 255 lb (116 kg)
Debut 1931
Retired 1950

Joseph Anthony "Joe" Savoldi, Jr., more commonly known as Jumping Joe Savoldi (March 5, 1908 - January 25, 1974) was an Italian-born American football player and professional wrestler.


Savoldi was born in Castano Primo (Italy) and he spent his childhood in Castano Primo and Bergamo (Milan, Italy). In 1920 the Savoldi family immigrated to America to settle in Three Oaks, Michigan. Giuseppe Savoldi anglicized his first name to "Joe" and became a star athlete in high school. After graduation from Three Oaks High, he enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, where beginning in 1928 he would play football for the Fighting Irish teams coached by Knute Rockne.

The All-American fullback was nicknamed "Galloping Joe" or "Jumping Joe", earning the latter nickname for a play made in a 1929 game against Carnegie Tech when he scored a touchdown by jumping across the goal line, a novel move at the time.[1] Other career highlights for Savoldi came on October 4, 1930 when he scored the first ever Notre Dame touchdown at the newly opened Notre Dame Stadium, and one week later when he scored three touchdowns against Navy.[2] His career came to a sudden end on November 17, 1930 when he withdrew from school after divorce papers were filed and his secret marriage became public knowledge.

Upon Savoldi's expulsion from Notre Dame, he went professional, signing with the Chicago Bears of the NFL, for which the Bears were fined $1,000 for signing a player before his college class had graduated. The Bears started Savoldi at the halfback position opposite Red Grange, and in his first game (only ten days after leaving Notre Dame) he scored the only touchdown in a 6-0 victory over Ernie Nevers' Cardinals. After helping the Bears win their final three games of the season, Savoldi was invited to re-join his fighting Irish team mates in a Notre Dame All-Star vs West/South All-Star game in the Los Angeles Coliseum. During the 20-7 victory, Savoldi scored three touchdowns, was named the game's MVP, and caught the eye of two famous spectators—wrestling promoter Billy Sandow and former world champion Ed "Strangler" Lewis. Sandow and Lewis allegedly promised Savoldi more money in a single wrestling match than he would make during the entire following season with the Bears.

As a wrestler, Savoldi became known for his finishing move, the flying dropkick (the pro wrestling move known today as simply the "dropkick"). At the time Savoldi was often credited as having invented the move, but today that attribution is disputed between him and Abe Coleman.[3]

Interpromotional wars were raging at the time, and on April 7, 1933 at Chicago Stadium, Savoldi was involved in a double cross on heavyweight champion Jim Londos. After a tangle by the ropes, referee Bob Managoff declared Savoldi the winner by pinfall and awarded him the title. Vigorous arguments were waged over whether Savoldi had truly won the match, and whether Londos' title had even been on the line. As a result, Savoldi and Managoff were suspended in some territories and the title change was not universally recognized. Londos continued to bill himself as world champion, while Savoldi went to the New York area claiming the same, until he was defeated by Jim Browning on June 12 at Yankee Stadium. After peace was made between rival promotions, a Londos/Savoldi rematch was held at Chicago Stadium on January 31, 1934. Londos won the contest in front of 20,200 fans, one of the largest crowds to ever watch a wrestling match up to that time.

Savoldi continued his wrestling career throughout the decade, touring New Zealand in 1936, appearing in Hawaii and Australia in 1937, and spending a lengthy time in Europe shortly before World War II. In 1941, he attempted to bring a new soft drink to market, called Dropkick, The Drink For "All Americans". The business venture quickly fizzled, however, after the United States entered the war, and the ensuing sugar rationing was too much for production to overcome.[4] As the conflict continued, Savoldi was approached by the U.S. government about joining the war effort in an espionage role, owing to his fluency in multiple dialects of Italian.[1] Thus he became an OSS secret agent operating in and around Italy, where he passed easily for a local. Among the missions in which Savoldi participated was a series of secret meetings held behind enemy lines in July 1943 between an OSS team and members of the Italian Resistance.[5]

Savoldi resumed his wrestling career before war's end, but his ability to move around in the ring would begin to diminish due to the onset of arthritis. He tried promoting in the Chicago area for a while between 1946 and 1948, and gave Bobo Brazil his start in the wrestling business.[6] Savoldi returned to the ring for a couple more years, wrestling his final match in 1950. He then went back to university to work towards earning his qualifications for a teacher's degree, and eventually came to teach science at Henderson County High School in Henderson, Kentucky. Joe Savoldi died in 1974 at the age of 65, and is buried in Henderson.

He is unrelated to the New Jersey-based professional wrestling family of the same last name, which includes Angelo Savoldi and son Joseph.

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • Montreal Athletic Commission
    • World Heavyweight Championship (Montreal version) (1 time)[7]
  • Other titles
    • Rocky Mountain Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[9]


  1. ^ a b Young, Rick (September 2003). "Out of Bounds". Irish Reveries ( 6 (1). 
  2. ^ Munsey, Paul and Cory Suppes. "Notre Dame Stadium". NCAA Past, Present & Future Stadiums. 
  3. ^ Couch, Jason (November 2007). "Was Savate’s Drop Kick from Pro Wrestling?". 
  4. ^ "Savoldi Family Says, "Country Needs a Good DROPKICK"". 2003. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. 
  5. ^ The OSS Society (Summer 2005). "Information Sought on OSSer "Jumping Joe" Savoldi" (PDF). 
  6. ^ Friend, Percival A. (December 2, 2002). "The Way It Was -- The Birth of Bubu Brasil". The Way It Was by Percival A. Friend. Archived from the original on October 28, 2009. 
  7. ^ "World / International Heavyweight Title (Montreal)". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Retrieved 9 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "European Heavyweight Title". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Retrieved 9 June 2010. 
  9. ^ "Rocky Mountain Heavyweight Title". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Retrieved 9 June 2010.