North Port's Joe Sarracino, who was in South Florida on Saturday as a fan at a Coastal Championship Wrestling show, made his pro wrestling debut at age 61 on June 9 against Chief Eddie Two Rivers for Pride of Wrestling in St. Petersburg.
Former wrestler Bob Cook and Delicious D were in the corner of the 47-year-old Two Rivers. In Joe's corner was his 13-year-old son Joey and his trainer Frankie Reyes.
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After his wife and Joey's mom, Carmella, died from heart failure in 2012, father and son bonded through pro wrestling. That eventually led to Joe approaching Reyes about training to become one. Frankie, who worked as a referee at the CCW show, is a former WWE referee.
Usually those registering for wrestling class are in their 20s and late teens. To say Reyes looked surprised is an understatement, but once he realized Joe was serious, he asked about his health, and then it was go time.
"He was in there doing the squats, doing the sit-ups, running the ropes, doing all the moves, all the rolls, doing all the flips," Reyes said. "Joe was in there with those young kids, and believe it or not, Joe motivated those young kids. 'If this guy can do it, holy smokes, why can't we?'"
Doing everything the other students did, Joe trained for 16 months at the Legendary Professional Wrestling Academy in Tampa before having that historic match which he dedicated to his late wife. Her parents, Pete and Sheila DiPiazzo, proudly attended the show.
"Every single training session, I went with so much anxiety that I didn't think I'd be able to go to the next one," Joe said. "I would say to my son, 'I'm not sure I'm going to be able to pull this off.' This was way harder than I thought this was going to be, but he wouldn't let me give up."
Other wrestlers have wrestled into their 60s, but the 5-10, 230-pounder might be the oldest person to make a pro wrestling debut. Guinness is checking.
For the complete video interview with Frankie Reyes, Joe Sarracino and Joey, click below.
Joe and Joey traveled from North Port, which is about 80 miles south of Tampa, to the Coral Springs Charter School Gym in Coral Springs for the CCW show that Reyes worked and Cook appeared. The veteran Chief Eddie Two Rivers, who Joe beat, was nowhere to be found.
Reyes recalled: "[They announced to the crowd in St. Pete] This was his debut, 61 years old. The crowd was behind him. We had over 150 people there, and they were yelling and screaming. They were behind Joe...The crowd was electric, and at the end of the match, when he had his hand raised, the crowd was on its feet."
Talk about a turnaround. Cook — who wrestled for CWF, WCW and WWF — is now training Joe at The Cooker's Gym near Joe's home. He looks forward to stepping in the ring again.
Hey, Joey wants to follow in the footsteps of his dad (and WWE Champ AJ Styles) by training to become a pro wrestler, too, when he turns 16. If Joe continues wrestling, we could see the Sarracinos teaming in a ring in a few years. A teenager and a senior citizen from the same family wrestling together — or against each other. Keep the Guinness contact info handy.
That said, Joey's true passion is the creative side of the business. He has already made promos used by Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega. His favorites are Styles, Jericho, Omega, Ricochet, and Velveteen Dream.. .and dad.
"A few of Joey's friends know that I am a wrestler, and they think it's cool," Joe said. "I can guarantee you this. Not one of them will ever get away with saying that I'm Joey's grandpa again [laughs]."
Joe was 48, when Joey was born.
Joey said: “I thought it was really impressive, because he’s never really done anything athletic. [everyone laughs].”
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