Veteran indy wrestler Francisco Ciatso died overnight. He was 48.
Ciatso might be “The Shotcaller,” “The Supreme Facheem,” “The Southeast Gangster,” and “The King of the Southeast” but to many he was “Journeyman” both in name and as the star of the 2019 documentary of the same name.
The news was broken by Florida-based fan/promoter Barry Rose: “We’d like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Francisco Ciatso, who passed away overnight. Frankie was a part of two CWF Legends Fanfests as he proudly presented the movie based on his life, Journeyman. RIP, champ,” wrote Rose on Facebook.
Others quickly added their condolences and memories:
Nigel Sherrod: “Rest in Peace Francisco Ciatso. He was a true friend and brother – so thankful for all the laughs , miles , stories . I’ve known Frankie for 20 years and we made a lot of towns, got to experience a lot of great things together and memory is one thing death can’t take away. Thank you Frankie for all you did to help others in the business you loved so much. Thanks for all your contributions – love to you and all of your fellow friends and loved ones during this time, I love you pal”
Mike Bucci / Nova / Simon Dean: “I just saw the news about Francisco Ciatso. I’m really sorry to hear this and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Frankie was a great guy. Hard worker, good attitude and always a pleasure to be around. Everybody that knew him, loved him. A true throwback to the way the wrestling business used to be. He earned everything he got. RIP my friend.”
Luke Hawx: “The independent scene is at a loss. Francisco Ciatso was a true passionate wrestler who absolutely loved the business and went above and beyond for it. He helped and coached a lot of people who wanted to get in the business. He loved it, he gave his life to it and he never took his foot off the pedal. I admire his admiration for Pro Wrestling. Frankie was one who truly lived for the business. Rest easy boss.”
His wife, Stormie Lee, thanked everyone for their support on Facebook, along with a collage:
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has reached out so far today. To say this is all overwhelming is an understatement. Needless to say, my heart is absolutely broken. Rest In Peace Mi Amor ♡ I WILL MISS YOU MORE THANN WORDS COULD SAY ♡
Originally from Oyster Bay, New York, Ciatso trained under “Exotic” Adrian Street in Florida and debuted in 1996. When Street died in July 2023, Ciatso paid tribute: “Woke up to several texts and messages that have me absolutely gutted. ‘Exotic’ Adrian Street, my mentor & trainer passed away today at the age of 82 years old. Thank you for setting a 20 year old kid on an amazing journey many years ago. Words can’t express how grateful I am being able to pass along what you taught to my students now. RIP Adrian. My prayers and thoughts go out to Linda and the family. ”
Ciatso’s career took him throughout the U.S., and to England, China, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.
Other names the 5-foot-10, 240-pound Ciatso worked under include Frankie Ciatso, Mike Ciatso, King Ciatso, Frankie Capone, Francisco Capone, and Frankie Coverdale.
In a 2015 interview with WrestlingNewsSource, Ciatso said that the training at Deep South was “tough” with “Lots of squats, drills ( I hate drills), lots of running, lots of blow up workouts. … It’s old school training. Did I catch shit for messing up? Sure I did. So do NFL football players.”
There were appearances for TNA off and on, and in Ring of Honor in 2009. He was a part of The Slambinos tag team, with Anthony Jannazzo and Glenn Gilbertti, in Ring Warriors.
Ciatso was also a trainer at the EVOLVE/WWN gym, and involved with the related Full Impact Pro, American Combat Wrestling and SHINE brands. He was invited to the WWE Performance Center as a guest coach at least once.
He made the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 on five occasions: #498 in 2002; #468 in 2003; #435 in 2006; #286 in 2009; #435 in 2015.
Paul Steward directed the documentary Journeyman, which was released in 2019, and the tag line on the poster read: “Wrestling for Francisco is not a job it’s his life.” One description of the film reads: “This intense feature documentary tells the story of married professional wrestlers Francisco Ciatso and Stormie Lee. The audience is introduced to a world of wrestling that isn’t the glitz and glamour of WWE.”
A press release for the film shares more of the story:
Like a real life ROCKY story, JOURNEYMAN intimately follows the Francisco and Stormie as they deal with money, their marriage and day to day survival issues as they drive from town to town, performing in local wrestling shows for practically no money but showing true passion to do what they love and succeed as entertainers in the brutal career of Wrestlers and grow as husband and wife.
Francisco Ciatso stated, “I was going through the worst time in my life and Paul Steward was capturing it on film in the moment, it was scary and fun all in the same breath. One minute I was crying, the next jumping around in an empty field. I wouldn’t have it any other way because every time I lace up my boots and climb into the ring I’m apart of something much bigger than myself. I’m creating memories for people that will last a lifetime ”
“Journeyman digs deeply into Francisco and Stormie’s passion for professional wrestling. Not only does it reveal the true world of wrestling that few people get to see, but it’s also a love story of two people struggling as a couple in a very unique environment. We are proud to bring such a fantastic journey to viewers around the world,” announced Charles Morris, Jr. VP Development & Acquisitions for GGG.
The Journeyman Facebook page hyped that “director Paul Steward of 316 Productions gives you an inside look into the near fall & true rise of the ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ of Professional Wrestling.”
According to a GoFundMe page set up by the family to help with expenses, Ciatso died of congestive heart failure in his sleep.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated post-publication to add details of his passing.