June 2, 2003 saw the passing of one of the best trash talkers in Wrestling History.
I am talking about the one and only ‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie, the ‘Fashion Plate of Wrestling’.
He was born in St. Louis, Missouri on February 8, 1918 (A Friday); the same year World War I ends (WWI ended on November 11, 1918) to German immigrant parents; his childhood can best be described as tumultuous.
As a teen he started out as a boxer, winning a heavy weight championship; yet was drawn to professional wrestling. He started out wrestling in carnivals as many did in those days; remember this was in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. His burgeoning wrestling career was interrupted by WWII. Blassie enlisted in the United States Navy; serving in the Pacific Theatre for nearly 4 years. He was discharged after the war with the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class (Navy Petty Officers are the equivalent of a Sergeant in the Army – usually). Upon his return to the US he resumed his professional wrestling career as ‘Sailor’ Fred Blassie.
[adinserter block=”1″]In 1952 he signed on with the World Wrestling Association run by Jules Strongbow (not to be confused with Frank Hill who was Chief Jules Strongbow in the 1980’s & 90’s) who had been a professional wrestler in the 1930’s. He would work for the promotion for a year as a Face. Moving to the Georgia Territory in 1953 where he would remain for the rest of the decade. It was here that he won the NWA Georgia Southern Heavyweight Championship (apparently the holder became the number 1 contender for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship whenever he passed through). It was in the Georgia Territory that Blassie would do a complete heel turn, billed as The Vampire for his penchant for biting his opponents, and for filing his teeth during promos. He was also not opposed to spilling some of his own, letting it colour his blonde hair. As a side note: Blassie was not a natural blonde; he like Gorgeous George and ‘The Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers he bleached his hair. What the original colour was; I am sure we’ll never know. Being from St. Louis; folks in the south considered him a Yankee which would be a source of heat for the wrestler during his tenure in the Georgia Territory.
Blassie returned to Strongbow’s outfit (World Wrestling Association) at the start of the 1960’s, bringing with him his notoriety as a heel, and rising to main-event status with the promotion. It was here in 1961 (June 12) that Blassie would win his first WWA Championship Title when he defeated the ‘Flying Frenchman’ Edouard Carpentier in a best –of-three falls match. He successfully defended it a month later against the former NWA Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz. It was in this inaugural title reign that Blassie would be attacked by a fan who poured acid on his back. In 1963 he dropped the WWA Championship Title to an African-American professional wrestler by the name of Edward ‘Bearcat’ Wright. I mention that he was African-American because 1963 was during the fight for civil rights; and for this to happen was a big deal at the time. In 1964 after once again dropping the title to Dick the Bruiser, he headed east for the McMahon promotion World Wide Wrestling Federation and a feud with Bruno Sammartino and Bobo Brazil. He’d come to WWWF to unify the world title with his own Pacific World Championship Title. Blassie actually came to WWWF with his own Title. Blassie would win their first meeting on a technicality; but Sammartino would win throughout their rematches. He would also befriend a wrestler named Gorilla Monsoon.
In the same period of time that Blassie worked for WWA and WWWF; he also wrestled in Japan. He had an ongoing feud with Japanese wrestling icon, Rikidozan, trading the WWA Championship between them first in Los Angeles then in Japan. In 1965, Blassie was sidelined with Kidney Stones (I have it on good authority that these things hurt…A LOT), after having them removed he took time off from wrestling to recover. Story tells it that he sold cars…I believe it.
1968 saw him back in the squared circle and back with WWA; he is 50 years old by now, and had spent the majority of his adult life as a heel wrestler. He had spent the last 15 years as one of the most hated heels in professional wrestling. Blassie instinctively knew how to antagonize the crowd, and his heel antics as a professional wrestler made him one of the biggest draws in the business. Which makes his Face turn in the early ‘70’s a bit of a shock, but with the crowds cheering his antics the turn was inevitable. In this latest stint he had feuds with ‘Soulman’ Rocky Johnson (don’t remember Johnson ever being called Soulman…Soulman from Nova Scotia…just doesn’t roll off the tongue), The Sheik (Not the Iron Sheik…) and ‘The Golden Greek’ John Tolos. 1971 also saw Blassie’s return to McMahon’s WWWF, managed by ‘Captain’ Lou Albano; he challenged Pedro Morales for the WWWF Championship.
1974 saw Blassie retire from active wrestling; based on that California did not license anyone over the age of 55. For the next 10+ years he would be a manager for WWWF and then WWF under the captaincy of both Vince McMahon’s (He also know Jesse McMahon from his time at WWWF in the 1960’s). It was his time as a manager with WWF (WWE) that fans my age most associate Blassie with. With his flashy jackets, and shit-talk, he was the mouthy mouth piece of some of the most recognized heels of the ‘80’s; such as Nikoli Volkoff (hit Youtube up for some of his interviews with a very young…and not so ‘buff’ Vince McMahon Jr.), The Iron Sheik where he was known as Ayatollah Blassie, Adrian Adonis and a host of others even Hulk Hogan in his early days, including Muhammed Ali when he faced off against Antonio Inoki in a boxer vs. wrestler match that was held in 1976. He retired fully from professional wrestling in 1986; yet was for the most part a WWF/E employee for life, making appearances as required; remaining in the roster until the day he died.
[adinserter block=”2″]His best known catchphrase was ‘Pencil Neck Geeks’, his finisher was the swinging neckbreaker. He held 11 NWA Championships, 1 NAWA Championship, and 4 WWA Championships. As one of the most hated wrestlers during his active time he received death threats, had acid poured on him and was stabbed by fans (story goes it was 21 times.) He was a man people loved to hate and hated to love, he reveled in his heel persona, and managers who have come after him, try to emulate him to varying degrees of success.
He was one of a kind…who left his mark on a business he spent his life working in.
The one and only ‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie.
Author’s note: I have not touched on his personal life; all I know is he had three wives and three kids..and that’s all I want to know.
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