You may not know Tessa Blanchard, but a wrestling fan assuredly recognizes the last name. For over sixty years, the bloodline has been an integral part of professional wrestling lore, beginning in 1953, when 24-year-old Kansas State football star Joe Blanchard started began career between the ropes. The wrestler-turned-promoter brought a son, Tully, into the world the following year.
Through the lasting legacy of the Four Horsemen, despite Tully being a group capo for under three years, the surname ‘Blanchard’ is an indelible name in wrestling’s annals. While Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are certainly the two most iconic Horsemen through tenure and impact alike, Blanchard complimented the duo as something of their basement-lab hybrid: Tully epitomized the perfect blend of Flair’s gloss-toothed, high-rolling arrogance and Anderson’s stoically-relentless mean streak. The quick-to-bleed Blanchard is best remembered as a paradox: down-and-dirty brawler who turned tail to show a yellow streak when things got too heavy. In other words, Tully was the ideal villain for the territorial era.
In the starkest contrast, Tessa Blanchard lacks the self-indulgent indifference her gifted father played up before Mid-Atlantic and Southwestern US audiences throughout the 1980s. Yet there rings a natural charisma all the same.
Diminutive in height, with a virtuous cheerleader’s smile, you wouldn’t think Tessa to be in the wrestling business if you didn’t know of the blood connection. The congenial, all-American-girl demeanor can throw spectators and greeters off, even those who understand the legacy she carries on.
“I’d say it’s about 50/50 in terms of fans approaching me at these shows,” Blanchard related this past Saturday night in Voorhees, NJ at WSU Breaking Barriers. “Maybe it’s a little bit more that they recognize me as the daughter of Tully because they do bring it up quite a bit, but there’s also those fans that simply walk up because I’m a women’s wrestler.”
In her brief career, which really began this year, Blanchard has already been featured as a member of Adam Rose’s “Rosebuds” entourage, and even worked a tryout match for WWE with fellow indy talent Chasity Taylor. Her last name proves to be valued currency, landing her in a match with Taylor at the NWA Mid-Atlantic Fanfest in Charlotte this past August.
On Saturday, Blanchard took part in what has become standard fare for Women Superstars Uncensored: the core troupe of performers and a cross section of recognizable women’s talent from around the country, continent, and globe. Sharing the card with the likes of LuFisto, Kimber Lee, Leva Bates, and Solo Darling, Blanchard performed as a babyface against WSU Spirit Champion Niya Barela.
Further tapping the history button, Blanchard made her entrance to familiar strains; her remixed entrance theme was preceded with the Four Horsemen’s 1998 signature, the galloping hooves and emphatic stallion’s neigh. Tessa knows, however, that a name only mean so much, and she has eons to go before she reaches her father’s lofty place in the business’ history.
“Sometimes there’s a perception that being my father’s daughter, that I come into the locker room thinking I know it all,” Blanchard reveals. “That’s definitely not the case; I’m still very much new to this business with a lot to learn. Once those in the locker room get to know me a little bit more, that perception is easily shed, and they understand that I’m just trying to get better, and find my way. It’s probably the perception of a lot of second-and-third generation wrestlers.”
Blanchard worked from underneath in the bout, Barela playing the nefariously wily veteran aggressor. There’s definite irony in seeing the daughter of Tully be ravaged by an arrogant villain, one who knows how to get away with every little cheat. If you wanted to look at it that way, Tessa’s opponent channeled the spirit of Tully, if not necessarily in symmetry. The spirit was there, Barela’s heel mannerisms an appropriate mimic of the brand of rule-breaking Tully aced once upon a time.
Tessa was floored by a hard charging kick to begin the bout, building sympathy from a decent-sized crowd that cat-called the decidedly stuck-up Barela. Through the course of the match’s give and take, the third-generation wrestler had a generally cynical audience entranced, performing both a backstabber and a rope-walk bulldog, decidedly modern maneuvers in contrast to the nostalgic flavor she invokes.
“My biggest influence in the ring has been Leilani Kai,” Blanchard claimed, after her performance. “She didn’t train me; I trained under George South, but Leilani is who I’ve tried to pattern my work inside the ring after.”
As the script called for, Blanchard was soon felled by Barela, via a double arm DDT with extra snap. Tessa would become secondary to a post-match save, as WSU regular Nevaeh cleared the unsportsmanlike Barela from the ring, building to a future title bout.
If Tessa Blanchard ever returns to WSU, it’ll be with open arms. Her match was textbook, yet well-received from an enthusiastic crowd, one that hung with her from the start of the updated Four Horsemen refrain through her exit from the ring. Elsewhere, she continues to build her reputation and skill-set as a budding talent.
Some would say the template is set; fellow Horsemen offspring Ashley Flair reigns as NXT Women’s Champion under the ‘Charlotte’ moniker, and has received raves for her in-ring performances, namely against Natalya in a match for the vacant belt in May.
Tessa’s more than taken notice of Charlotte’s success.
“I’ve known Ashley for such a long time, and I’m so happy to see her become a success down in NXT. That’s a big goal; to make it down there, because that’s obviously the step before making it to WWE. That’s a long ways away, but I would love to have the opportunity to work with her, wherever it may be. She deserves her success and I hope to someday enjoy the same.”
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