Freddie Blassie

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Freddie Blassie
Freddie Blassie.jpg
Birth name Frederick Kenneth Blassie
Ring name(s) "Classy" Freddie Blassie
"Ayatollah" Blassie
The Vampire
The Hollywood Fashion Plate
The Fashion Plate of Professional Wrestling
Billed height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Billed weight 220 lb (100 kg)
Born (1918-02-08)February 8, 1918
St. Louis, Missouri
Died June 2, 2003(2003-06-02) (aged 85)
Hartsdale, New York
Trained by Billy Hanson
Debut 1935
Retired 1986

Frederick Kenneth Blassie (February 8, 1918 – June 2, 2003), better known as "Classy" Freddie Blassie, was an American professional wrestling villain and manager born in St. Louis, Missouri. Renowned as "The Fashion Plate of Professional Wrestling",[1] He was also a one-time NWA Georgia Heavyweight Champion (later known as the NWA Wildside Heavyweight Championship), and a one-time NWA Florida Heavyweight Champion.

Childhood[edit]

Blassie's parents, Jacob and Anna (née Sind), immigrated to the United States from Germany prior to the start of World War I, settling in St. Louis. Fred was an only child, which he claimed was because he weighed 15 pounds when he was born and his mother didn't want to go through childbirth again. His father was abusive and an alcoholic, and Fred often had to take refuge with his grandparents whenever Jacob would beat his mother. His parents continually separated, then reunited. At the age of 13, after his father hit his mother again, Fred threatened to attack his father with a baseball bat, but didn't do it and stayed with his aunt for six months until his mother asked him to return home. Throughout his life, Fred didn't touch alcohol after seeing what kind of person it turned his father into.

As a teenager, Blassie went to McKinley High School; after graduating he got a job at a meatpacking plant, which his family hoped he would turn into a lucrative meat cutting job with the local trade union. However, he started boxing at Seward Community Center and won the heavyweight championship. He was more interested in wrestling, though, and would sneak into the matches whenever he could. He would often go to matches at Harry Cook's Gym to watch the hookers of the day lock up. As they began to recognize him, the wrestlers would teach him a hold here and there. His first wrestling match was actually a shoot fight which he accepted in order to impress a girl he brought to the show. Later, he began to get regular work wrestling at local carnivals. His cousin John Frank Holaus would often referee his matches.[2]

Early career[edit]

Blassie came up with his famous "pencil-neck geek" catchphrase early in his career to describe a fellow carnival performer known as "The Geek", who bit the heads off chickens and snakes. Blassie described this geek as having a neck like a stack of dimes, and that he was a real pencil-neck geek.

He soon got work from more established promoters: Tom Packs in St. Louis and George Simpson in Kansas City. The more he worked in the business, the more the veterans were willing to let him learn about the wrestling business.

Military service[edit]

After the US entered World War II, Blassie enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater for 42 months. The war was a trying time for his family back home because of his parents' German heritage. They were often accused of being unpatriotic. He married a Jewish girl named Nettie Needles in California while on shore leave. He achieved the rank of Petty Officer Second Class before he was discharged.[2]

Career[edit]

Upon Blassie's return from the war, he was billed as "Sailor" Fred Blassie to capitalize on the wave of war-time patriotism sweeping the country, but that gimmick was unsuccessful. He worked for Jack Pfefer, who he claimed would only employ people who looked like sideshow freaks at his shows, and whose wrestlers included Tor Johnson, who made movies with director Ed Wood, and Lillian Ellison, the Fabulous Moolah.[2]

World Wrestling Association (1952-1953)[edit]

In 1952, Blassie moved to Los Angeles, California to work for Jules Strongbow. He grew to love California, and frequently returned there throughout his career to wrestle. He teamed with Billy McDaniel as the McDaniel Brothers, but when they went east, they were known as the Blassie Brothers.[2]

Georgia territory (1953-1960)[edit]

In 1953, he worked in the Atlanta, Georgia, territory for Paul Jones (the wrestler of the 1930s, not the wrestler of the 1980s). While there, he won the NWA Georgia Southern Heavyweight Championship, the holder of which was generally first in line to challenge the NWA World Heavyweight Champion whenever he passed through the territory. It was also during this period of his career when he dropped his babyface gimmick and became a full-fledged heel. The fans consistently booed him because he was considered a "Yankee". He also bleached his hair at this time, as many of the other stars of the era did, such as Gorgeous George, Johnny Valentine, and "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. He was often billed as "The Vampire" during this time for biting his opponents and filing his teeth during interviews and promos.[2]

Return to World Wrestling Association (1960-1968)[edit]

In 1960, Blassie returned to Strongbow's promotion in Los Angeles where he was a big star for the World Wrestling Association of southern California, drawing many fans to the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.[3] He was so hated there that uniformed police officers were regularly brought in to protect him as he made his way to and from the ring.[3] He had main event-level feuds against stars such as The Destroyer[4]

On June 12, 1961, Blassie defeated the "Flying Frenchman" Édouard Carpentier in a best-of-three-falls match for his first WWA Championship title. On July 7, Blassie successfully defended his title against the former NWA Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz. During that same title reign, in a match against Lord James Blears a fan threw acid on his back, and he had to return immediately to the locker room to wash it off.

Blassie claims that he made Regis Philbin into the celebrity he is today. When Philbin had a late-night weekend talk show in San Diego, Blassie would routinely show up to yell at the audience, throw furniture, and threaten Philbin. In later years, Blassie also appeared on The Mike Douglas Show when Philbin was a guest host.

After regaining the WWA Championship from Rikidōzan, Blassie lost the title two days later to the "Masked Destroyer" Dick Beyer. In 1963, Bearcat Wright defeated him to become champion, and it was quite a statement during the fight for civil rights that an African-American had won such a title. In 1964, "Dick The Bruiser" Richard Afflis defeated Blassie to become champion, and Blassie headed east to work for the World Wide Wrestling Federation.[2]

Blassie returned to the WWA in 1968 just as promoter Mike LeBell decided to rejoin the NWA. In the early 1970s, Blassie "turned face", or became a good guy, since so many fans were cheering his famous antics. While there, he feuded with Soulman Rocky Johnson, The Sheik, and "The Golden Greek" John Tolos. One of his most famous feuds took place in southern California in 1971, against Tolos. The final match of their series took place in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and set new California records for both attendance and gate.[5]

Japan (1962-1968)[edit]

In 1962, Blassie had a feud with Japanese wrestling icon Rikidōzan that established his reputation in Japan. After Blassie lost the WWA World Heavyweight Championship to Rikidōzan in Los Angeles, the two had a rematch on live Japanese television. Many of the viewers were horrified by Blassie's treatment of their hero. One of Blassie's gimmicks was to file his teeth, and draw blood from his opponents by biting their foreheads. The sight of the Japanese legend covered in his own blood gave several viewers heart attacks, and some reportedly even died.[6]

Blassie divorced his wife after leaving on Christmas to wrestle in Knoxville. He claims he isn't sure if she knew of his philandering ways, but Blassie had repeatedly bragged of his infidelity to his ex-wife Nettie. As a result, of his three children Gary, Cheryl, and Ron, only Ron ever spoke to Blassie on a regular basis.

While touring Japan in 1965, Blassie met the woman who would later become his third wife, Miyako Morozumi, at a train station. However, later that year Blassie suffered from kidney stones and had surgery to remove them. While recuperating the following year, he sold cars and married a second time to a woman whose name Blassie claimed not to remember.

In 1968, Blassie returned to Japan and was reunited with Miyako. When he asked for her parents' blessing, they were unsure of Blassie because of his reputation with Rikidōzan and because he was 28 years older than she. However, he eventually got their blessing and took her home to the United States. They were married on September 30, 1968.[2]

World Wide Wrestling Federation (1964; 1971)[edit]

In 1964, Blassie feuded with Bruno Sammartino and Bobo Brazil. Blassie came in to the WWWF with his own world title belt, claiming to be the Pacific World Champion, and was coming to Sammartino's "back yard" to unify the world title. The series began at Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ in 1964, with Blassie winning on a technicality, but not a pin. The rematches were held at Madison Square Garden in New York, with Sammartino winning out. Behind the scenes, Blassie befriended Gorilla Monsoon. He returned to the company in 1971 to challenge Pedro Morales for the WWWF Championship. During this stint with the company, Blassie was managed by his future nemesis, "Captain" Lou Albano.[2]

Management career and death[edit]

Blassie (right - foreground), with clients The Iron Sheik (left, holding flag) and Nikolai Volkoff (right - directly behind Blassie) during in the mid 1980s at a Madison Square Garden event.

Blassie retired from active wrestling in 1974, due to a California law that prohibited anyone over 55 from getting a wrestling license. Afterwards he became a manager in the World Wide Wrestling Federation and its subsequent incarnation the World Wrestling Federation. He performed for that promotion until his full retirement from professional wrestling in 1986.[2]

Among the men he managed were Nikolai Volkoff, Blackjack Mulligan, High Chief Peter Maivia, "The Crippler" Ray Stevens, Adrian Adonis, Jesse Ventura, Dick Murdoch, The Iron Sheik, Swede Hanson, Killer Khan, George 'The Animal' Steele, Professor Tanaka, Mr. Fuji, Victor Rivera and Hulk Hogan. Blassie also managed Muhammad Ali in his boxer vs. wrestler match in 1976 against Antonio Inoki.[2]

Because of his close relationship with Vince McMahon, Sr. and his family, Blassie remained on the WWF roster until the day he died. He would sporadically return to make brief appearances following his retirement in 1986, mostly in produced video packages hyping the "new generation" of wrestling. He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1994. His final wrestling appearance was May 12, 2003 in Philadelphia, PA on Monday Night Raw, three weeks before his death. The segment featured Blassie, his wife, Raw GM Eric Bischoff, who was about to allow 3 Minute Warning to attack him, until Austin and the Dudley Boyz stepped in. His final words on WWE television were "D-Von, Get the tables", to a monstrous applause. On June 2, 2003, Blassie died of heart and kidney failure at the age of 85.

Music career[edit]

In 1975, Blassie recorded voiceovers for the songs "Blassie, King of Men" and "Pencil Neck Geek", which were performed by Johnny Legend, featuring Billy Zoom on guitar, Jay Phillips on guitar and Steve Clark on drums. They received acclaim on the Dr. Demento Radio Show, and the latter song was featured on several albums, including Dr. Demento's 20th Anniversary Collection, "The Very Best Of Dr. Demento", and "Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty CDs of All Time".[2] In 1983, Rhino Records released a 14 track album by Blassie, titled I Bite the Songs.

Film career[edit]

Blassie appeared in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show that featured a new dance craze called The Twizzle. Rose Marie's character Sally Rogers brought him on at the end of the episode claiming to have discovered another new dance sensation. In the demonstration of the dance Blassie picked up Rob Petrie and twirled him over his head.

Andy Kaufman was enamored with Freddie Blassie and constantly hounded him to get him a spot on the wrestling card. Eventually, a movie of the two was filmed in 1982 at a Sambo's in Los Angeles called My Breakfast With Blassie.[2] Kaufman, Blassie, and the film itself were name-checked by American rock band R.E.M. in their song "Man on the Moon" from their 1992 album Automatic for the People. The song is a tribute to Kaufman, and makes reference to "Mr. Fred Blassie in a breakfast mess."

"Classy" Freddie Blassie appeared in a live-action segment of the cartoon "Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling." In the segment he is interviewed by "Mean" Gene Okerlund when the two are interrupted by a little old lady in a housekeeper outfit that Blassie claims to be his own mother.

"Classy" Freddie Blassie also made a cameo appearance as himself, along with "Wrestling's Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino, and Ric Flair in the 1986 film "Body Slam" starring Dirk Benedict, "Captain" Lou Albano, and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.

In the early 1990s, the wrestler starred in a documentary directed by Jeff Krulik, titled Mr. Blassie Goes To Washington. In it, Blassie is picked up at the Washington, D.C., airport by a limo full of young women, escorted around the nation's capital, gives his opinions and confronts tourists. When meeting someone, he would ask where they were from, and no matter their response, he would reply with, "Oh, that's God's country!"[7]

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fred Blassie - Biography". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 15 October 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Classy" Freddie Blassie with Keith Elliot Greenberg, Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks, (WWE Books, 2003).
  3. ^ a b John F. Molinaro, Top 100 Pro Wrestlers of All Time, (Winding Stair Press: 2002), p. 110.
  4. ^ Molinaro, p. 180.
  5. ^ Molinaro, p. 111.
  6. ^ Molinaro, p. 110.
  7. ^ a review of Mr. Blassie Goes to Washington.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ NWA Southern Heavyweight Title (Florida) history At wrestling-titles.com.
  10. ^ NWA World Tag Team Title (Florida) history At wrestling-titles.com.
  11. ^ NWA Georgia Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com.
  12. ^ NWA International Tag Team Title (Georgia) history At wrestling-titles.com.
  13. ^ NWA Southern Heavyweight Title (Georgia) history At wrestling-titles.com.
  14. ^ NWA World Tag Team Title (Georgia) history At wrestling-titles.com.
  15. ^ Gerweck, Steve (2011-11-14). "NWA Hall of Fame Class for 2011 announced". WrestleView. Retrieved 2011-11-14. 
  16. ^ a b WWA World Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com.
  17. ^ a b NWA Americas Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com.
  18. ^ NWA Americas Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com.
  19. ^ WWA International Television Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com.
  20. ^ WWA World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com.
  21. ^ NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com.
  22. ^ NWA North American Heavyweight Title (Hawaii version) history At wrestling-titles.com.
  23. ^ Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum Inductees At wrestling-titles.com.
  24. ^ WWF/WWE Hall of Fame Inductees At wrestling-titles.com.

External links[edit]