411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2010: Classy Freddie Blassie
One of the first true superstars of professional wrestling, Freddie Blassie is a unique blend of brilliant performer, showman, war veteran and pop culture icon. A man that lead a charmed, varied and interesting life right up until the day he died.
Blassie was born to German-immigrant parents in 1918. He was headed to a career as a job as a meat cutter when the boxing bug bit. He became the heavyweight champion in his local town of St Louis but he quickly became interested in wrestling, in particular the ” hooker” matches that would show locally. Slowly he broke his way into the business and his first match was a shoot fight in 1935. He got regular work wrestling in carnivals and this is where he honed his most recognizable catchphrase “pencil-necked geek”.
When World War II started, Blassie enlisted in the navy and served for over three years in the Pacific before being discharged and coming back to the US. It was at this time he started working for professional wrestling promoters as a babyface but his act failed to gain traction and eventually he turned heel around 1953 while working in the Georgia territory.
His heel act however gained plenty of attention and like most heels of the day, he dyed his hair bleach blonde but he also added the unique trait of sharpening his teeth during promos and then would turn his matches into violent and bloody spectacles by continually biting his opponents. This earned him the moniker “The Vampire” and thus became on of the highest drawing wrestlers EVER.
He spent large amounts of time in California working for the World Wrestling Alliance where he was a successful champion, even gaining a successful defense over Lou Thesz who NEVER lost. Freddie set many attendance and gate records for his matches and created a stir wherever he went, especially Japan.
Freddie had started feud with Japanese legend Rikidozan and when they went to Japan to continue the feud that began in the USA, the Japanese fans were horrified with Blassie and his violence and reportedly the sight of Rikidozan covered in blood caused heart attacks and unconfirmed deaths from said attacks.
Like most great heels, Freddie started hearing cheers and thus started many heel/face turns, depending on what territory he was in. He worked all over the country including the WWWF where he feuded with Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales and Bobo Brazil and generally causing mayhem until he retired in 1974 due to not being able to get a wrestling license due to his age in California.
He started managing for the WWWF and was often paired with the latest hot heels and even managed The Iron Sheik to the WWF Title in 1983. He continues managing wrestlers for the next couple of years until he retired in 1986. Far from being done, he attainted such respect and stature in the sport he was inducted into the first full WWF Hale of Fame class in 1994 and often appeared in promotional packages for the WWF extolling the virtues of the new generation of performers. Blassie passed away in 2003, three weeks after his final WWF appearance, of kidney failure, he was 85.
Blassie had far reaching cultural impact becoming the focal point of comedian Andy Kauffman’s obsession with wrestling and even created the film “My Breakfast With Blassie” which has attained cult status amongst movie goers and became one of the themes within the R.E.M song “Man on the Moon” which was about the life and times of Kauffman.
Dr. Demento also used Blassie themed songs on his show and Blassie received widespread attention for these. Blassie also claims he helped start the career of Regis Philbin as he was often frequented Phlbin’s weekend talk show and created such mayhem that it helped Philbin gain more widespread attention.
Whatever your take on Blassie may be, the man was and is an icon of the squared circle. He inspired such hatred in people he once had acid thrown on him by an enraged fan. Conversely, he was so respected that the great Lou Thesz did the job for him. Most any event he headlined in his heyday was an event and he helped bring a liberal dose of violence and showman ship into wrestling, two elements that the WWE used to springboard to their greatest successes.
Why Freddie was selected…
He was a great company man who would go on television wearing Middle Eastern headdress and extolling the virtues of his Iranian protégé The Iron Sheik as well as evil communist Nikolai Volkoff at a time when fans really took that shit seriously. He was such a character that in 1965 he claimed he forgot the name of his second wife. He was the “Fashion Plate”, the “Vampire” and was even an “Ayatollah” for a spell, but he was always “Classy”, he was always entertaining and he will forever be known as one of the true greats of wrestling in any era.