“You pencil-neck geek!” If you heard that phrase growled in a gravely, menacing tone anywhere from the 40s to the 80s, you were probably in close proximity to the legendary wrestler/manager, “Classy” Freddie Blassie.
Fred Blassie: The Bad Guy from Early Days through WWE Manager – Wrestler
Most professional wrestlers go through myriad changes in their in-ring personas through the years. Rarely does a wrestler not switch between heel (bad guy) and baby-face (good guy) at least a few times throughout their in-ring years. Fred Blassie, however, was heel from beginning to end, save for one unsuccessful stint.
And he was really good at it!
Freddie Blassie played the villain so well that, according to Blassie’s Hall of Fame page at wwe.com, he endured “frequent death threats, 21 stab wounds and an acid dousing by irate fans”. Blassie’s heinous in-ring tactics would be classified as “hardcore wrestling” today, but back in the 50s and 60s, he was simply considered a psychotic. Freddie would bite, gouge and attack his foes – almost all of whom were fan favorites – with anything at his disposal.
When Freddie returned from duty in World War II, he made his one run at being a baby-face. He was billed as “The Sailor”, to take advantage of the heartfelt sentiment towards the US’s brave fighting forces. It was telling that this gimmick never worked for Freddie. He was the ultimate heel, and it would be a hard sell for him to put anything else over.
Fred Blassie liked to claim that he was responsible for making Regis Philbin into the well-known icon he is today. Freddie was the top heel in Southern California in the 60s, and he would regularly appear on Philbin’s late-night weekend talk show. Blassie would scream, yell throw stuff around and “terrorize” Regis, much to the delight of the TV audience.
In the early 70s, Blassie feuded with “The Golden Greek” John Tolos. Their battles were epic, and are still wrestling lore to this day. The carnage between the two pre-dated ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) and the advent of hardcore wrestling by several decades, but the matches were just as brutal – if not as high-flying – as anything the wrestling world has seen since.
Did Freddie Blassie Soften in his Later Years, after his Active WWE Days?
However, in his later years, shortly before his passing in 2003, Fred would still appear on WWE programming. Although he was still the same snarling, “pencil-neck geek” spouting persona, the fans now cheered him.
Always adorned in the bright, flashy, sequined outfits he had adopted as the “Fashion Plate of Wrestling”, Freddie’s final appearances on TV were filled with cheers of admiration and respect for all he had given to the business.
Somewhere, deep down inside the hard exterior of one of the most vilified heels of all time, one can only hope that it filled him with a sense of pride and accomplishment.