Born Fred Blassman in 1921 and raised in St Louis, Missouri, Classy Freddie Blassie was one of the greatest heels in the history of professional wrestling. He got started with athletics early in life, and tried to become a professional boxer while he was still a teenager despite his short arms. After being beaten by a longer-limbed opponent, Freddie decided to switch over to professional wrestling. Before he could get his career off the ground, Freddie joined the United States Navy and served in World War II.
After the war ended, Freddie started out as a dark-haired “face” (good) wrestler, but soon found out that the “heels” (evil wrestlers) got better pay. Freddie changed sides and jumped into his new role with gusto, bleaching his hair blond and taking delight in the hatred he spurned from the crowd. He did everything he could to sell himself as an evil monster, even earning the nickname "The Vampire" because of his incredibly sharp teeth (he often claimed to have sharpened them with a file) and his propensity to use them to draw blood from his opponents' forehead during his invariably brutal matches. One poll ranked him as the most hated wrestler in the United States. Between matches, he gave loud and boastful interviews, making him a favorite of talk shows and reportedly influencing a fellow egomaniac named Cassius Clay. He also invented the term “pencil-necked geek” and used it on anyone who got in his way (we must assume that at some point he crossed paths with Plastic Man).
During this time, professional wrestling was not a national sport, but a regional one. Different areas of the country were controlled by different promoters who had their own stable of wrestlers. Freddie started out in the Southeast, winning the NWA Southern Heavyweight Title for the first time in 1954. He would win the title 14 more times before he moved to Los Angeles in 1960. Freddie raged up and down the West Coast striking fear into his opponents and inciting hatred from the fans. He won countless titles, including several on television, helping to make him a household name.
Freddie then moved east and joined Vince McMahon Sr.’s WWWF (later renamed the WWF) where he once again established himself as the area's top heel through a reign of violence, cheating tactics, and bloodshed like few others. He teamed up with Captain Lou Albano and engaged in a long running series of matches with Bruno Sammartino, where he fell short of winning the coveted WWWF World Heavyweight title several times.
Freddie’s knees eventually gave out in 1973 and he was forced to give up wrestling, but he managed to stay in the game by becoming a manager. Freddie specialized in managing some of the meanest and most vicious men in the sport, and gained a reputation for specializing primarily in anti-American foreign wrestlers like Mr. Saito, Peter Maivia (grandfather of The Rock), Killer Khan, Mr. Fuji, Nicolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik. He continued to outrage crowds by distracting referees so that his men could cheat and by getting in his own cheap shots when the refs weren't looking. Occasionally, he would get too close to the action and get beaten up himself, much to the crowd's delight. While managing the Iron Sheik, Freddie even adopted the name “Ayatollah Blassie” to incite more cheap hate. Freddie also managed an evil Hulk Hogan during Hogan’s first go with the WWF in 1979.
In the early 1980s, Freddie took comedian Andy Kaufman under his wing and taught him the keys to drawing rage from a wrestling crowd. Kaufman took this knowledge and applied it during the period where he wrestled against women for the Inter-Gender Wrestling Title. Just like his mentor, Andy took a special joy from making people hate him. Freddie was also featured in Andy Kaufman’s My Dinner with Andre spoof My Breakfast with Blassie, where the two ate breakfast at a greasy diner and discussed life.
Freddie officially retired from wrestling in 1986, but continued to make occasional appearances whenever a heel needed guidance or someone was needed to pump the crowd. Freddie’s autobiography, Listen, You Pencil-Necked Geeks was released in May of 2003.
Classy Freddie Blassie died on June 2, 2003, just one week after appearing in his final wrestling telecast.