These are some excerpts from "Classy" Freddie Blassy's autobiography, i thought they were pretty interesting, gives you and idea what wreslting was like outside the ring.
I should have been prepared for this, but I didn’t see it coming. I was on a hotel elevator with a couple of the other boys, when the doors opened and a smiling Andre the Giant got on. He nodded at us, then – once the doors closed – turned around and passed gas. That little elevator stunk like a skunk. It was terrible. We wanted to get out, but Andre blocked the doorway. We threw punches at him, and hit him with tackles. But Andre didn’t move. It was like water off a duck’s back.
Lou Albano and I were in a routine of driving together, and sometimes I thought of him as a little brother -- the kind who follows you around and talks in your ear until you want to throw him off a bridge. I remember driving for miles and miles, listening to him snore because he was sleeping off a drunk. In the dressing room, he’d hide my clothes. I’d come out of the shower and search around, screaming, “There’s no clothes. Where the **** did they go?” Just when I’d think I was going senile, I’d looked over and see Albano laughing like a dope.
Lou was very compulsive with his money. In the car, he’d take it out, count it, fold it and unfold it, and put it in order: fives together, tens together, twenties together. This went on everywhere we went, not just once, but five, six, seven times a ride. We were driving with Ed Cohen, the guy who books the arenas for WWE, one time, when I just exploded on Lou.
“Does the ****in’ amount change every time you count it?” I yelled. “What do you think – I’m stealing your money when you’re not looking? What the ****’s the matter with you?”
Christ, we were fighting constantly.
CAPTAIN LOU ALBANO: Freddie and I usually got along. Of course, we also had a couple of disagreements. He would like to tease, you know, so I teased him back. And if you teased Freddie back, forget about it. You became his enemy. He could tease you, but you couldn’t tease him. Freddie could get a little abrupt, so he and I wouldn’t talk for a few days. But we always made up, like a husband and wife.
In 1978, Bob Backlund won the championship. Backlund was much different than (former champions) Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales. While they were ethnic heroes, he was a former champion at North Dakota State University, and as American as apple pie. When he got on the stick, he was deadly serious, speaking in a low, determined voice about the importance of leading a clean lifestyle as much as his upcoming match.
You’d think that a guy like me would want nothing to do with a square like Backlund, but nothing could have been further from the truth. There was no bull**** about him. He loved the sport of wrestling, didn’t drink or do drugs, and was a wonderful family man. As the World Wrestling Federation champion, he believed in being a role model to fans, as well as the other boys. And he was. His parents must have been wonderful people to raise a kid like that. He was a real asset to the business.
Of course, it was my job to make a buffoon out of Backlund. The Grand Wizard came up with the name “Howdy Doody” for him because of his red hair, and childlike facial features. On interviews, I’d mock both Backlund’s skills and his morals. But – now that I’m no longer managing – I admit that I never meant a word of it.
BOB BACKLUND: Blassie would make a lot of fun of me. That was his job. But I took it very personally. I was pretty into being a role model, and took the business maybe too seriously. He said a lot of things that I didn’t want to hear. To other people, it was all entertainment. But it had a different effect on me. I wasn’t really smart to the business back then. I finally figured it all out in 1994, when I became a heel myself.
I couldn’t count the number of matches Backlund had against George “The Animal” Steele. Whenever the weather got warm, Steele appeared in the World Wrestling Federation – he’d been doing it for years – battling the champion throughout the summer, then vanishing again in the fall.
Fans never caught on that Steele was only around in the summertime because he was supplementing his salary as a schoolteacher. Today, it would be all over the Internet. But then, how could people have figured it out? On television, Steele acted like a Neanderthal, not talking, flapping his arms around, sticking out his tounge – he managed to dye it green at one point – and biting the turnbuckles until the stuffing poured out and stuck to his sweaty body. Steele had a bald head and a back so hairy, I understand why his wife wanted him on the road in the summer. Sleeping with him must have been the same as wearing a fur coat.
In the early 1980s, “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers – now retired – was brought back to the World Wrestling Federation to do an interview segment called Rogers’ Corner. One week, when I was managing Steele, we both came on as guests. George didn’t tell me what he was going to do beforehand, and I didn’t ask. I knew that, even though his character didn’t talk, Steele would give the fans something to remember.
As Rogers was making his introductions, Steele sat – his eyes vacant and bottom lip drooping – holding something to his hairy chest. Within seconds, fans realized that it was a cigarette lighter. Steele flicked it a few times, like he’d just discovered fire and wanted to ignite himself.
I jumped out of my seat and patted him down.
“This guy’ll set himself on fire,” Rogers protested. “Hey, this guy’s some kind of nut!”
I turned to Rogers and screamed at him: “Don’t call him a nut!”
“He’s playing with fire, and there’s hair on his chest.”
“That’s right. And he’ll set you on fire, too.”
Rogers gestured at George. “Pull this guy out of here! He’s out of his mind!”
I acted outraged and offended: “Don’t talk that way about George!”
I never met any of the students at the high school where Steele taught in Michigan, but I imagine that it must have been hard to keep a straight face when he stood in front of the classroom for a science lesson or coached football. Then again, once you got past his gimmick, George was an extremely articulate guy who commanded attention with every word he said. In fact, I envied George. He had everything I didn’t have: education.
JIM MYERS, a.k.a. GEORGE “THE ANIMAL” STEELE: Freddie was just real special. I always thought the name “Classy” Freddie Blassie was perfect for him because that’s what he was – a classy guy. When he was your manager, you felt lucky. It was never just a job for him. He wanted to entertain the people, and make his protégé look like a superstar.
I remember wrestling in Madison Square Garden, with him in my corner. He did everything to get the crowd hot, but he’d direct all their attention towards me, not him. By the time the bell rang, they were responding to whatever I did. I knew that Blassie had a long wrestling career, and was a master of crowd psychology. And I appreciated him using that wisdom to help me. After the match was over, I walked up to him in the dressing room, shook his hand and slipped him $100. A hundred dollars was nothing to Freddie Blassie, but I wanted to show him I was grateful for everything he added to the match. I looked up at Freddie, and I noticed that he had a tear in his eye. He said, “No one’s ever respected me like that.”
Spending time with Blassie, I saw the effect he had on fans over a career of 50 or so years. After we both retired, we went out to California to do a radio show. We were walking back to the hotel, when some guy pulled up and said, “You’re Freddie Blassie.” He pointed at an old man in the passenger seat, and told us, “My Dad has Alzheimer’s. He doesn’t recognize anyone. But he just looked out the window and recognized you.” We went over to the car, and Freddie had a rational conversation with the guy. The son couldn’t believe it. He said, “I haven’t heard him speak like that in ten years.” It gives me chills just thinking about it.
Once in a while, I’d be given a protégé who didn’t want me as his manager. Dick Murdoch was one of these guys. I understand why he thought that he was so special: he’d been a full-fledged star in the United States, Japan and Australia. But men like Ray Stevens and Peter Maivia were accomplished veterans, too, and understood that the Blassie name only added to their allure. Certainly, Murdoch was not one of my favorites. And if you look at old tapes of us walking to the ring together, you’ll see me either in front or behind him – never side by side. Of course, the fans couldn’t tell that anything was going on. We kept those kinds of disagreements private.
It was a hell of lot more pleasant managing Killer Khan. He’d grown up in Japan, watching me battle Rikidozan, and would have settled for just meeting me and getting my autograph. When he found out that I was going to be his manager, he thought he’d died and gone to heaven. He was sure that – with Blassie in his corner -- he was going to become the number one wrestler in the United States.
MASASHI OZAWA, a.k.a KILLER KHAN: I’d always feared Freddie Blassie. I didn’t know that he was any different than the guy who came to Japan when I was growing up, and bit my heroes. Then, I got to know Freddie, and he was a very gentle man. He was generous in showing me what wrestling was all about.
He said, “Don’t take bumps left and right. When you do, it doesn’t mean anything, and the fans don’t care. Sometimes, twisting your face and groaning like you’re in pain is more effective than a bump.”
I listened to everything Blassie said, and was very excited when the World Wrestling Federation told me that I’d be working against Andre the Giant. When I was training in the New Japan dojo (training school), and Andre would come on tour, I was one of the boys who’d carry Andre’s bags, and run errands for him. But when we got in the ring, we had an accident. I wanted to kneedrop Andre’s chest. But he started to get up, and I landed on his ankle. This wasn’t an angle. Even though Andre was a big guy, I weighed 300 pounds. If you drop that kind of weight on someone’s ankle, it’s going to break.
Right away, Vince McMahon, Sr. decided to take advantage of the circumstances. He said, “Let’s use this injury to draw business.”
The World Wrestling Federation mentioned Andre’s injury on every broadcast. As he recovered, the promotion began talking about a possible rematch. Pat Patterson – a great wrestler who was then semi-retired and working as a color commentator – interviewed Killer Khan and I on television. Because Khan couldn’t speak English, he didn’t say a word. He darted his head from side to side, twisted his face, and stared at the ceiling like a madman, while I did the talking.
“Mr. Blassie, I went to the hospital when Andre was there,” Patterson said.
“Too bad he came out,” I interrupted.
“He was in a lot of pain,” Patterson continued in his French Canadian accent. “They put two steel pin in his foot. And I’ll tell you one thing. Andre does have a big heart.”
“And he has a big head, too,” I added. “A big head with nothing in it.”
A few weeks later, Andre himself came out on television on crutches, and was interviewed at ringside. He was talking about his slow road back to the World Wrestling Federation when I barged in with Killer Khan. “You’re all through!” I yelled.
Andre lifted his crutch and whacked me with it. When I stumbled backwards against the ring, Khan rushed forward, grabbed the crutch and hit Andre across the back. Then, I took my walking stick and slammed it against Andre’s cast. Andre reached down and moaned. Now, the fans thought, the leg wouldn’t heal properly, giving Khan the advantage in their upcoming battles.
KILLER KHAN: When Andre and I finally got in the ring together, we worked pretty stiff. We hit each other with very hard chops, and the matches were very believable. If I went loose on Andre, he’d get mad and give me a good hard one, and say, “Come on! What are you doing?! Let’s go!”
There’s one episode I remember where I was really exhausted and laying on the mat, flat out, straight up, looking at the ceiling. And here comes Andre with this humongous ass, and he just sat on my face. At that moment, I actually thought that I was going to die.
Vince, Sr. saw a lot of potential in Hulk Hogan. He was a good-looking kid – blond, muscular and tan – but very inexperienced when I began managing him in 1979. It’s hard to imagine it now, but, on interviews, I did the talking, and Hogan said nothing. His days as one of wrestling’s most gripping interviews were still in the future. Now, he was listening and learning from Classy Freddie Blassie.
TERRY BOLLEA, a.k.a. HULK HOGAN: Traveling to Japan with Freddie Blassie as my manager was a real education. He told me, “Don’t sell anything. When the Japanese guys hit you, act like King Kong. Don’t even flinch. Keep walking towards them.” And so basically, I went out and did what Freddie told me to do, and made all the wrestlers over there hate me. But it basically proved a point – that the big, American, Madison Square Garden wrestlers that Freddie brought over were impressive main event guys.
After my first match, we went out to celebrate. Freddie said, “We never pay for food in Japan, Hogan.” I said, “What do you mean, ‘we never pay for food’?” And he goes, “In every restaurant, there are two or three guys who know karate of jiu jitsu. We’ll bet that they can hit you as hard as they can in the stomach, sidekick you if they want to, and if it doesn’t hurt, the deal is that we don’t have to pay for food.”
At the time, I was much bigger, about 60 pounds heavier than I am now. And my stomach was always big, but it had extra padding. Freddie took advantage of that. The whole time I was in Japan, we never paid for food.
Even in the 1980s, Blassie was like a god in Japan. The people were scared to death of him. I would walk to the ring with Freddie – this older gentleman whose wrestling career was over – and he would pick up his cane and give the fans a certain look, and they would spread like ants, running from him. He was something.
Sometimes, when new heels came into the company, Vince, Jr. would ask me which I wanted as a protégé. “I picked one last time for you,” he’d joke. “Now, it’s your turn.” During one of these sessions, I told Vince that I wanted to manage the Iron Sheik.
No matter where the Sheik went, he got instant heat by waving a flag decorated with an image of the Ayatollah Khomeini – in those years when Americans were still seething over the 1979 US hostage crisis in Iran. I remember when the World Wrestling Federation Magazine (now WWE Magazine), wanted a few shots of us standing in front of the UN in Manhattan. We were driven to the front of the building, and took a couple of pictures, pointing over our shoulders and at each other. Everything was going fine until the Sheik asked, “Is it okay to take out my flag, Mr. Blassie?”
Before I could answer, he was waving the Ayatollah’s face at passing cars on First Avenue. “What the hell’s the matter with you, you crazy son of a bitch?” I yelled. “Put that thing away! Do you want to get us all arrested by the FBI?”
When we were cutting a promo, the Sheik wouldn’t understand a lot of what I was saying, so he’d quiver, and nod his head up and down. Then, he’d shout in his thick Iranian accent, “Cam-er-a-man, zoom in,” brush his hands over his barrel chest and abdominal muscles, and mutter, “Look at this. Look at this.”
Probably the funniest rib I ever pulled on the Sheik was when we were doing an interview, and I revealed something that he’d told me in private. Looking into the camera, I said, “I want to speak to Ayatollah Khomeini directly. Listen, you pencil neck geek, the Iron Sheik says he likes you. Well, he hates your guts. He still likes the Shah of Iran.”
The Sheik jumped in front of me and began waving his hands. “Stop that ****!” he yelled. “Stop that ****! The people in Tehran, Iran, they find out about this!” He was in a mad panic because he still had family in Iran, and he didn’t want them to get arrested, tortured or even worse. “I was just joking,” I explained.
But the Sheik wouldn’t calm down. “No, no, I see the red light on the cam-e-ra,” he insisted. It took a while before he realized that everybody – from Vince down to the camera crew – just wanted to have a laugh at his expense.
JOSIP PERUZOVIC, a.k.a. NIKOLAI VOLKOFF: The Iron Sheik and I traveled everywhere together. We were in St. Louis, and this beautiful girl come to me and ask, “Where’s your manager, Freddie Blassie?” And I told her, “Freddie Blassie isn’t here today. It’s only me and the Sheik.” And she start crying.
The girl told me that she was Freddie Blassie’s daughter, and she didn’t talk to him for years. I said, “Listen, don’t cry. Just give me your phone number. And when I’m with Freddie in a couple of days, I make sure he call you.”
When I saw Freddie, I told him what happened. And I said, “Please call her. Don’t be ashamed. She wants to talk to you, and she’s your daughter.”
Freddie picked up the phone and called. And soon, he starts crying. I was in the room with the Iron Sheik and Lou Albano, and the two of them are just standing there. So I said, “Let’s go. We have to give him his privacy.”
When he come out of the room, I said, “Freddie, how do you feel?” And he told me, “Nikolai, thank you. I was so glad to talk to my daughter.”
Nikolai is a very sensitive sort of person. He loves family life. And when he found out about my daughter, it was very important to him that I called.
After so many years, I was happy to speak to her. My greatest hope was that we would become close. But she was still upset about things that happened in the past. I understand exactly how she feels. But you can only put out your hand so many times. If someone keeps knocking it down, you’re going to back away.
Still, I’ll never forget what Nikolai did. In this business, people put their arm around your shoulder and call you “brother” every day. At least in his case, I knew it was true.