AS I SEE IT - 6/10/2003:
Thoughts on the passing of another legend... and on WWE

by: Bob Magee

Good to see some of the comments from last week's column. I even received some from people involved in marketing that wondered if anything WWE did could approach what these marketing professionals viewed as (their words) "the Holy Grail of marketing blunders", namely the New Coke debacle.

Such letters reinforce my belief that the majority of wrestling fans are far from the stereotype that the general public, and even any within the wrestling business seem to persist in believing that they are...namely, unintelligent sheep that can and will be guided to what they are going to enjoy... and that have no sense as to how things might be done better in the wrestling business...or regarding what they enjoy.

Again... understand that the columns from the last two weeks were not designed merely as personal attacks at HHH or WWE-bashing.

Rather, they were written to suggest that the wrestling (or "sports entertainment", if you must) company that has utilized business strategies like merchandising to get additional revenue streams (in English, they sold toys to make more money) years before any nationally based company did so... should utilize other basic strategies common within business...namely, listening to what its customers want and acting upon those wishes, not just dismissing their customers as just "marks" who don't know any better.

Yes, the vast majority of us are "marks", including yours truly.

We mark out for what we enjoy...without a bit of shame, and are willing to let promoters know what we don't like as well.

But we "marks" are also (mostly) intelligent men, woman and children.... we are all also customers that pay the ticket prices for PPVs, and live shows, and the various types of merchandise. We devote time to watching the televised shows. We're reading columns like the one you're reading and I'm writing now because, no matter how imperfect this artform is, we still enjoy and debate it endlessly among friends, coworkers, on message boards and so on.

No one suggests that WWE can live solely off of what Internet fans or "smart" fans want. But WWE and other promotions need to listen to them as a portion of their fanbase... their customer base; and not seemingly go out of their way to alienate them. That's been the point of my thoughts over the last two weeks.

In other thoughts... wrestling lost one of its true legends this week as Fred Blassie passed away on June 2nd in a Westchester, NY hospital. The world heard the news from Jim Ross about 45 minutes later on the telecast of Monday Night RAW.

I was lucky enough to have been present in Philadelphia for Blassie's last wrestling appearance at the May 12th RAW telecast, as a promo segment for his just-published book turned into an angle for the re-introduction of the Dudley Boyz.

Bubba Dudley said about that evening on

"...It was an absolute pleasure and one of the greatest highlights of our career to be in a wrestling ring with Freddie Blassie. The man is everything that this business is and was about. Just to be able to do something like that -- let alone at the Dudleys’ return in Philadelphia -- with a legend like Freddie was just an honor. From the first day that D-Von and I met Freddie, we got along very well with him. He showed us as much respect as we showed him.

It was just very special to know this person. The last words out of Freddie Blassie’s mouth at a wrestling event were, 'D-Von, get the tables!' That in itself is pretty cool to me. I was really happy that Freddie got to be in the ring one more time and hear that tremendous ovation. I thought it was great as the icing on the cake of his career to be a part of something that was so live that night in Philly, out there with the Dudleys and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I’m just glad he got to hear that live crowd one more time."

In a universe where everyone is seemingly a "superstar", Fred Blassie was something far beyond that. He has been remembered over the last week as a legend in the truest sense of the word within American and Japanese wrestling, and even well beyond the world of wrestling.

Regis Philbin of "Live with Regis and Kelly" daytime talk show fame spent time emotionally remembering Blassie in his opening monologue on his June 3rd "Live with Regis and Kelly" show. Philbin, whose career began in Los Angeles during Blassie's heyday, frequently had Blassie as a guest. Philbin showed pictures from past Blassie appearances, including ones with Ernie Ladd and Los Angeles promoter Jules Strongbow, one of a Philbin jacket destroyed by Blassie, and one of Blassie and a local Los Angeles wrestlers in a tug of war with members of the San Diego Chargers.

Philbin went so far as to say that if he hadn't met Blassie, his career might not be where it is today.

The mainstream press covered Blassie's death to a surprising extent, with coverage out on Associated Press, and major news outlets including the New York Times.

In the majority of last Wednesday and Thursday's mainstream Japanese sports newspapers, Blassie's death was a very big story. In what would seem an amazing turn of events, Blassie's passing was covered far more extensively than Lou Thesz's death. In Japan, Blassie had the nickname of "the silver-haired demon" who was known for his so-called "vampire attack" on Rikidozan, Toyonobori, Giant Baba, and Antonio Inoki.

The Japanese Sankei Sports newspaper repeated the now-legendary story of how Blassie's match with Rikidozan in April of 1962 with heavy juice caused six people to die who watched the match on television. In another match, Blassie made Great Togo juice heavily, causing the JWA promotion he worked for to have a problem on their hands, because Blassie was simply scaring viewers too much.

WWE also did a number of segments dedicated to Blassie, including a ten-minute plus segment on Confidential this Saturday featuring remembrances from Vince and Stephanie McMahon, Steve Lombardi, Steve Austin, Gerald Brisco, Jim Ross, The Rock, Sgt. Slaughter, and Hulk Hogan.

Jim Ross described him as the "best heel of all time" and "the architect for being a villain in our business".

The segment shows Blassie as one of the first wrestlers to cross over into mainstream entertainment on a national level back in the 1960s, with a clip from his appearance on a classic "Dick Van Dyke Show".

A shorter version of the tribute, which aired on WWE syndicated and weekend programming this past week is available for viewing at the WWE website at 28.8K and 56.6K, or for broadband/T1 users at 100K and 300K.

The segment was done to Evanescence's song "My Immortal". It's a melding of wrestling memories and song which would bring a tear to even Phil Mushnick's eye. It's worth your taking the time to see and hear this segment. For some of the things that WWE has done recently that many haven't liked... there is no question that this segment was a touching and appropriate tribute to a true legend.

Blassie was survived by his wife, Miyako, and three children.

Condolences from PWBTS and the websites that run AS I SEE IT to the friends, the fans, and the family of Fred Blassie.

Until next time...


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