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Lord of the ring
By TJ MADIGAN -- Calgary Sun


Just three weeks after a remarkable guest appearance on Raw, Classy Freddie Blassie succumbed to the heart and kidney problems that have plagued him for more than a decade. He died Monday afternoon in a suburban New York hospital. He was 85.

Blassie (Fred Blassman) was one of wrestling's all-time great villains and a true example of a man who gave his all to the business. He began his career in the 1930s in St. Louis, quickly becoming one of the most hated heel wrestlers in the California and Georgia territories. He was so effective as a bad guy, irate fans tried to stab him on 21 separate occasions and he was once doused with acid by a particularly upset audience member.

By the mid-1960s, he was the biggest drawing card in the red-hot Los Angeles market, pulling in one of the highest live gates of the era in 1971. He also carved a name for himself in Japan by taking a bite out of Rikidozan during a TV match before spitting the Japanese legend's blood into the air.

According to Blassie, almost 100 elderly viewers died of heart attacks at the sight of him sucking and spitting blood from Rikidozan's body.

Blassie eventually retired from the ring in 1973 but stayed in the public eye by signing on as Muhammad Ali's special advisor for a high-profile match against Antonio Inoki in Tokyo.

He finally settled into a less physical role, working as an on-screen manager for the WWWF under Vince McMahon Sr. and later for the WWF under Vince Jr. He was still employed by World Wrestling Entertainment at the time of his death, appearing in storylines such as the 2001 Invasion and The Dudley Boys return angle a few weeks ago.

Before he was hospitalized, Blassie was actively promoting his new autobiography, named after his trademark catchphrase: "Listen, you pencil-neck geeks." At press time, the book was the best-selling wrestling or MMA book on Amazon.com.

The funeral service was held yesterday in Scarsdale, N.Y. Blassie is survived by his wife, Miyako, and three children.

THIS MEANS WAR

The WWE is making an effort to lay the foundation for some longer-term storyline plans, centred around a big battle with Brock Lesnar and the returning Kurt Angle.

There was no choice but to bring Angle back to TV as a babyface last week but the Olympic champion should be turning on Lesnar to set up a title fight for the Vengeance pay-per-view July 27 in Denver. Vengeance will be the first Smackdown-only PPV, so the WWE is hoping fans will buy into the Wrestlemania rematch between Lesnar and a heel Angle in a big way.

On the Raw side of things, the big storyline development is the plan to bring Mick Foley back to referee the Hell in a Cell match at Bad Blood next weekend.

The cell stipulation was added to breathe some life into the stagnant feud between Triple H and Kevin Nash but even that wasn't enough to save the show. It looks like Foley will be drafted in to give the match a few more variables and presumably to shill his new book of fiction, Tietam Brown.

AUSTIN STICKS NECK OUT

After Kurt Angle's successful neck surgery with Dr. Hae-Dong Jho, Steve Austin is planning to make the trip to Pittsburgh to meet the physician.

Austin still has no plans to return to the ring but is hopeful the revolutionary new surgery could improve his quality of life. Austin has been forced out of action due to neck problems on several occasions throughout his career, most notably after a piledriver spot which went awry with the late Owen Hart.