Japan Wrestling Association April 23rd 1962

Rikidozan vs Freddie Blassie

The Setting:

Rikidozan is undoubtedly ‘the godfather of Puro’ – he helped the sport become hugely popular in Japan and set the scene for decades to come. In 1958 all time US great Lou Thesz put over Rikidozan for the NWA International Championship (Lou rarely lost back then unless he thought the other guy could beat him ‘legit’). Freddie Blassie was one of the first ‘gaijin’ (foreign) wrestlers to truly get over in the fiercely ‘native’ Japan scene. He made himself into the ultimate heel when he bit one opponent on the head and start ‘drinking’ the blood.  People at home seeing this evil, crazy blood sucking foreigner caused some viewers to have heart attacks and Blassie was ‘made’ in Japan for life after this.

The Match:

Blassie attempts a lock up but Rikidozan fights it. Some great heel heat for Fred as he mouths off at someone at ringside.  They lock up but end up in the ropes. Another lock up which gets the same result. The footage jumps to both men on the mat, as Blassie works over a leg. Riki’ breaks free and an odd scuffle breaks out. Freddie plays up to the ref as the fans get riled up. He gets their hero by the neck and ties up in the ropes. He starts biting Rikidozans forehead, furthering his rep as a ‘vampire’, yet the footage suddenly jumps to Blassie on the mat in trouble as an arm is worked on. ‘Classy’ makes it to the ropes and the ref tells Riki’ to back off, this annoys the fans no end. After being reputedly chopped Freddie begs for mercury but is knocked to the canvas. They both get back to their feet and tussle again. Freddie uses closed fists but whenever ref asks he insists he isn’t. He then distracts the ref by pulling Riki’s tights so he can get away with choking his foe with his other hand. He goes for another bite but is fought off. He repeatedly chokes Rikidozan, breaking the count at 4 then reapplying the choke. He ties his foe back in the ropes for another spot of ‘lunch’. Despite Skaaland trying to stop it by pulling Freddie by his hair the biting continues. Rikidozan is freed but the onslaught goes on. But good old Riki’ fires up and bounces off the ropes knocking ‘The Count’ off his feet with shoulder tackles. He is stopped in his tracks by a knee to the gut then a neck-breaker for the first fall.

Freddie is back at the biting, this time fingers. Breaking free, Riki’ gets a reverse waist-lock until a rope break puts an end to it. The crowd become more vocal here. Good shot of Rikidozan bleeding from a ‘bite’ to the forehead. He batters Freddie in the corner and chops him until he falls out the ropes to ringside. Blassie is nearly counted out but gets back inside. Barely able to stand he begs in the corner. It was a set up as he lunges at Rikidozan and bites him again but the local hero is fighting him off straight away.  Nailing a slam he covers Freddie but on the count of 2 he gets a foot on the bottom rope. Another pin attempt and another rope break. After a knife edge chop he finally gets the pin to tie the match. At the start of the third fall Blassie goes outside, only returning to the ring when he is nearly counted out. More chops and another two count. Rope break on the next pin attempt. Blassie lies on the mat in agony. He starts to fight back with more dirty tactics. They both drop to the canvas and they struggle for some sort of advantage. Rikidozan comes out on top with a stiff chop. Blassie is then whipped into the ropes and blasted with another stiff chop. He begins flopping around the ring as the announce calls out the remaining time in the match. Fred attempts a blatant low blow but Riki’ blocks it. He lands a gut shot and Rikidozan tumbles to the outside. As he climbs back trough the ropes Freddie runs at him but is knocked backwards with a shoulder block. Rikidozan dives onto of his downed foe for the match winning third fall. The crowd are very happy, as can be imagined as their hero is still top dog.

The Aftermath:

Rikidozan would continue to be the star of Puro. Sadly, on December 8th 1963, he was stabbed with a urine soaked knife by a member of Japanese mafia The Yakuza. Riki’ ‘no sold’ this and continued as if everything was fine however the urine that had now entered his body caused the wound to become fatally infected. On the 15th he died, at the age of 39. The whole of Japan went into deep mourning in honor of their fallen hero. The All Asia Tag Team title in All Japan is not only the ‘oldest’ championship in Puro but was also held by Rikidozan at the time of his death.  Freddie would continue to work in Japan for a few more years, even meeting his next wife there, while also working in the States. He retired in the mid 70’s He became a manager in the WWWF (now WWE) and became an even bigger star as the heel ‘Hollywood Fashion Plate’ manager. He was also reportedly the favorite wrestling personality of Vince McMahon Jr who made sure Blassie was a mainstay in the company, and a Hall of Famer, until his death on June 2nd 2003.

See it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAD2HUv1ylk

James Simpson (@KnowYourPuro)

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