CHERRY HILL, NJ — Classy Freddie Blassie came away the winner at the fourth annual Cauliflower Alley Club East Coast Banquet.

Not bad when he was competing against the likes of Lou Thesz, Harley Race, Danny Hodge, Dory Funk Jr., Killer Kowalski, Abdullah the Butcher and Tully Blanchard.

The cankerous yet lovable Blassie was introduced first with a video highlighting his wrestling and managing career. Then the eighty-year-old legend laboured to the front of the room where he proceeded to toss off one-liner after one-liner to all the peers and pencil-necked geeks in attendance.

Newcomers like Tiger Ali Singh, with his valet Babu, mixed with legends like Lou Thesz at the Cauliflower Alley Club East Coast Banquet. -- Photo by Greg Oliver

Newcomers like Tiger Ali Singh, with his valet Babu, mixed with legends like Lou Thesz at the Cauliflower Alley Club East Coast Banquet. — Photo by Greg Oliver

Here are a couple lines from Blassie’s speech. To do it justice, conjure up his growling voice, impeccable timing and silvery delivery.

  • “When you wrestle guys like Lou Thesz, you get old real quick.”
  • “[Jim Ross] wears that goddamn cowboy hat. He wants everyone to know he’s from Oklahoma. Big deal!”
  • “There’s no other organization that has done as much for me as the WWF. … A lot of people don’t like [Vince McMahon Jr.], but I could care less.”
  • Telling about explaining to his mother why he didn’t quit wrestling. “Mom, I got used to filet mignon. I don’t want to go back to hamburger.”

Jim Ross, WWF announcer and member of the WWF talent relations department, had the privilege of introducing Blassie at the dinner, calling him “a Rembrandt. He was an artist [who had] an amazing gift.”

Blassie was at the Cauliflower Alley Club (CAC) Banquet on the weekend in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which was held in conjunction with the NWA 50th Anniversary convention.

The CAC is a 30-year old organization that was founded in California to celebrate wrestling stars from days gone by. It holds three banquets each year in different areas of the U.S. to hand out awards and induct new members. The CAC currently boasts about 2,200 members worldwide.

Fans and wrestlers from the past and present were treated to legends introducing legends throughout the afternoon.

There was former world champ Dory Funk Jr. introducing eight-time world champ Harley Race. “I guess I’ve got to face him again,” said Funk. “He beat me for the world’s heavyweight title, and then beat my brother a few years later.”

Race was soft-spoken and humble on stage. “Wrestling has been my life,” he said. “It’s great to be honoured by your peers.”

Jim Cornette, who hosted part of the evening, introduced a video on Abdullah the Butcher saying that “this one may be for mature audiences only.”

Abby, like Race, was soft-spoken. “Well, I’m not used to talking, but I can talk,” he joked. Of course, the Madman from Sudan (via Windsor, Ontario), then pulled out a fork and playfully jabbed George Napolitano, one of the CAC board members and the organizer of the banquet.

As The Butcher left the stage, Cornette plugged Abdullah’s House of Ribs and Chinese Food in Atlanta (2387 Fairburn Rd SW, 404-629-2332), “where none of the forks are plastic!”

Cornette introduced Tully Blanchard and talked about the feud between his Midnight Express and the Four Horsemen team of Blanchard and Arn Anderson.

“Politics got in the way,” said Cornette, believing that they would have had “the biggest drawing tag team feud of all time” if Arn & Tully hadn’t jumped to the WWF and become the Brainbusters.

Blanchard loved the old clips that were shown of him, on one of which he spoke the line “we are rich girls’ lovers and poor girls’ dreams.”

“You know it’s amazing the things you come up with at 10 am in the morning in Atlanta [at the WTBS studios],” he laughed. Of his years of wrestling, Blanchard said “it was just an honour and a privilege to be a part of professional wrestling in the eighties and seventies.”

When introducing legendary announcer Gordon Solie, Jim Ross used adjectives like “credibility”, “class presentation”, “stabilility” and “passion.”

“No one ever really replaced Gordon Solie on TBS,” said Ross. “There will only ever be one Dean of professional wrestling.”

Solie limped onto the stage and joked “I had a 45-minute acceptance speech, but you’re lucky — I’ve got laryngitis.”

Also honoured at the banquet were Lou Thesz, who is President of the Cauliflower Alley Club, Oklahoma’s favourite son Danny Hodge, Dory Funk Jr. and current NWA champion Dan Severn. Barry Windham was supposed to be at both the banquet and the NWA 50th Anniversary show, but was not there, and no explanation was given.