Red Bastien - a high flying worker who was ahead of his time. Photo via www.onlineworldofwrestling.com.
The f4wonline.com website has reported that wrestling legend Red Bastien passed away yesterday at the age of 81 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's Disease, which may have been due to all the knocks he suffered during his three decade career. Greg Oliver has already posted an incredibly detailed obituary at SLAM! Wrestling, which is well worth reading.
Bastien was a high school swimmer with potential and also dabbled with amateur wrestling, but instead followed his dream of becoming a professional wrestler as soon as he was old enough at the age of 16. For several years, he worked the carnival circuit, using the legitimate skills he picked up to quickly beat marks from the crowd. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, his career soon blossomed, thanks to his speed and agility, soon becoming renowned for his graceful dropkicks and flying head scissors.
Bastien was primarily a tag team wrestler, as he was too small to work on top as a singles wrestler. In New York and Indiana, he formed a championship team with Lou Klein, who was billed as his brother Lou Bastien, while in the Midwest, he held the AWA World Tag Team Championship with Hercules Cortez and later his replacement partner The Crusher, after Cortez died in a car crash that Bastien was lucky to survive with no serious injuries. But his best tag team partner was Billy Red Lyons, who were billed as The Flying Redheads, due to their similar in ring style and hair colour. Blackjack Mulligan, in particular, was a big proponent of their talent together:
"There was no greater than Red Bastien and Red Lyons. They were the greatest team of all time. There is no other team. If you ever saw Red Lyons and Red Bastien wrestle the Vachons, wrestle anybody, you had pure tag team wrestling at its basic. There's no better, there never will be. They set the bar so high that all we could ever do is to try to achieve a small degree of their success."
High praise indeed! The closest modern day comparison would be to Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, another babyface who was also a very sympathetic seller and had great fire on his comebacks.
As a retired wrestler, Bastien was very unusual in the sense that he had no problems with how the business changed and went with the flow. He became a trainer and was very instrumental in starting the wrestling careers of bodybuilders Jim Hellwig and Steve Borden, who soon became famous as The Ultimate Warrior and Sting, respectively. He also ran an ahead of its time, lucha themed, independent promotion in California, using wrestlers like Konnan and Rey Mysterio Jr. before they became national stars with WCW in 1996. Moreover, when he saw Daniel Bryan wrestle at King Of The Indies in 2001, he already thought he was a better worker than anyone in his heyday. Bastien was also the President of the Cauliflower Alley Club from 2000-2007, where he kept in touch with and helped out his former colleagues, until the duties became too much for him.
But he'll probably be best remembered for being one of the wrestling business' most jovial partiers, who lived life to the fullest. For those wondering where Ric Flair got his penchant for being the nude life and sole of any party, it probably came from his friend Bastien, who had a similar reputation:
For all the accolades in and out of the ring, no story on Red Bastien is complete with a mention of "The Bishop" -- Red's, ahem, member. There might be more stories about The Bishop than the man himself, and, like Red, it has been described as larger than life.
Unlike Flair though, he didn't let that lifestyle get out of control and lived a comfortable existence in his dying days.