TAMPA, Fla. — Brian Blair grew up in Tampa Bay with the hope of becoming a professional athlete. He moved to the area from Indiana when he was just 8-years old.
By the time he reached the halls of Tampa Bay Tech High School, Blair was well on his way to achieving his goal. He lettered in several sports including football, baseball and track and field. His prowess on the gridiron earned him a scholarship to the University of Louisville.
Unfortunately, football didn’t work out as well as Blair had hoped, but he had a backup plan – professional wrestling. He quickly developed an affinity for action in ‘the squared circle,’ by watching Championship Wrestling from Florida with Gordon Solie every Saturday afternoon.
“I was hooked,” Blair, 60, recalled. “I became a big, big fan of the Brisco (Jack and Jerry) Brothers. One time I was at a store in Carrollwood and I saw Jack. I followed him up and down the aisles until I finally asked him for his autograph.”
By the mid-70s, he was learning the ropes from Hiro Matsuda, who also trained Hulk Hogan, among others. Blair made his CWF debut in 1977 in a tag-team match against future World Wrestling Entertainment Hall-of-Famers Pat Patterson and Ivan Koloff.
By the early ‘80s, Blair was plying his trade working for promotions from Florida to Texas. He wasn't getting rich, but he was making a living and, more importantly, a name for himself.
In 1987, Blair made it to the top of the mountain of professional wrestling when he took part in Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac Silverdome. At the time, the WWE was known as the World Wrestling Federation and that event set the attendance record of 93,173 for a live indoor event in North America.
The main event for that show was Hogan vs. Andre the Giant – WM III is considered by many to be the high point of the professional wrestling boom of the era.
Blair – with tag team partner Jim Brunzell – wrestled against The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff on the card.
“It was a great honor to have taken part in Wrestlemania III,” Blair said. “Working with those guys (Sheik and Volkoff) was always a challenge but we had a very good match in front of a very enthusiastic crowd.”
Blair and Brunzell were known as the Killer B’s. The team remained top competitors for the organization’s tag-team titles until they left in 1988. He spent the next decade working for a variety of professional wrestling organizations all over the world.
In 2002, Blair entered the political arena when he ran for a County Commissioner post in Hillsborough County. He lost to Pat Frank, but two years later Blair defeated former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn by 368 votes for the District 6 seat.
“Another great honor of my lifetime, serving the citizens of the area where I grew up,” said Blair, who left politics in 2008. “It was another very exciting time.”
These days Blair dabbles in real estate, helps former colleagues who have fallen on hard times and get this, he still wrestles.
“I do independent shows for friends when my back permits,” Blair said. “You can take the wrestler out of the ring, but you can’t take the ring out of the wrestler – it’s in my blood.”
Next month – on Friday, June 14 - Blair will host another of his ‘Legends Luncheons,’ an event he has been putting on for over 20 years. He holds one every three months at a restaurant in Carrollwood.
“The luncheons are a chance for us (retired wrestlers) to get together, tell old stories and recognize one another,” Blair said.
If you are interested in attending, the festivities begin at 1 p.m. at O’Briens Irish Pub located at 15435 North Dale Mabry Highway.