James Ranicar Blears, who later legally changed his name to Lord James Blears, and who was perhaps most famous for his story of being captured by the Japanese while serving in World War II, passed away this week. He would have been 92 or 93 years old.
At various times, Blears played snooty British pro-wrestler, commentator/announcer, troubleshooting referee for the AWA, figurehead president of the Pacific Wrestling Federation, and more. As the alleged head of the PWF he would often be brought in to read proclamations before Triple Crown matches in All Japan.
Blears' story of being captured in World War II was the subject of many press stories later in his life, including a great article by Greg Oliver at Slam Wrestling. He was working as a British radio officer on the S.S. Tjisalak, which was torpedoed and sunk, and all of the survivors were pulled aboard the Japanese I-8 submarine. The captors began beheading passengers one-by-one.
"Two Japanese officers were waiting for us," Blears said, "one with a sword and the other with a sledgehammer. ... When these guys came at us, I kicked with my foot and pulled my hand out (of the rope) right away and stopped the guy and dived off the submarine and dragged Peter (Bronger) with me." Blears survived for three days in the wreckage of the S.S. Tjisalak before being saved and fed canned peaches. He said that every years after that, he commemorated the day by eating a can of peaches.
Blears had been living in a nursing home in Hawaii, where his children had become world-class surfers.
We will have more on the life of James Blears in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and various audio shows this week. Our best to his family.