Name: Reggie Lisowski & Dick Afflis
Year Inducted: 2005
Induction Category: Tag Team

The Crusher & The Bruiser

In 1999, "Crusher" Reggie Lisowski was brought out for an appearance at the racetrack in Kenosha, Wis. to paid tribute to his Dick "The Bruiser" Afflis. "The Bruiser's not here. He's up in that big brewery in the sky and I know what he's sayin' right now—'Crusher you look thirsty, get a beer.'"

Da Crusher and Da Bruiser looked the part of tough pro-wrestlers. Short, squat and rippling with muscle—with just a hint of a spare tire from the beer—they looked like they could have stumbled out of the local bar or from the local gym. "Each operated as a carbon copy of the other and that meant for unrelenting mayhem in the ring," said Wrestling Revue in August 1974, shortly before their fifth and final AWA World tag title run on August 16, 1975.

"It took a while before Lisowski could claim to be "the wrestler who made Milwaukee famous", who trained by running up and down the Lake Michigan waterfront with a barrel of beer on each shoulder and dancing with Polish barmaids. Born in 1926 in South Milwaukee, he was a fullback on his high school football team. While stationed in Germany with the Army, he tried wrestling. After the war, he furthered his training with Ivan Racy and Buck Tassie at Milwaukee's Eagle's Club, and had his first match in 1949. His working class hero persona was no act—he had been a bricklayer and worked at a meat packer. Chicago promoter Fred Kohler noticed him placed him on the old Dumont TV network. His first big success came as a newly bleached blond villain with Art Neilson, and then as a partner to Stan Lisowski (Stan Holek). In 1959, he made the transformation to Da Crusher and teamed with The Bruiser for the first time. During his long career, which included stints on occasional cards in the 1980s when he was in his 60s, Da Crusher held the AWA World singles title for three short reigns.

William Frederick Afflis was born June 27, 1929, and raised by his widowed mother in Indianapolis. A well-known troublemaker around town, he had a rough go at high school but made All-State as a guard. He worked out with Purdue while still in high school, but lost his scholarship when he clobbered the line coach with his helmet. He had very short stints at Notre Dame, Alabama and Miami, before switching his first name to Dick and getting a fifth chance at the University of Nevada in Reno. In the off-season, he was a bouncer at Harold's Club, which he considered his real alma mater. From 1951 to 1954, he played for the Green Bay Packers on both sides of the line, earning the nickname Bruiser. While surrounded by the Cheeseheads, Afflis was struck in the throat and silenced for six months, leaving him with his familiar gravelly voice. "Most guys don't think it's for real, but it is," he told SPORT Magazine in 1964. "A lot of them bums, wrestlers, that is, try to copy me. They think I got a perfect voice for a wrestler."

As a team, they had epic battles throughout the world with the Kalmikoffs, Mitsu Arakawa and Dr. Moto (Tor Kamata), Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens and the Valiants. Feuding with the young team of Larry Hennig and Harley Race elevated both to stars. Remembered best of all were their battles with Mad Dog and Butcher Vachon, whom they will be joining in the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in May 2005. "They made us famous," said Butcher. "They were very tough. Whenever you were in there, the people knew that they were going to get a streetfight, and so did we. We came ready for that."

In the mid-'60s, Bruiser bought into the Indianapolis promotion with Sam Menacker and Bob Luce, and would promote and wrestle there until 1989. In his World Wrestling Association, Bruiser and Crusher reigned as tag team champions six times, and Bruiser had another six runs with other partners. Afflis was a perennial WWA World champ as well. He died at age 62 in Largo, Fla., from a ruptured blood vessel in his esophagus while weightlifting.

Da Crusher is still the pride of Milwaukee, though he faced his toughest battle when his wife, Faye, died after 55 years of marriage in March 2003. He has had two hip replacements, a knee replaced and many heart bypass surgeries, but he is loving watching his grandson, Jake, compete as one of the top high school running backs in the state as well as a top wrestler. "It was one of the greatest thrills of my life," Lisowski told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of seeing Jake win his wrestling sectional title. "Everyone was hugging and crying. My daughters were there, and my granddaughters were there. It was exciting."

In a Wrestling Revue article, Bruiser stated, "We have never been accused of being in a dull match and we never will. The rougher it is, the better we like it."

- courtesy The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams by Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson (ECW Press, Spring 2005)

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