|Ring name(s)||The Crusher
|Billed height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Billed weight||252 lb (114 kg)|
|Born||)July 11, 1926
South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Died||October 22, 2005) (aged 79)|
|Billed from||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Debut||November 30, 1949|
Reginald Lisowski (July 11, 1926 – October 22, 2005) was an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, The Crusher (sometimes Crusher Lisowski to distinguish him from other Crushers, such as Crusher Blackwell).
Family and career
Early life and career
Lisowski was born and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of South Milwaukee. Early on he was more interested in football, playing fullback for the South Milwaukee High School football team, but took up wrestling while stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army. Having developed a liking for the sport, he continued training with Ivan Racy and Buck Tassie at Milwaukee's Eagle's Club when he returned, eventually wrestling Marcel Buchet in his first recorded match late in 1949.
His early career included wrestling three to four nights per week at a Chicago armory, typically earning $5 a night. To support himself and to stay in shape, Lisowski worked various blue collar jobs by day, from meat packing to bricklaying. Fred Kohler was the first promoter to put him on TV, and by 1954 he had developed a barrel-chested physique that would stick with him for most of his career. Decades before Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Sandman, Lisowski perfected the gimmick of the beer drinking tough guy. To further his career he bleached his dark hair blonde and started to get over as a strongman heel, famous for his bolo punch as well as a devastating full nelson. This eventually led to him winning the Chicago-area NWA World Tag Team Championship with partner Art Nielson.
Continued tag team success
Lisowski continued to have tag team success throughout the remainder of the 1950s, often paired with his wrestling "brother" Stan Lisowski. By 1959, he was being billed as "Crusher" Lisowski, which legend has came from a promoter's off-hand comment that he "just crushes everybody." Until early 1965, Crusher was a heel (hated bad guy) in the AWA. After meeting the legendary team of Larry Hennig & Harley Race for the first time, the fans adopted Crusher and his wrestling "cousin" Dick the Bruiser as full fledged heroes in AWA territory. His bluster was legendary, as he would threaten to maul opponents in the ring and afterward "have a party, take all the dollies down Wisconsin Avenue and go dancing." Besides his impressive physique, The Crusher's gimmick was to absorb a tremendous amount of punishment and still be able to make a comeback for the win.
Over the next 15 to 20 years Crusher and Bruiser were tag partners off and on, and a natural combination due to their common background and brawling wrestling style. If Dick the Bruiser and Crusher felt they hadn't bloodied their opponents enough during a match, they would trade punches with each other afterwards. They won the AWA World Tag Team Championship 5 times, the WWA Tag Team Titles (the WWA was Dick "Bruiser" Afflis's promotion) 6 times, and the NWA International Tag Titles among others.
Success as a solo wrestler
Crusher was successful as a solo wrestler, winning the AWA World Heavyweight Championship three times, the first time unifying it with the Omaha version of the World Heavyweight Championship on July 9, 1963 in a match where he defeated Verne Gagne. He was skillful at cutting promos, as he would brag about his "100 megaton biceps" and offer to pummel "da bum" he was facing in the ring with ease, and he often delighted in calling opponents "turkeynecks." His most quotable and famous phrase though was: "How 'bout 'dat?" When asked how he trained for a match, he'd claim he ran along the waterfront in Milwaukee carrying a large full beer barrel over either shoulder for strength (and longtime AWA announcer Rodger Kent (real name Rodger Vogel) often noted that by the end of the Crusher's training run, the beer was gone), and that he'd dance all night with Polish barmaids to increase his stamina.
He also had a successful run in the WWWF in the early 60's where he was a nemesis of Johnny Valentine and a very young Bruno Samartino, primarily in the Pittsburgh promotion. He drew very large crowds to Forbes Field with epic battles against either men.
A career-threatening arm injury
The Crusher's wrestling career almost ended in 1981, when the 450-pound Jerry Blackwell botched a top rope move and landed on Lisowski's right arm, causing nerve damage from his shoulder all the way to his wrist. Doctors told him he'd never wrestle again, but Crusher did strength training for two years while he was unofficially "retired," returning to the ring in 1983.
Move to the World Wrestling Federation
Seeing that the American Wrestling Association (AWA) promotion with which he had the most success over the years was crumbling, particularly when Hulk Hogan and many of the other top talent jumped ship to Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Crusher went to work for McMahon on a part-time basis, appearing at WWF house shows all over the Midwest. Lisowski claimed that he made more money working part-time for McMahon than he did working for the frugal Gagne on a full-time basis.
Officially Crusher's last match was for the WWF in 1988, but Crusher still found himself involved in wrestling throughout the 1990s. World Championship Wrestling (WCW) elected him to their Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 1998 he made an appearance alongside Mad Dog Vachon at WWF's Over the Edge PPV held in Milwaukee. Jerry 'The King' Lawler attempted to run down the two as past their prime, and even tried to steal Vachon's artificial leg, but instead got whacked over the head and took a punch from Crusher, to the crowd's delight. As Lawler bailed, the two men who had once regarded each other as enemies shook hands. Lawler tried a second time to get the best of Crusher, but with a trademark cigar in his mouth, he still got the best of The King and sent him packing.
Crusher became politically involved in his later years and publicly endorsed Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold.
In his later years, multiple surgeries on his hips and knee crippled him, as well as a non-cancerous tumor removed from his brain stem in March 2005, which left Lisowski partially paralyzed.
After 40 years on the road, during which he traveled six days a week, Mr. Lisowski retired.
His wife of 55 years, Faye Lisowski, died in 2003.
The Crusher died on October 22, 2005. Survivors included four children, nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Championships and accomplishments
- Other honoree (2000)
- AWA Brass Knuckles Championship (1 time)
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- AWA World Tag Team Championship (9 times) - with Dick the Bruiser (5), Verne Gagne (1), Red Bastien (1), Billy Robinson (1) and Baron Von Raschke (1)
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Minneapolis version) (2 times) - with Stan Lisowski
- (Class of 2005) - with Bruiser
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Other titles
- (Minneapolis) British Open Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Stan Lisowski
- World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha version)
Music and movies
In 1964, the Minneapolis-based garage rock band The Novas wrote a song dedicated to him called "The Crusher", with lead singer Bob Nolan imitating the raunchy voice of Crusher Lisowski (and his trademark yell at the beginning of the record). The tune, which included the lyrics "Do the hammer lock, you turkeynecks!" was popular in the upper Midwest and made it to #88 on the national Billboard chart. It was later covered by The Cramps on their album Psychedelic Jungle. The song has received a resurgence of popularity in recent years, as David Letterman has often played it on his late-night talk show. The Ramones released "The Crusher" paying tribute to Lisowski on their last studio recorded album, Adios Amigos.
In 1974, he and Dick the Bruiser starred in the movie The Wrestler, where they beat up a posse of mobsters on the big screen.
- "W.W.A. World Tag Team Title (Indianapolis)". Puroresu Dojo. 2003.
- Cauliflower Alley Club - list of honorees
- Reginald Lisowski at Online World of Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling HOF: The Crusher & The Bruiser
- SLAM! Sports: The Crusher dead at 79
- Crusher interview from Studio Wrestling (Pittsburgh)