The Crusher Death – Brain Tumor
1926-2005 (Age 79)
Reggie “The Crusher” Lisowski was one of wrestling’s true working-class heroes, a tough guy who drank beer, smoked cigars, and kicked ass wherever he went.
While “The Crusher” was supposed to be a heel, fans couldn’t help but admire his character, turning him into one of wrestling’s most beloved figures.
Lisowski’s tag team with his kayfabe cousin Dick the Bruiser added more championships to his already impressive collection of singles and tag team belts.
With his Bolo Punch finisher and catchphrase, “How ‘bout dat”? Da Crusher was one of wrestling’s most colorful, yet relatable characters.
Lisowski lived until 79 when a brain tumor ended his life.
From Working Class Stiff to Working Class Hero
Reggie Lisowski was born on July 11, 1926 in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city he would become well-known in.
After playing fullback in high school, Lisowski served in the Army, picking up some wrestling skills while stationed in Germany. After returning home, he furthered his wrestling training, making his professional debut in 1949.
Lisowski, who worked as a bricklayer and a meatpacker while moonlighting as a wrestler, eventually incorporated his working-class background into his wrestling persona.
Lisowski got his first break when promoter Fred Kohler hired him for his wrestling program on the Dumont Network. Television had launched a Golden Age of Wrestling in the early 1950’s, which allowed Lisowski to gain national exposure as a heel. By the time the national wrestling craze ended, Lisowski had established himself as a star.
The Wrestler Who Made Milwaukee Famous
In 1959, Lisowski transformed into the persona he would be eternally known by—Da Crusher, a tough-as-nails burly brawler with a booming voice who demolished opponents.
Lisowski was paired with his storyline cousin Dick the Bruiser, forming a tag team more akin to a force of nature. The destructive duo gained notoriety in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association (AWA) where they held the AWA World Tag Team Championship five times. The duo also held the tag team titles six times in Dick the Bruiser’s promotion, the World Wrestling Association. While they began working as heels, the fans eventually embraced them, even though neither man changed their style of wrestling.
The Crusher and Bruiser battled some of the AWA’s toughest heels including the roughneck team of Larry “The Ax” Hennig and Harley Race, Ray Stevens and Nick Bockwinkel, the Vachon Brothers (“Mad Dog” and “Butcher”), and the Texas Outlaws (Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch).
The Crusher and the Bruiser also appeared in the 1974 film, The Wrestler, where they had a notable scene dispatching Mafia thugs in a locker room.
The Crusher was no stranger to singles success either. The man who became known as “The Wrestler Who Made Milwaukee Famous” held the AWA World Heavyweight Championship three times, the AWA Brass Knuckles Championship, and other singles titles as well. Perhaps more important, he held the hearts of the wrestling fans in the Midwest, a man the fans could relate to as one of their own, who knew the value of a hard day’s work and the satisfaction of simple things in life such as a cold beer and a good cigar.
Indeed, Da Crusher boasted his physical training – the Washington Post noted Crusher would train “by running along the Lake Michigan waterfront with a keg of beer on each shoulder, building his stamina to polka all night with the local ‘Polish dollies.’” Despite his unorthodox training, Da Crusher boasted tremendous strength with fellow wrestler Verne Gagne noting the 6’ 260-pound Lisowski could bench press nearly 600 pounds.
Famous Until the End
Da Crusher continued wrestling into the 1980’s, with his last match believed to have been on February 15, 1988 in a tag team bout alongside Ken Patera against the team of Demolition. However, Da Crusher could still be found occasionally at wrestling events such as 1998’s Over the Edge pay-per-view where he and “Mad Dog” Vachon were involved in a kayfabe altercation against Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Da Crusher’s career earned him various accolades including induction into WCW’s Hall of Fame, the Cauliflower Alley Club, and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. Da Crusher also inspired the rock band The Novas to record a song in his honor (appropriately named “The Crusher”) in 1964, a record which broke into the Billboard pop chart, reaching #88. The song was covered by the band The Cramps and The Ramones recorded a song “The Crusher” on their last studio album.
Death of The Crusher
The aging process began to take its toll on Lisowski, with wrestling’s tough man enduring hip replacements, multiple heart bypasses, and a knee replacement. Crusher pressed on until October 22, 2005 when he passed away at age 79 from a brain tumor while staying at Milwaukee’s Bradford Terrace Convalescent Center.
Crusher is buried at the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery Cudahy, in Cudahy, Wisconsin, with his wife and infant son who had both predeceased him.
The Crusher was survived by four children and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
What are your favorite memories of “The Crusher”? Be sure to leave them in our comments section below.