Reggie Lisowski began his pro wrestling career in 1949 at the Paris Ballroom, located at 12th and Mitchell streets on
Initially, Lisowski worked as a dark-haired "babyface," an all-American type who entered the ring wearing a star-spangled jacket. But by the mid-1950's, Reggie had transformed himself into a beefier, bleached-blonde rule-breaker, and together with Art Neilson and later Stan Holek (who wrestled as Reggie's "brother" Stan Lisowski), had become one of the nation's most despised villains.
For the better part of seven years, Reggie was co-holder of the National Wrestling Alliance World's Tag Team Championship (with Art Neilson and Stan Lisowski), the NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Stan Lisowski), and the Canadian Open Tag Team Championship (Stan Lisowski and reportedly Yukon Eric).
However, in the fall of 1959, after many classic battles with such tandems as Verne Gagne and Wilbur Snyder, Dick the Bruiser and Hans Schmidt, the Brunettis, the Shires, the Gallaghers, and the Russian Volkoffs among many others, Lisowski all but abandoned his tag team days in favor of a career in singles competition. Gone, too, were the long blonde locks and punkish demeaner that had defined Reggie's ring persona, replaced by a crewcut, a tough-guy image, and a new moniker: "Crusher" Lisowski. As Crusher Lisowski, Reggie enjoyed great success, appearing in
In 1963, Crusher Lisowski, often referred to now as "The Crusher" or simply "Crusher," twice defeated Verne Gagne to claim the American Wrestling Association (AWA) World's Heavyweight Championship. Though his reigns were short, he captured the title for a third time in 1966 from the man who eventually would become his arch-rival, Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon.
The Crusher also re-established himself as a great tag team wrestler, this time with Dick "The Bruiser" Afflis at his side. The look-alike tandem, claiming to be cousins, became the most successful team in AWA history, winning the association's revered World's Tag Team Championship an unprecedented five times while drawing huge crowds and gates wherever they appeared.
Matched against the likes of the treacherous Kalmikoff Brothers and the upstart team of "Pretty Boy" Larry Hennig and "Handsome" Harley Race, both The Crusher and The Bruiser found themselves being cheered instead of booed. Although neither "cousin" had mended his ways and still preferred their hard-hitting barroom-brawling style, the promotion took advantage of the situation and began matching them against opponents who were hated even more than they had been. Although The Crusher himself maintained a villainous persona during appearances in the World Wide Westling Federation (WWWF) and in the St. Louis-Kansas City area, for all intents and purposes his days as a monster heel were over.
Through the late 1960s, The Crusher's popularity continued to rise and by the early '70s, after a 4 month absence from the ring due to injury, many of his main event matches were selling out at their respective venues, sometimes a week or two in advance. He became particularly popular in his hometown of Milwaukee where, despite a lack of official recognition, he became one of the city's most famous exports as well as a genuine folk hero. And while it was true that Verne Gagne was the reigning heavyweight champion during this time, it was The Crusher who became the man to beat. Ivan Koloff, Dusty Rhodes, Superstar Graham, Shozo Kobayashi and many other international stars fell victim to the might of The Crusher.
Several times during the '70s The Crusher reunited with Dick the Bruiser, teaming with him in the AWA as well as for Bruiser's own Indiana-based World Wrestling Association (WWA). He also surfaced unexpectedly in National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) stronghold Georgia, capturing that state's tag team championship with Tommy "Wildfire" Rich. While The Crusher enjoyed great popularity in the Peach State, he soon journeyed back to the AWA, where he spent the next year and a half.
The Crusher unofficially retired in July of 1981 after supposedly suffering nerve damage in his right arm during in a match with 450-pound Jerry Blackwell. However, according to The Crusher, he spent the next two and a half years quietly rehabilitating the arm until he had regained back most of the strength. Then in December 1983, after Hulk Hogan suddenly departed the AWA for the expansionist World Wrestling Federation (WWF), it was The Crusher who was called upon to fill Hogan's shoes.
By 1985, The Crusher, though still in great shape at nearly 60 years old, was slowing considerably. The AWA, beginning to lose ground to the flash and dash WWF, began a youth movement and abandoned its most durable, reliable, and beloved performer.
Ironically, the WWF was more than happy to use The Crusher on their shows, especially in cities where the fans were familiar with him from his AWA days. The Crusher wrestled for the WWF sparingly for several years, finally competing in his last match in 1989, 40 years after his amazing career had begun. 1