By Dobie Maxwell – http://www.schlitzhappened.com
Even in his home town of Milwaukee, the name ‘Reginald Lisowski’ might not be immediately recognized by everyone who hears it. But mention ‘The Crusher’ and everyone knows exactly of whom you speak. He is of local legend, the beer swilling cigar chomping professional wrestler of the 20th century with his bug eyes and bleached crew cut who stomped ‘bums’ into the canvas.
The Crusher was an icon to multiple generations of Milwaukeeans. I have a friend probably ten years older than I am who was a child of the ‘60s. He once told me the three top athletes from his era in no particular order were Hank Aaron, Bart Starr and The Crusher. All were equal royalty.
But all through my childhood The Crusher was the king of not only my sports world but that of all my neighborhood friends. We would gather around our televisions every week and watch ‘All Star Wrestling’ on Channel 18 to see our hero in action. He kept us all riveted with his charisma.
For reasons I still can’t identify, we believed without question that a stout man in his 50s could actually train for a legitimate athletic contest exclusively by lifting a beer keg, dancing the polka and smoking cigars. We never once questioned any of this, and this is why humanity scares me.
I was just as gullible as anyone, and I bought it too. I loved the Crusher, and without any other local icons during a very lean sports era, he was it. Kareem Abdul Jabbar might have been close for a while, but when he demanded to be traded his stock dropped quickly. The Crusher ruled.
His matches were secondary to his legendary interviews. That’s where he sold us on what he’d do to his upcoming opponents, and we were putty in his hands. He’d rant and rave and make lots of threats and promise to vanquish evil and restore justice to the universe. And we believed him.
My best friend Timbo and I used to save our money and go see our hero live at the Milwaukee Auditorium whenever we could. What a ‘trill’ it was to witness as he’d defeat some ‘turkeyneck’ of the week by administering his infamous stomach claw or his best weapon ‘The Crusher Bolo’.
On rare occasion – maybe once a year – the matches would take place at the Milwaukee Arena which could house double what the Auditorium did. Those usually meant there would be a ‘cage match’ where the Crusher would vanquish a bad guy inside a chain link cage. We lived for those.
One New Year’s Eve many years later when I was a comedian, I had a show at the downtown Hyatt Regency. I stepped into a packed elevator and in the back I heard a guy impersonating The Crusher – and not very well. When I got off the elevator I discovered it was really him, and got to shake his hand. It felt exactly like one would imagine, rough and strong. Those ten seconds were the biggest ‘trill’ I ever had in sports. To quote one of his trademark sayings, “How ‘bout dat!?”