Dick the Bruiser
Dick the Bruiser in April 1969
Birth nameWilliam Fritz Afflis
Born(1929-06-27)June 27, 1929
Delphi, Indiana, US
DiedNovember 10, 1991(1991-11-10) (aged 62)[1]
Tampa, Florida, US
Alma materPurdue University
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Afflis
Dick Bruiser
Dick the Bruiser
Richard Afflis
Billed height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)[2]
Billed weight261 lb (118 kg)[2]
Billed fromReno, Nevada, US[2]
Trained byVerne Gagne
Joe Pazandak
Debut1954[2]
Retired1989
American football career
No. 72
Position:Guard, Tackle
Career information
College:Nevada
NFL Draft:1951 / Round: 16 / Pick: 186
Career history

William Fritz Afflis (June 27, 1929 – November 10, 1991) was an American professional wrestler, promoter, and NFL player, better known by his ring name, Dick the Bruiser. During his NFL days he played four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. In addition to that he was also hugely successful in professional wrestling being a fifteen-time world champion, having held the AWA World Heavyweight Championship once, the WWA World Heavyweight Championship (Indianapolis version) thirteen times and the WWA World Heavyweight Championship (Los Angeles version) once. He also excelled at Tag-Team wrestling having won 20 Tag Team championships, having held the AWA tag team championship five times and the WWA tag team championship a record 15 times in his career. 11 of these championships were won alongside his long-time Tag-Team partner Crusher Lisowski. [3] He was one of the most hated as well as well known heels from the mid 50s till the early 80s.[4] He was famous for his feuds with the likes of such stalwarts such as Lou Thesz, Bobo Brazil, Angelo Poffo and "Classie" Freddie Blassie. For his achievements he would be inducted into the WWE hall of fame class of 2021.[5][6] He was also inducted into the 2005 International Wrestling Hall of Fame.[7]

Early life

Born in Delphi, Indiana, Afflis moved to Indianapolis when his mother got a job there during World War II. Afflis played football during his freshman and sophomore years for Shortridge High School in Indianapolis. After his mother lost her job, the family moved back to Delphi, and the high school there did not have a football team.[8] Afflis took up residence at the YMCA in nearby Lafayette, Indiana, so that he was eligible to attend Lafayette Jefferson High School where he played football and wrestled.[9] Afflis went on to attend Purdue University[10] and the University of Nevada, Reno,[11] playing varsity football at both schools. He also worked as a bouncer at a Reno nightclub.

American football career

Selected 186th overall in the 16th round of the 1951 professional football draft,[10] Afflis played football for the Green Bay Packers from 1951 to 1954.[12] as a lineman.[2][13] He appeared in all 48 regular season games the Packers played in those years,[14] although the team never finished better than fourth place.[10] Afflis suffered an injury to his larynx while playing for the Packers. This resulted in his trademark gravelly voice that he would keep for the rest of his life.[11]

Professional wrestling career

Bruiser made his professional Wrestling debut in 1954. He was trained by Verne Gagne. Afflis started wrestling in Chicago in 1955 under the Bruiser moniker where he faced Verne Gagne and Lou Thesz. Gagne guided him in his initial days of becoming a professional wrestler.[10] From then into the late 1950s, Dick the Bruiser wrestled live every Thursday on TV in the Detroit area. His typical opponent was "an up and coming young (unknown) wrestler" who would be pulverized by the Bruiser. His matches and interviews were so effective he became a household name in the Detroit area. His only defeat on live TV was at the hands of “Cowboy” Bob Ellis. However, in two rematches with Ellis at the Olympia in Detroit, the Bruiser was victorious. In 1963, Dick the Bruiser was involved in an angle with NFL star Alex Karras to set up a match between the two. Bruiser was supposed to brawl with Karras at Lindell's Bar, a drinking establishment co-owned by Karras and the Butsicaris brothers.[15] What was supposed to be a worked shoot turned into a real brawl when one of the Butsicaris boys' uncles attacked Dick the Bruiser, unaware the event was staged.[16] Bruiser proceeded to destroy the bar as well a number of police officers who showed up to the melee; there were reportedly over 300 people hurt.[17][18] In the end, eight officers subdued him, and the Bruiser ultimately won the match.[19] At the end, he was charged with aggravated assault[20] and had to cover $50,000 in damages for two policemen that he injured during the brawl.[21]

Poster of Dick the Bruiser vs Alex Karras in 1963

On November 19, 1957, Dick the Bruiser and Dr. Jerry Graham engaged in a tag team match at Madison Square Garden in New York City before a crowd reported as 12,987 fans. Their opponents were Antonino Rocca and Édouard Carpentier. After the match ended, fighting among the wrestlers continued, and a large number of fans joined in, leading to a riot.[22] Two policemen were injured, two fans were arrested and over 60 policemen had difficulty dispersing the angry crowd. The floor of the arena was littered with hundreds of broken chairs.[23] As a result, Dick the Bruiser was banned for life by the New York State Athletic Commission.[10]

Dick the Bruiser in 1973

Afflis, along with fellow wrestler and business partner Wilbur Snyder, purchased the Indianapolis NWA promotion in 1964 from its longtime owner Jim Barnett. Afflis renamed the territory the World Wrestling Association (WWA) and promoted himself as its champion. While he ran it as an independent promotion with its own titles and champion, the WWA had a working agreement with the larger AWA (owned by wrestler Verne Gagne), sharing talent and recognizing their championships.[24] This agreement benefited both promotions and led to the Bruiser having five AWA World Tag Team Championship reigns, with tag team partner, The Crusher,[12] who was billed as his "cousin". The Bruiser was the first to christen Manager Bobby Heenan with the nickname of "The Weasel"[2] during his run in the territory. Afflis' WWA ran from 1964 until 1989, when he finally tired of losing talent, TV, and fan attendance to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). In 1971 he teamed with The Shiek and faced Crazy Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler for the newly created WWWF Tagteam Championship which graham and Tyler won.[3][25]

Dick the Bruiser in 1973 along with Crusher Lisowski

Afflis, with his charisma, NFL notoriety, and gravelly-voiced, tough-guy persona was a legitimate cross-media star, becoming something of a hero in the Indianapolis area.[26] He made his home on the northwest side of the city. Indianapolis native David Letterman (whose career would be launched by the Bruiser)[27] would later name his television show's band The World's Most Dangerous Band as a derivation of Dick the Bruiser's nickname, "The World's Most Dangerous Wrestler".[28] The moniker "Dick the Bruiser" was even used in the 1980s by George Baier, a co-host of the morning drive show on Detroit rock radio station WRIF. Baier's "Richard T. Bruiser" was an effective, entertaining impersonation of Afflis, who actually played himself in a number of popular TV ads for WRIF. After retiring, Afflis was a color commentator for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), founded by David McLane, who had previously risen through the ranks as a teenager to manage the WWA for The Bruiser. He also worked as a talent agent for World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and was the special guest referee at the Starrcade 1990 main event between Sting and the Black Scorpion.[29]

Personal life and death

His son in law wrestles as Dick the Bruiser Jr. in the independent circuit.[30]

Afflis died of internal bleeding on November 10, 1991, according to a spokesman for Suncoast Hospital in Largo, Florida, near his winter home. His widow, Louise, said her husband had been weightlifting at home with his adopted son, Jon Carney, and ruptured a blood vessel in his esophagus.[31]

Championships and accomplishments

References

  1. ^ "'Dick The Bruiser,' 62, Dies In Florida". Classic Wrestling Articles. June 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Shields, Brian; Sullivan, Kevin (2009). WWE Encyclopedia. DK. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0.
  3. ^ a b "Dick The Bruiser – Online World of Wrestling". www.onlineworldofwrestling.com. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  4. ^ Hester, Matthew. "CvC: Dick the Bruiser, The First American Bad Ass!". Bleacher Report. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  5. ^ "Kane's red-hot speech helps set WWE's historical Hall of Fame Class of 2020 and 2021 induction ablaze". WWE. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  6. ^ "2021 WWE Hall of Fame Legacy Inductees: photos". WWE. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  7. ^ "The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  8. ^ Bodenhamer, David J.; Barrows, Robert G. (1994). "Afflis, Richard, aka Dick the Bruiser". The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-11249-1.
  9. ^ Thompson, Ken (April 22, 2016). "Book captures spirit of 'Dick the Bruiser'". Journal & Courier. Lafayette, Indiana. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Grasso, John (2014). Historical Dictionary of Wrestling. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810879263.
  11. ^ a b Mitchell, Dawn (November 19, 2015). "Dick the Bruiser: 'World's most dangerous wrestler'". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Pro football players who became pro wrestlers". Newsday. August 30, 2016. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  13. ^ Maxymuk, John (2003). Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore Them. Big Earth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-879483-90-3.
  14. ^ Rivard, Raymond (2015). "Green Bay Packers: 72 days to football – remembering Dick 'The Bruiser' Afflis". Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  15. ^ "Alex Karras was football star, actor - and wrestler". Slam Wrestling. October 10, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  16. ^ orangebeanindiana (January 24, 2020). "The Greatest Bar Fight in History: Mongo vs. the Bruiser". OrangeBean Indiana. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  17. ^ white, Gordon S. Jr. (November 20, 1957). "WRESTLING ENDS IN RIOT AT GARDEN; 2 Policemen Hurt as Fans Storm Ring and Throw Chairs and Bottles". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  18. ^ Bul, George; a (September 29, 2017). "The Way It Was - Alex Karras, 1970". Hour Detroit Magazine. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  19. ^ "BRUISER AFTERMATH ARTICLE". Detroit Free Press. April 25, 1963. p. 37. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
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  21. ^ Rickard, Mike (January 4, 2018). "Dick The Bruiser - Dead at 62". Wrestler Deaths. Archived from the original on March 18, 2019.
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  23. ^ White, Gordon S. Jr. (November 20, 1957). "Wrestling Ends in Riot at Garden: 2 Policemen Hurt as Fans Storm Ring and Throw Chairs and Bottles". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
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  26. ^ Funk, Terry; Williams, Scott E. (June 1, 2012). Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-61321-308-7.
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  28. ^ Freedman, Lew (September 7, 2018). Pro Wrestling: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-4408-5351-7.
  29. ^ "Starrcade '90: Collision Course". CXF | Culture Crossfire | culturecrossfire.com. December 11, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  30. ^ Ogara, Joe (November 24, 2008). "Bruiser Jr. carries on family tradition". NUVO. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  31. ^ Oliver, Greg (April 1, 2005). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-683-6.
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  36. ^ World Heavyweight Title (Omaha) history At wrestling-titles.com
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  38. ^ NWA International Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
  39. ^ Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Top 500 Wrestlers of the PWI Years retrieved October 7, 2018
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  46. ^ World Heavyweight Title (Georgia) history At wrestling-titles.com