Crowbar Press


Paperback: 235 pages

Dimensions: 6x9

Publisher: Crowbar Press

Photos: 300 b&w

Cover: Full color

ISBN: 978-1-9403910-7-6

Item #: cbp25-db

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BRUISER: The World's Most Dangerous Wrestler

Synopsis  |  Excerpts  |  Chapter Titles  |  Reviews  |  Media Appearances  |  Crowbar Press

"BRUISER: The World's Most Dangerous Wrestler" is available exclusively from Crowbar Press.
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The Free Dictionary
n. Informal
1. A usually large or powerfully built person who is aggressive or readily gets into fights.

"When I started wrestling, everyone like Gorgeous George had on capes [and] big robes; really gaudy and everything.  Then I came along and all I had was pair of trunks and my shoes.  I had no gimmick.  It was the absence of gimmicks that made me different."
—  Dick the Bruiser

  There have been several "Bruisers" in professional wrestling's history Bruiser Brody, Don the Bruiser, Bruiser Bob Sweetan, to name the three most recognizable — but the name synonymous with pro wrestling for almost three decades was "Dick the Bruiser."

  A former Green Bay Packer lineman who found more money and success in pro wrestling than he did professional football, Bruiser is a name people readily mention when talking about the golden age of the sport.  Bruiser didn't languish for long in opening matches, and within a few months of his June 24, 1954, debut, Bruiser was cracking heads and pounding flesh in main events from coast to coast across the United States.  Words that desribe Bruiser's in-ring style are believability, belligerence, domination, unpredictability, explosiveness, intensity, and rampage.

  Bruiser's story may never have been told had it not been for author Richard Vicek's dogged determination to interview and correspond with hundreds of people who knew our Bruiser during various stages of his lifetime.  They all shared their memories and experiences.

  To wrestling fans, Bruiser was a intimidating bull of a man who put fear into the hearts of his opponents and could not be controlled by wrestling promoters.  What they didn't know was, Bruiser was co-owner of a highly successful wrestling promotion based in Indianapolis, in which he served as both an executive producer and as the star performer of the show.

  In all respects, Bruiser left an indelible mark in pro wrestling history that will never be matched in either longevity or significance.  This book is a testament to the legacy he left behind.

Excerpts from "BRUISER"

Excerpt from Chapter 1
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Herbert Clawson of Colfax kept his school autograph book from the 1930s and shared a slice of Afflis' sense of humor with messages such as "Why didn't you give me a piece of candy, you little skunk?"  Clawson also said Afflis would squirt water near the zipper on Clawson's pants to give the impression that Clawson had "an accident."  Young Sonny also would take piano lessons and participate in school recitals, playing a piano solo for the standard piece, "The Dirigible." (Yes, in the year after the horrific Hindenburg Disaster in Lakehurst, New Jersey)

Excerpt from Chapter 2
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Fraternity brother Jackson H. Teetor remembers this story:
  "Someone in the group challenged Bill to a push-up duel if he [Bill] would just use one arm.  Bill agreed to the handicap and we started the count.  When the count went over fifty, Bill looked over and found the competition had given up, so he stopped.  We never learned how many one-arm push-ups Bill could do.  Certainly, the challenger hoped to be able to brag about beating Bill."

Excerpt from Chapter 3
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Late [University of Nevada] teammate Jerry Wyness remembered these incidents:
  "The first time I tried to block him, he shortened my height [by] about four inches, or so it felt.  The second time I decided to use a cross body block, and Afflis picked me up by my head and crotch, and ran me like a horizontal beam into the fullback."

Excerpt from Chapter 4
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  During the same season, offensive guard Al Barry joined the team and would later write about Afflis in the book The Unknown Lineman / the lighter side of the NFL.  Barry remembers Afflis pointing out a particular player just prior to a kickoff, delivering a forearm blow, and literally knocking that unlucky opponent unconscious.  That opposing team was the number-one nemesis of the [Green Bay] Packers, the Chicago Bears.

Excerpt from Chapter 5
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Former Green Bay Packer teammate, Hardboiled Haggerty recalled his exchange with Afflis:
  "I said, 'Have you ever thought of wrestling?'
  "He says, 'Yeah, but I don't know what to do.'
  "I called Wally Karbo and bought Bruiser his first wrestling trunks.  He went into Minneapolis, and did so well there, he went down to Chicago.  He got in with Fred Kohler and was on his way."

Excerpt from Chapter 6
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  [Wrestler Billy] Wicks told about the experience in a 1998 interview with Scott Teal.
  "I didn't get to talk with (Bruiser) before the match, or after for that matter.  They just told me to go in there and lay down [lose the match] when I was ready.  Bruiser charged across the ring and tore into me.  I just moved around and took him down.  I got up and he starts stomping and kicking me.  I wasn't used to being abused like that.  He started stomping the shit out of me and I'm going, 'Wait a minute now.  This is supposed to be a work.'  Of course, he didn't want to let me have anything, so I just started screwing up every time he tried anything.  He picked me up and slammed me.  He picked me up to slam me again, but I got a little heavier for him that time.  The third time, I small packaged him up, then let him go.  Well, he didn't like that too much.  I thought, 'Hell, what's going on here?'
  The referee says, 'Slow down, kid.'
  Anyway, I did the job and made $800.

Excerpt from Chapter 9
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  An interview Scott Teal conducted with Southern wrestler/promoter Buddy Wayne in March 2000 revealed a different side of Bruiser; one not normally seen by the general public:
  I was in Atlanta at the Ponce de Leon ballpark on May 27, 1961.  Argentina Rocca was there, Yukon Eric, Dick the Bruiser.  Me and Bruiser were in the dugout.  That's when he was hot as a firecracker.  This little girl, maybe four or five years old, eased over and said in a shy voice, 'Mr. Bruiser, can I have your autograph?'  He looks all around, reaches over for the paper, writes on it, hands it back to her.  'Thank you,' and she walks off.  Dick looks all around again and goes, 'I don't guess nobody saw that, did they?  I couldn't tell a pretty little girl like that no.'

Excerpt from Chapter 10
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Late on the night of Tuesday, April 23, Dick the Bruiser paid a visit to the Lindell Athletic Club, where Alex Karras and one of his partners, James Butsicaris, were hanging out with patrons.  The Detroit News later that day printed a police account of the events which unfolded, whereby Afflis entered the bar around one a.m., verbally attacked Butsicaris and Karras, was refused service, grabbed Butsicaris by the shirt, and swung his fist.  A brawl erupted that involved patrons and, eventually, the police.  During the fracas, two policemen were injured, Andrew H. Meholic (broken wrist) and James Carolan (torn elbow ligament).

Excerpt from Chapter 11
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Bruiser's style of wrestling wasn't typical for St. Louis.  Shortly before leaving to wrestle on Wrestling at the Chase in fall 1963, he received a cautionary, but polite, letter from Sam Muchnick dated September 9, 1963.  Muchnick welcomed the Bruiser and envisioned him to be "an important part of our programs."  Muchnick spoke frankly and said, "I know you are a rough wrestler and no one is attempting to curb your style except there are certain rules that MUST be obeyed."  Muchnick warned, "If they are not, then I must tell you reluctantly that we must come to a parting of the way."  The letter ended with, "Kindest personal regards, Sam Muchnick."  It is believed that letter set the tone for a fruitful and respectful relationship between Muchnick and Bruiser that lasted nearly 20 years.

Excerpt from Chapter 12
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  While they [Dick the Bruiser & Wilbur Snyder] were business partners in Indianapolis, that fact was not known to fans in other wrestling territories since they were often booked against each other.  In the eyes of those fans, Bruiser and Snyder were bitter enemies, intent on destroying each other.

Excerpt from Chapter 14
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  It is believed that the continued red ink in Chicago and elsewhere led Fred Kohler to seek another business partner to help pump up business.  While Kohler was looking for someone with ready cash who could help absorb potential losses on wrestling operations, he would benefit by being given an opportunity to buy a piece of Kohler's company.
  That new partner turned out to be William F. Afflis, aka Dick the Bruiser.  Mike Snyder remembers his father, Wilbur Snyder, also being a part of the revamping of Chicago.
  The first wrestling event totally under the control of the new entity was scheduled for January 8, 1966.  The trio of Gagne, Bruiser, and Snyder a secret cabal, as it were booked Chicago and the wrestling fans were none the wiser.  For all the fans knew, the promoter was Bob Luce, which is what they were told.  They had no idea Gagne, Bruiser and Snyder were calling the shots in the background.

Excerpt from Chapter 17
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  During the first few years of their promotional efforts, Bruiser and Snyder booked regular shows in Louisville, Kentucky.  A lack of ticket sales and audience interest resulted in them eventually abandoning the town.  A few years later, wrestling promoter Jerry Jarrett, who worked for the wrestling promotion headquartered in Nashville under Nick Gulas, became interested in Louisville.  Jarrett approached WLKY-TV Channel 32 in Louisville about the possibility of showing the Tennessee program, then videotaped at WMC-TV in Memphis.  Their first TV program aired in Louisville on June 21, 1970, and they held their first house show on July 7.  A newspaper report said "The crowd at the Convention Center was small about 1,000."  With the TV program promoting the Tennessee wrestling crew, they began promoting weekly cards in Louisville.  Mike Snyder remembers that "Bruiser was irate about that."  Snyder added, "They (Dick and Wilbur) were not going to allow somebody to come in and start doing what they did to Balk Estes and (Jim) Barnett."

Excerpt from Chapter 19
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Veteran Bobby Bold Eagle had his own dispute:
  "He [the Bruiser] paid me.  He gave me a check and I didn't like the payoff.  The whole deal was we had a sellout [at Market Square Arena].  When he gave me the check, I went back to him and said 'Here,' and put the check back in his pocket.  I wouldn't cash it.  I said, 'Here you are.  Go buy yourself something from me ... a night out.'  I then walked away.  He [the Bruiser] would send the money with one of the other wrestlers.  The Bruiser said, 'If you don't take it, you are fired.'  He fired me ten times.  When the time came at the TV station, he came up to me and said, 'I'm going to give you this check for the last time, and if you don't take it, you can pack your bags and get out.'
  By that time, I needed the money, anyway.  He picked up the check and wrote underneath, 'overpaid for talent.'"

Excerpt from Chapter 21
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Author Larry Matysik, one of Brody's best personal friends, noted that "always sensitive about money, Brody felt that the Bruiser had shorted him."  Verbal negotiations didn't seem to resolve the disputes.  Their disagreements came to a head at a January 27, 1981, spot show in Peoria, Illinois.  Dick and Brody were opponents in the main event that night.  However, the two "Bruisers" also went at it for real in the locker room.  As Matysik wrote, "Frank [Brody] cracked Dick's head open, knocking him goofy, and a row of lockers was demolished."  On Friday February 6, 1981, both wrestlers were scheduled to appear on Sam Muchnick's wrestling card at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis ...

Excerpt from Chapter 22
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  Bruiser and Snyder had worked hard since 1964 to build and grow their wrestling business in Indianapolis.  Nobody can take away the decades of distinguished and unforgettable service they contributed to the wrestling industry.  However, the rhetorical question should be, was that the best decision for the long-term viability of their business?
  The results of those business decisions are best illustrated by comparing Dick the Bruiser's payoffs from the zenith in 1972 to the lackluster year of 1980.  For nineteen matches in Indianapolis and Chicago in 1972, Bruiser earned nightly payoffs of more than $1,000, and he was paid more than $2,000 for seven of those bouts.  At the end of 1980, there were only six payoffs over $1,000, not counting one series in Japan for which he was paid $3,000.

Excerpt from Chapter 23
Copyright © Richard Vicek
  After Sting won the match by pinfall, the ring was stormed by the allies of the villainous Black Scorpion, including Arn Anderson, who smashed the Bruiser in the back with a folding chair.  Later, the Black Scorpion was unmasked as Ric Flair.
  It was noticeable to the "smart" fans that Bruiser didn't sell the chair shot, or anything else, for that matter.  He didn't sell much during his career, and he wasn't going to begin then.

Chapter titles and contents

Foreword by Chuck Marlowe

PART I - The Evolution of the Bruiser (1929-1954)
1. Not So Humble Beginnings (1929-46)
2. Hard Knocks at Purdue (1947-48)
3. Hard Knocks Continue at Nevada (1950-51)
4. As Wide As He Was Tall (1951-54)

PART II - Quick Rise to Main Events (1955-1963)
5. I Just Acted Naturally (1955)
6. A Voice Like A Ruptured Foghorn (1956)
7. A Night to Remember (1957-58
8. No Lilacs, Bobby Pins, or Peroxide (1958)
9. I Created A Monster (1959-63)
10. I Got In A Fight (1963)
11. Spreading The Mayhem (1959-63)
  PART III - Co-Executive Producer and Co-Star (1964-1974)
12. Build A Better Mousetrap (1964)
13. Championship Wrestling Inc. (1964-65)
14. The Pfefer Experiment (1963-65)
15. Chicago Wrestling Club, Inc. (1966-68)
16. Yippies, Dippies, Hippies (1969)
17. Comiskey Cage Contest (1970-71)
18. Making Money and Lots of It (1972)
19. The Sheik vs. The Bruiser (1973-74)

PART IV - Slow Fall from Grace (1975-1991)
20. Ten Years of Decline Starts (1975-76)
21. Another Bruiser Arrives (1977-79)
22. Continued Lethargy (1980-83)
23. Bruiser's Last Stand (1984-90)
24. The Final Fall (1991)
25. Epilogue

Photo gallery

Reviews and comments

  I received the book today and I am beyond words with seeing the effort put into it.  The photos and collection of programs alone brought back great memories of my time working on Bruiser's TV broadcasts and some house shows in the '80s.  I am super impressed with the work that went into it.  I was my first live wrestling event in Chicago around the same time Richard Vicek began going.
Edward Shanahan, aka Mickey Shannon

  The more I read, the better I like it.  You guys have done yourselves proud with the way the material is displayed and organized.  It's a read that makes me want to re-visit that era and cinch together my own researches by adding "new" material I've found in "BRUISER."
  That Barnett-Doyle-Bruiser era was exemplified by the "Big Time Wrestling" TV show that was syndicated across the country.  I watched it as a teen-ager in Seattle and got my first looks at a lot of those guys, including The Sheik and Bruiser.  I enjoyed Menacker's ringside commentary and, of course, they had a huge lineup of top names and headliners.
  One can only wonder what might have happened had not Barnett had to flee the country (again, the University of Kentucky kick-back prompted him, I am sure) for Australia.
  Certainly, Barnett and Doyle would have linked more permanently with Shire's Cow Palace operation in San Francisco ... they would have had to come to some accomodation with Gagne, but that most likely would have happened, too, given that Bruiser & Snyder linked up easily enough with him to share Chicago later in the decade.
  There, then, would have been Muchnick's NWA operation and McMahon's nascent, pre-WWWF promotion in the major cities of the East.  But Doyle had connections to all that, through his previous workings in New York and Boston ... and Muchnick and Longson already were partners with Barnett in Indianapolis, and cooperating with talent for the St. Louis shows.
  I would guess that, somehow or other, they all may well have lashed together the national promotion Kohler and Barnett had first envisioned a decade previously when they were promoting around the country off the DuMont Marigold shows.
  But, when Barnett (and Doyle) went Down Under, and The Sheik got control of Detroit, there wasn't anything left, really, to stop McMahon's WWWF from growing into the mini-colossus it was by 1967-68.  Shire and Gagne stayed in their fiefdoms, while Muchnick continued to circulate his champs (Thesz, Kiniski, etc.) and McMahon, with all the big Eastern seaboard cities under his wing, began printing some serious money.
  It remained for the advent of cable TV, and the Atlanta super station, before anyone began growing new notions about a coast-to-coast promotion — which, of course, Vince "Junior" eventually brought to fruition ...
  Which is all the more reason for me to trace the history of TV wrestling from its origins to the consequences of what young McMahon wrought.
  An argument can be made, though, that a good many of the best shows — and top talents — were wherever Dick the Bruiser found himself working.  And that's why the Vicek book is not only eminently readable, but important as well.  You've done good, my man!
J Michael Kenyon

  I do enjoy your books and own several already.  Your best work is still Ole's book, in my opinion, but I very much enjoyed Fargo's book and all the others are good.
  I actually helped Richard "Redman" get in contact with a few of his sources up here in the Twin Cities and talked to him throughout the process.  Nothing worth acknowledgement, but I was glad to help.  He had some incredible finds in his work on Bruiser's life and business.  The amount of work he put into this book was incredible, along with the personal expense he covered in doing his research.  I'm old enough to remember Bruiser at the Marigold, and legend has it my great grandmother called the Chicago Police when he smashed Bob Ellis's face in the birthday cake the orphans gave him on TV.  :-)  I know she hated him.
  I grew up in Chicago and Northern Illinois, now live outside the Twin Cities and teach at a community college.  I've been friends with the "Illinois boys" for a long time ... Rich Tito, Glen Rylko, Redman, and, of course, the the late and really missed Clawmaster Jim Zordani.  I am kind of a Bruiser collector, have a few unique things, but accumulated too much wrestling stuff over the years just like everybody else.
  I hope people realize it's just not a wrestling book, but the life story of a very unique individual with his non-wrestling life in it.  I do know Richard had his frustrating moments and you getting involved will only increase the success of the book.
  If Richard does a signing up here I'll certainly make it.
Dan Roeglin

Media appearances by the authors

Schedule media appearances

Wrestling in the Garden