Dick the Bruiser was one of the toughest men in the sport. The tag team he had with
Crusher Lisowski was one of the most brutal and accomplished in history. Bruiser, as a
singles competitor, was a former WWA World Champion and held the NWA United States
Heavyweight Title more then ten-times. From elderly grandmothers to the youth of
America, Bruiser drove people to rise out of their seats and either call him every name in
the book, or cheer with a smile larger then humanly possible. The casual fans of the
Midwest would normally recognize the Bruiser and the Crusher on their television sets.
They were usually causing havoc. Dick the Bruiser’s ring career stretched from the
1950s to the 1980s. People who bought wrestling magazines during the that era were
used to seeing pictures of a bloodied Bruiser after a match.
Richard “Sonny” Afflis was born in Lafayette, Indiana and was a football standout in
high school because of his mammoth size and agility. He went to Iowa University and was
an All-American Football Lineman. Another source stated that Afflis went to Purdue
University and the University of Nevada. Bruiser was signed by the Green Bay Packers
as an offensive lineman at left tackle and was team captain of the 1953 and ’54 seasons.
He trained with Leo Nomellini of the San Francisco 49ers for his processional wrestling
Bruiser made his professional debut in early 1955. He won by disqualification,
surprising many, over a brutal Great Bolo in Denver on August 8, 1957. Bruiser teamed
with Wladek Kowalski on October 15, 1957 in New York and lost to Antonino Rocca and
Miguel Perez Sr. in front of 18,000 fans. A young Bob Ellis, who was competing as “Bob
Elliott” beat Dick on November 7th in Denver. It was a shocking loss considering Bruiser’s
national ranking and propelled Elliott into a new spotlight. The Bruiser continued to travel
between the northeast and the Midwest for shows.
On November 19, 1957, Bruiser and Dr. Jerry Graham’s loss to Antonino Rocca and
World Champion Eduardo Carpentier instigated a riot of an estimated 500 fans at
Madison Square Garden. The fans weren’t upset about the referee’s decision to
disqualify Graham and Bruiser. They were rioting to get their hands on the losers. Two
police officers were injured in the after match altercation and several fans were arrested.
State Athletic Commissioners cancelled future events at the Garden until they came up
with a feasible decision to prevent further actions.
Bruiser faced Verne Gagne on December 14, 1957 for the NWA United States TV Title
in Omaha and lost by disqualification after he smashed the referee, Tom Novak. The
largest crowd in four years at the City Auditorium watched the important contest. In late
December 1957, Bruiser laid claim to the United States TV Title on the grounds that he
whipped Wilber Snyder after Snyder beat Gagne and had him helpless when their recent
match was called off with a disqualification loss. He started to feud with another Omaha
villain on December 28, 1957. Don Leo Jonathan was beaten by Dick the Bruiser in two-
of-three-falls, but the sheer violence over-rode any sincere victory party. To win the
match, Bruiser snatched the shoe off ring announcer Ed Morgan’s limb and smashed
Jonathan with it. The move eventually led to the submission which ended the bout.
Afterwards, Leo pummeled Bruiser, opening a forehead wound which would need seven
stitches to close.
Promoters set a Texas Death Match to settle the feud. On January 4, 1958, Bruiser
beat Jonathan in the seventh-fall by submission. It was a brutal contest. He received the
first Omaha title shot at Eduardo Carpentier on January 11th at the City Auditorium. The
two-of-three-fall match ended with a steel chair being swung by Bruiser at both the
referee and the champion. He was disqualified and granted a rematch on February 1st.
Carpentier beat him in their second match-up with the final two-falls to retain his title.
After the match, an unidentified fan got two swings at Dick in the middle of the ring as four
police officers held him.
Dick the Bruiser won the United States Heavyweight Title for the first time in Chicago
during January 1958 with a win over Gagne. On the 21st of February, Bruiser defeated
Hans Schmidt in the third fall by disqualification after Hans laid an attack on two referees.
He lost the U.S. Title back to Gagne in March 1958 at Chicago. Bruiser defeated Yukon
Eric by disqualification on March 29th after Eric attacked referee, Tom Novak, Deputy
Commissioner Sam Vacanti, and promoter Joe Dusek. A week later, Dick beat Yukon Eric
with two-of-three-falls. “Jersey” Joe Walcott served as the special referee. With Hans
Schmidt now his partner instead of an enemy, the two battled a common threat, Verne
Gagne and Yukon Eric. The match took place on April 12th in Omaha. A double
disqualification was the end result. Both teams went after the two assigned officials.
On May 2nd, Bruiser and Ivan the Terrible lost to the popular team of Antonino Rocca
and Yukon Eric in Omaha with two-losses to a single victory. On Saturday, May 10th,
Rocca defeated Bruiser by disqualification in the third fall and won the match. Hans
Schmidt had entered the ring during the contest and challenged the winner. Immediately
afterwards, Schmidt and Bruiser beat Rocca down. Sam Vacanti and Promoter Joe
Dusek got in the middle and were also attacked. He beat Ivan the Terrible with the final
two falls in Omaha on May 23rd.
In the final card of the indoor wrestling season in Omaha, Bruiser lost to Verne Gagne
in an NWA U.S. TV Title Match. A chair was used in the final victory for Gagne while the
referee was knocked out. Bruiser and Hans Schmidt were soon the number one
contenders to the NWA World Tag Team Title. On August 9, 1958, the duo stopped the
Russian Team of Boris and Nicolai Volkoff to capture the World Tag Title in Omaha. One
report has Schmidt and Bruiser losing a claim to a tag team title prior to September 1958,
but as the follow report indicates, the duo remained champions in Omaha through the
11th of October, at the earliest.
The tag team faced their toughest challenge on October 4, 1958 when they met one
World Champion and one former. Verne Gagne and Edouard Carpentier teamed with
their goals on that tag title. Bruiser pinned Carpentier in the first fall and Carpentier
repaid his foe in the second. The third was not without a certain amount of controversy.
Carpentier pinned Bruiser as Schmidt pinned Gagne, but the referees ruled that only
Schmidt’s fall counted. Members of the 4,000 plus crowd rushed the ring in attempt to
get at the two referees, Jerry Adam and Johnny Lehl, both longtime regional officials.
Police protection was needed to assist the two as they attempted to leave the building.
A rematch was immediately posted by Joe Dusek for Saturday, October 11, 1958.
3,766 fans attended the card at the City Auditorium. There were no falls in the match.
Bruiser and Schmidt were held by Gagne and Carpentier to a 60-minute, time-limit draw.
They had retained their title. The match had been policed by five referees. Bruiser
traveled to Amarillo and participated in a tag team tournament to crown new World Tag
Team Champions, new Rocky Mountain Tag Team Champions, and who would win
$1,000 in cash, on October 30, 1958. He teamed with Ali Bey and beat the former
champions, Gory Guerrero and Ricky Romero, in the first round. They lost in the second
to Larry Chene and Danno McDonald and were eliminated.
The following week, Bruiser lost in his attempt to defeat both Donovan Brothers when
Doug pinned him in Amarillo’s Sports Arena. Bruiser had won one fall. In Omaha on the
city’s first card of 1959, January 3rd, Dick lost a match to Mitsu Arikawa, in which his
second, Ernie Dusek, had actually assisted his opponent. Ernie handed Bruiser a chair
during the third fall to use on Mitsu Arikawa and referee Charley Triggs disqualified him.
Bruiser hit Triggs, two officers and a miscellaneous amount of others inside and outside
of the ring as he went on a violent spree. Arikawa had captured the second in 9:30 and
the third in 8:05 after Dick had won the first in 13:42.
Bruiser teamed with Ernie Dusek on January 29, 1959 in Omaha and beat Tosh Togo
and Arikawa by disqualification after Arikawa hit referee Johnny Lehl. Initially, Bruiser was
disqualified but Jerry Adam stepped in and reversed the call. Members of the 3,732
crowd tossed a half-dozen chairs into the ring during the melee. He regained the NWA
United States Heavyweight Title in Detroit in May 1959 from Wilbur Snyder. During the
summer, he dropped the belt back to Snyder. He beat Snyder with two-of-three-falls on
September 18th in Denver and captured his third U.S. Title before 2,500 fans. The final
fall was disputed. He faced Snyder in a return “Jujitsu Texas Death Match” on October
24th in Denver. Bruiser had three-falls to Snyder’s two when he was tossed from the ring
and unable to return. He gained the second fall on the World Heavyweight Champion,
Dr. X, on Friday, January 22, 1960 in Omaha, but lost the first and the third.
In early 1960, Bruiser regained the U.S. Title from Snyder to continue their war. He
lost the belt to “Cowboy” Bob Ellis, a man he had battled years earlier, in June. Nine days
later, Bruiser captured his fifth United States Championship in Detroit, beating Ellis in a
rematch. Between January-February 1961, he traded the title with Bobo Brazil in Detroit.
On the 1st of March, 1961, Brazil regained the title in Denver in front of 8,000 fans at the
Auditorium Arena. Bruiser beat Brazil in a Denver rematch on March 29th at the
Coliseum. He dodged the “Coco Bump” and was victorious in the third fall. It was his
With the top names promoters Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle were bringing into the
“Mile High City” came huge audiences. Bruiser, Ellis, Brazil, Snyder and others were
constantly performing to crowds ranging from 4,000 to 10,000. He took on the challenge
of Yukon Eric on Wednesday, May 10th in the Denver Coliseum. The match would be a
two-of-three-falls lumberjack match for the title. 7,439 watched Bruiser beat Eric with the
second fall after a knee drop to even the contest. The third ended when Bruiser hit his
opponent with a body press to retain his crown. During the match, Killer Kowalski, who
was one of the lumberjacks, assisted Bruiser. When it was all said and done, a total of
eight wrestlers were in the ring battling it out. Bruiser returned to Denver and gave
Haystack Calhoun a title shot on June 7th. The two were tied at one apiece when both
wrestlers were caught outside the ropes longer then the referee wanted them to, following
the rules. The match was declared a draw.
Promoters brought special referee, Sam Menacker into Denver to officiate a tag team
main event match at the Coliseum set for June 30, 1961. Bruiser was teaming with Killer
Kowalski against Bobo Brazil and Haystack Calhoun. 4,500 witnessed Kowalski beat
Brazil after 7:54 of the initial fall when he used his abdominal claw. Brazil returned the
favor on Killer in the second. Bruiser stepped in and took the third over Calhoun when
he knocked the 600-plus athlete from the ring. Haystack was counted out and the villains
were victors. He received special help from Kowalski on Wednesday, July 19th in Denver
and won the third fall in a grudge match over Bob Ellis. Referee Leo Bahl reversed his
decision upon learning of what had taken place and gave the United States
Championship to the challenger. It was a tough loss for Bruiser, especially to Ellis.
Bruiser teamed with Kowalski again in Denver against Ellis and Pat O’Connor in a
special no holds barred Texas Death Match on August 10, 1961. Bruiser and Kowalski
only took three of ten falls and lost the match. He regained his U.S. Championship from
Ellis on August 31st in a rematch at Denver. Bruiser won the first fall in 2:34 and the third
fall in 13:44. On September 15th in Denver, he teamed with Kowalski against Ellis and
Yukon Eric. Eric was injured in the second fall and couldn’t continue for the third. His
partner decided to venture out alone against two of the most brutal athletes in the sport
and it was Ellis’ biggest mistake. Bruiser and Kowalski destroyed the former U.S.
Titleholder and took the match.
Wilbur Snyder had worked his way up into the number one contender slot and Bruiser
was forced to give the man a title shot on October 4, 1961. Their feud was rekindled.
The two battled to a double countout in the third fall of a tied contest before nearly five-
thousand fans. Bruiser won the first with a body press in 10:48, but lost the second in 1:
40 when Snyder hit a succession of body slams. The ending came at the 9:36 mark.
Promoters scheduled an immediate rematch for the Coliseum. 5,400 paid $14,430 on
October 27th in Denver to see Bruiser and Snyder II. Bruiser could only take the second,
but lost the first and third. The title went to Snyder. It was Snyder’s ninth NWA U.S. Title.
Bruiser again regained the U.S. Title in Denver on Friday, November 17, 1961 in front
of a brave 2,600 fans. A snowstorm was hitting the Front Range at the time. Snyder
used his abdominal stretch to win the first fall in 17:59. Bruiser won the second by
countout, and the defending champion was unable to answer the bell for the final fall. He
lost the U.S. Title on December 1st in Detroit to Fritz Von Erich. Both men went to
Denver, where they were forced to team for a December 8th match against the United
States Tag team Champions, Art and Stan Nielson.
The team immediately self-destructed, if no one had seen it coming. Fritz attempted to
smash Stan, but missed and hit Bruiser. That set up a war between the partners. Bruiser
and Von Erich fell from the ring and failed to return. Bruiser regained the United States
Title for a tenth time, beating Von Erich. Billed as “Friendship Turned Feud,” the two
were immediately scheduled for a rematch in Denver. Of course, the U.S. Heavyweight
Title was the top prize. Nearly 4,000 appeared at the Denver Coliseum after Christmas
on December 29th to witness the contest. Bruiser won the first and third falls against his
hated opponent to retain ownership of his title. The whole situation was putting light on
Bruiser as a face, and he would began to act more the part. He could not get out of
Omaha to appear in Denver on January 17, 1962. His match with Von Erich went on
without him as Snyder filled the void. Von Erich lost. Promoters gave Verne Gagne a
Denver shot at Bruiser’s U.S. Title on February 9th in front of 3,944. He lost the match by
disqualification, but again left the building title intact.
Bruiser finally lost the United States Title to Wilbur Snyder. He teamed with The Sheik
in Denver against favorites, Joe Blanchard and Snyder on March 2, 1962. Dick pinned
Blanchard for the third and winning fall after a body slam. He was scheduled to not only
wrestle The Sheik in Denver on May 25, 1962, but was to back up a former enemy,
Wilbur Snyder in his match against Fritz Von Erich. He was unable to perform either duty
as a plane he was riding in was forced to return to Chicago after succumbing to engine
trouble. Bruiser beat Snyder in Detroit on June 2nd and won his 11th U.S. Title. He
feuded with Ray Stern in July and August 1962 in Denver. The Sheik challenged him for
the title on September 14th in Denver at the Coliseum. The bout was tied until Bruiser
was counted out in the third. The U.S. Belt changed hands. Lord Athol Layton
dethroned the Sheik early in October, and by the end of the month, the belt was once
again on the Bruiser. He beat Layton in two-of-three-falls.
Bob Ellis beat Dick the Bruiser in Denver on February 23, 1963. He suffered a broken
blood vein on his head and the referee stopped the bout. He regained the U.S. Title for a
thirteenth time on March 9th. Bruiser beat Ellis to regain the title at the Auditorium Arena
in Denver in a special Australian Blood Match. The time of the event was 26:13. Bruiser
received a St. Louis shot at the NWA World Title against Lou Thesz on March 15th at the
Kiel. A very large crowd of 12,727 attended the event. Thesz pinned Bruiser for the
initial fall in 13:09. Dick regained his standing in the match by taking the second in 6:18
by pinfall. Lou Spandle disqualified him in the third and deciding fall at the 3:53 mark.
Bruiser lost the U.S. Title to Lord Athol Layton.
Dick the Bruiser entered into a memorable feud with NFL Defensive Tackle, Alex
Karras in Detroit. Adding to the flame burning, Dick the Bruiser went into Karras’ bar in
downtown Detroit and instigated a barroom fight on Tuesday, April 23rd. Promoters
scheduled a Karras-Bruiser match for Saturday Night, the 27th at Olympia Stadium. By
the time the match happened, Karras was suspended by NFL Commissioner Pete
Rozelle for illegal betting. 10,000 fans appeared and witnessed a bloody affair. Bruiser
pinned Karras in 11:21. The entire war was covered by the Associated Press.
Bruiser traveled to the American Wrestling Association where he formed a legendary
tag team with Crusher Lisowski. Together, they were known as the Bruiser and the
Crusher. On August 20th in Minneapolis, the two beat the Kalmikoff Brothers for the
AWA World Tag Team Championship. They lost the belts on February 9, 1964 to Verne
Gagne and Moose Evans in Minneapolis, but regained the belts several weeks later in St.
Paul. Bruiser and Crusher held the title until January of 1965 when they were upended
by the tough team of Harley Race and Larry Hennig. He wrestled two of the sport’s
legends in a special handicap match on November 5, 1965 in St. Louis. Dick the Brusier
battled Dory Funk Jr. and Dory Funk Sr., the father-son duo from Amarillo. He pinned the
elder Funk in 9:10 with a body press. Dory Jr. was disqualified in the second for swinging
a chair and Bruiser took the bout in two-straight.
On the 19th of that month, Bruiser lost to Pat O’Connor in a one-fall contest in St.
Louis. O’Connor pinned Dick in 9:54 after using a reverse back body drop. He teamed
with Bobby Graham in St. Louis on January 7th and lost two-of-three to Johnny Powers
and Bobby Managoff.
Bruiser began promoting in Indiana during the Spring of 1964 after taking the WWA
World Heavyweight Title in Los Angeles. He opened up his own version of the WWA out
of Indianapolis. Between 1964 and 1985, Bruiser captured ten WWA World
Championships. He feuded with the likes of Baron Von Raschke, Bruiser Brody and Mitsu
Arakawa. Bruiser returned to the AWA in 1966 and reformed his tag team with Crusher.
They won their third AWA World Tag Title in May, beating Race and Hennig. On January
6, 1967 in Chicago, they lost the belts back to the former champs. In December ’67, they
regained the tag title, beating Mitsu Arakawa and Mr. Moto in Chicago.
While in the midst of their tag reign, Bruiser captured the WWA World Title on August
29, 1969. They lost the tag belts the next night in Chicago to the Vachon Brothers. He
teamed with Jack Brisco on January 14, 1972 in St. Louis against Pak-Son and Hans
Schmidt. The match was an inconclusive double-disqualification. On March 3rd, he
wrestled “Cowboy” Bill Watts to a wild no decision in 6:00 at the Kiel before 6,567. In St.
Louis, Bruiser teamed with Pat O’Connor on March 17th against Blackjack Lanza and Bill
Watts. The two teams went to a 30-minute draw. He met the Missouri Champion, Harley
Race on September 22, 1972 at the Kiel in St. Louis. Bruiser lost two-of-three falls and
hurt his knee in the third fall. He was counted out after an even match. He teamed with
the Crusher to capture their fifth AWA World Tag Title on August 16, 1975 in Chicago,
beating Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens.
They lost the belts in July of 1976 to Bobby Duncum and Blackjack Lanza. The Bruiser
was still giving his all in the ring. He received an NWA World Title shot against Harley
Race in St. Louis on January 6, 1978 before 10,500 fans. Bruiser tossed the champion
over the top rope in 10:37 to earn a disqualification. He landed an atomic drop and
scored a pin in 1:41 of the second fall. Race pinned Bruiser in the third to retain his
championship. The final fall ended in 5:21. He captured the NWA Missouri Title on July
14th in St. Louis, becoming a double champion. Bruiser lost the belt to Dick Murdoch in
March 1979 at St. Louis. He regained the Missouri Title in January 1982, beating Ken
Patera. He lost the belt in September to Harley Race. Bruiser retired from the sport and
moved to western Florida.
Dick the Bruiser had comments for all watching TBS on November 20, 1990 during the
Clash of the Champions XIII, promoting the upcoming Starrcade Main Event between
Sting and The Black Scorpion in St. Louis. A match in which he was the special guest
referee. Starrcade was held on Sunday, December 16th and the Bruiser was welcomed
with a warm, respectful reception from his fans. He counted the winning pin on the
Scorpion, who turned out to be Ric Flair. During the cage match, members of the
Horsemen attacked Bruiser, but he was able to battle them off with help from Sting.
Bruiser died on November 10, 1991 at Suncoast Hospital in Largo, Florida, at the age
of 62. Dick the Bruiser will forever be known for his toughness on the football field and in
the wrestling ring. He will be an international champion forever.
-A thirteen-time NWA United States Heavyweight Champion
-Defeated Verne Gagne (1958)
-Defeated Wilbur Snyder (1959)
-Defeated Wilbur Snyder (1959)
-Defeated Wilbur Snyder (1960)
-Defeated Bob Ellis (1960)
-Defeated Bobo Brazil (1961)
-Defeated Bobo Brazil (1961)
-Defeated Bob Ellis (1961)
-Defeated Wilbur Snyder (1961)
-Defeated Fritz Von Erich (1961)
-Defeated Wilbur Snyder (1962)
-Defeated Lord Athol Layton (1962)
-Defeated Bob Ellis (1963)
-A five-time co-holder of the AWA World Tag Team Title
w/ The Crusher (1963-’64) defeated Ivan and Karol Kalmikoff
w/ The Crusher (1964-’65) defeated Moose Evans and Verne Gagne
w/ The Crusher (1966-’67) defeated Larry Hennig and Harley Race
w/ The Crusher (1967-’69) defeated Mitsu Arakawa and Mr. Moto
w/ The Crusher (1975-’76) defeated Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens
-A ten-time WWA World Heavyweight Champion
-Defeated Fred Blassie (1964)
-Defeated Gene Kiniski (1965)
-Defeated Wilbur Snyder (1969)
-Defeated Baron Von Raschke (1970)
-Defeated Masked Strangler (1977)
-Defeated Ivan Koloff (1977)
-Defeated Bruiser Brody (1980)
-Defeated Ernie Ladd (1980)
-Defeated Greg Wojokoski (1985)
-A fourteen-time WWA World Tag Team Champion
w/ Wilbur Snyder (1964) awarded
w/ Wilbur Snyder (1964) defeated Angelo Poffo and Nicoli Volkoff
w/ Wilbur Snyder (1966) defeated The Assassins
w/ The Crusher (1967) defeated Chris Markoff and Angelo Poffo
w/ The Crusher (1967) defeated Chris Markoff and Angelo Poffo
w/ The Crusher (1968-’69) defeated Mitsu Arakawa and Mr. Moto
w/ Bill Miller (1970) defeated Jack and Jim Dillinger
w/ The Crusher (1972-’73) defeated The Blackjacks
w/ Bruno Sammartino (1973-’74) defeated Ernie Ladd and Baron Von Raschke
w/ The Crusher (1975-’76) defeated The Legionnaires
w/ The Crusher (1976) defeated Ox Baker and Chuck O’Connor
w/ Spike Huber (1979-’80) defeated Paul Christy and Roger Kirby
w/ Jeff Van Kamp (1984) defeated Abdullah the Great and Jerry Valiant
w/ Bobby Colt (1985) defeated Mad and Super Maxx
-JWA/ NWA International Tag Team Title (1969) w/ Crusher Lisowski
-A three-time NWA Missouri State Heavyweight Champion
-Defeated Dick Murdoch (1978)
-Defeated Dick Murdoch (1979)
-Defeated Ken Patera (1982)
Research by Tim Hornbaker
Other Notes & Information:
Bruiser attended Jefferson High school in Indianapolis and was an All-State guard in 1947.
He once claimed that he hit his line coach over the head with his helmet while at Purdue,
and that's the reason he lost his scholarship.
He went to the University of Nevada at Reno and continued to play football. He was also
a bouncer at Harold's Club. He was, without a doubt, extremely tough, and dealt with
many drunks looking for a fight. His reputation preceded him to the Green Bay Packers
He left pro football because there was more money to be made wrestling.
He obtained his raspy voice after a blow to his Adam's apple, according to the St. Louis
Post Dispatch (7/12/1991).
In 1991, he had an endorsement contract with Flambeau Products, an Ohio steel
company that made tool and mail boxes.
|Dick the Bruiser Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling