It was the weekly ritual.
You go to church on Sunday and you’re nice and wholesome.
Then you rushed home to watch All-Star Wrestling — sanctioned by the AWA. The American Wrestling Association.
You then sat at the edge of your chair screaming as Milwaukee’s favorite son, the one, the only, The Crusher delivered eye gouges, rammed heads together and beat those bad guys from pillar to post.
As Crusher Fest approaches, lets take a trip down Memory Lane and review exactly why this cigar-chomping grappler deserves a statue as well as a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.
The interviews: You have to admire a gravel-voiced guy who had the vision and courage to make “Turkey neck” part of his everyday vocabulary. Every now and then, he’d blurt out “I’m gonna murder dat bum!” Obnoxious manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who had a habit of interfering in matches, was always referred to as “The Weasel.” And rightfully so.
The training: The Crusher often said that he got in shape by running along the lakefront while carrying a large full beer barrel over either shoulder. And then he’d dance polkas with the dollies all night long. If athletes in other sports used this training regimen, nobody would go on the injured list.
The rivalry: Forget Packers-Bears. If you wanted intensity, The Crusher against Mad Dog Vachon was it. Talk about your action. As the legendary Marty O’Neal used to say, “Fans, this is one you won’t want to miss.”
The gimmick matches: You can’t be a beer guzzler and not challenge guys to a Saloon Match. The Crusher took on a young Dusty Rhodes in this match where wrestlers were stationed outside the ring to throw the participants back in after they flew out or tried to run away. A few times, The Crusher teamed up with his “cousin” Dick The Bruiser and vertically-challenged wrestler The Little Bruiser against Lanza, Mulligan and Heenan. Somehow Bobby The Brain did not game plan for The Little Bruiser.
Acting ability: The Crusher appeared in the star-studded 1974 motion picture “The Wrestler” with such acting luminaries as Ed Asner, The Bruiser, British Empire champion Billy Robinson, Verne Gagne, Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, Harold Sakata as Odd Job and Roger Kent at ringside. The unthinkable happened afterward. This movie was snubbed by dem bums at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He also starred in a Byron’s Tires commercial where he folded a casing in half and yelled “Don’t be a turkey neck! Get your tires from Byron’s!” You know, being a turkey neck was worse than being a nerd.
The music: The Crusher once served as a conductor for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. In a perfect world, the song would have been “Beer Barrel Polka.” As a side note, you never saw Leonard Bernstein in a steel cage. Also, the Novas paid tribute to the wrestler who made Milwaukee famous by releasing a rock and roll song about him. It climbed to No. 88 on the Billboard chart. Maybe The Crusher should have bolo punched it higher. A lot of guys, not wanting to be turkey necks, learned the words and sang it in the shower to impress their significant others.