A former professional football player, Dick Afflis became a symbol of the 1950’s tough guys – a beer guzzling, cigar chomping “bruiser” of a man.
Dick the Bruiser
Real Name: Richard Afflis
Stats: 6′ 1″ 260 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Richard “Dick The Bruiser” Afflis was an early NFL football star turned pro wrestling legend…one of the key wrestlers during wrestling’s incredible boom after World War II, and with out a doubt one of the most influential brawlers ever. Dick the Bruiser originated, and personified, wrestling’s beer guzzling, cigar chomping, tough-as-nails Bar Room Brawler toughguy character. From the 1950’s and 1960’s, through the 1970’s and early 1980’s Bruiser was a force like few others within pro wrestling. Quite simply, he faced off in some form or another against virtually every wrestling superstar for over 30 years. In the past, it was once joked in wrestling locker rooms that no matter where you had wrestled during your career…until you’d faced off against Dick the Bruiser, you couldn’t really call yourself a true pro wrestler…
At 260 lbs. of solid muscle, with his crewcut and trademark gravely, barreling voice (the result of a crushed esophagus sustained during his NFL career) and a neck thicker than his head, Dick The Bruiser was, along with Buddy Rogers, perhaps the single most hated villain in wrestling after he began his career in the early 1950’s. But unlike the sophisticated Rogers, The Bruiser was known and feared for being a merciless juggernaut inside the ring, brutally punishing his opponents before finishing them off, usually with his famous top-rope knee drop. And his bulldozer, beer-swilling persona was both hated and, at the same time, incredibly popular with the fans. His famous name from his football days, combined with his nationwide notoriety gained by “bustin’ brains” (as he would say) inside the squared circle, Dick The Bruiser was easily one of the best-known wrestling personalities and a true cross-over media celebrity.
One of his first major championships was the nationally prestigious N.W.A. United States Heavyweight title, which he won in 1957. For the next 5 years he dominated the title, winning 5 U.S. championships between 1957 through 1962, and at the same time, he also ruled the tag team division. In 1960, he and Gene Kiniski teamed to win the NWA World Tag Team (Chicago) title, just months before several Midwestern promoters broke away from the NWA, and the championship was renamed the A.W.A. World Tag Team title. Dick The Bruiser would go on to win the A.W.A. World Tag Team title 5 times between 1963 through 1975, with both Wilber Snyder, and Bruiser’s longtime fighting partner The Crusher. Dick the Bruiser also won the A.W.A. World Heavyweight championship in 1966, and dominated the W.W.A. World Heavyweight title, winning it 9 times between 1964-1984.
After a decade or so of being one of wrestling’s most feared villains, yet being cheered by a large section of the audience (especially in Bruiser-strongholds like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Missouri), The Bruiser eventually became a complete, and incredibly popular, fan favorite. He still guzzled beer and chewed on his trademark cigar, but now he — along with his longtime fighting partner The Crusher — were stomping all over the “bad guys” instead of trying to cripple the “good guys.” The two similar brawlers seemed as though they were brothers separated at birth, and they absolutely dominated tag team wrestling in the Midwest.
For 10 years, virtually no one pinned the shoulders of The Bruiser and/or The Crusher. Even fewer made it out of the ring without being battered and bloodied by the violent blue-collar heroes. They were unstoppable, and the fans loved their bombastic exploits. Bruiser and Crusher were so dominant during their matches against the competition (The Valiants, The Texas Outlaws/Rhodes and Murdoch, Von Raschke & Ladd, The Blackjacks, etc.) that once their match was over, they would often trade blows with each other, to the thunderous roar and delight of the sold-out crowds. Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher won the W.W.A. World Tag Team title (in addition to their AWA World Tag titles) 6 times between 1967 and 1976. Even Bruno Sammartino, in one of his very few non-WWF championship reigns, teamed with The Bruiser in 1973, and “Annihilation Inc.” (as they were known) held the W.W.A World Tag Team title’s for nearly 6 months before losing a tainted match to The Valiant Brothers.
As the 1980’s rolled in, having dominated tag team wrestling like few other teams in history, The Crusher moved on to other territories within the A.W.A., and N.W.A. Meanwhile, The Bruiser wrestled primarily in the W.W.A. (Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee), as well as competing for other Midwestern promotions like Central States (Kansas, Iowa, Missouri) and longtime promoter and friend Sam Muchnick in St. Louis. Behind the scenes, Dick Afflis used his vast experience and knowledge to make the W.W.A. — which he owned and operated — into one of the most successful regional promotions of the day. Even though he was a bit older than his days as wrestling’s roughest “toughguy”, Bruiser still manhandled and defeated the best men in wrestling. Likewise, his fearsome, much-deserved reputation proceeded him wherever he wrestled. He continued defeating the best wrestling had to offer like, among others, Harley Race, Ernie Ladd, and “King Kong” Bruiser Brody (who “lost” the right to use the name “Bruiser” in several Midwestern territories by losing to the original Bruiser) for the W.W.A. World title in the early 1980’s. In 1985 he won and lost his last W.W.A. World Heavyweight title to Greg Wojokowski (one of his WWA pupils). Soon after, he retired from the ring, following more than 30 years of volatile competition.
After retiring, and the demise of the WWA, Dick Afflis remained involved with wrestling, working as a talent agent for WCW. He died of a heart attack after completing his daily morning workout on November 10,1991 at the age of 62.
Dick The Bruiser either directly or indirectly influenced generations of tougher-than-tough wrestling brawlers from Bruiser Brody and Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer, to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Cactus Jack/Mankind, of course The Sandman, and dozens in between. The Ring Chronicle proudly inducts the original, real toughest S.O.B. in pro wrestling and one of the sports biggest influences, Dick the Bruiser, into T.R.C.’s Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame…