Pro-Wrestling Dick the Bruiser Page
Last updated 16 September 1999
The huge crowd that filled the 14,000 capacity Indianapolis Coliseum was silent as it waited with pent-up, nervous emotion. Hero of the standing room only audience, Cowboy Bob Ellis, was already in the ring calmly signing autographs for his adoring fans. He was their idol, but it was the other they had really filled the coliseum to see.
Suddenly the arena burst into wild screams of insults and crumbled paper cups were tossed by the hundreds as the most hated man in wrestling started his slow walk to ringside, completely surrounded by a protective ring of uniformed policemen. With blonde hair cropped in crew cut fashion and a rugged face scowling with contempt, he growled like a caged lion, exchanging insults with those near enough to hear and challenging them all to enter the ring with him.
This was the entrance of Dick the Bruiser, a man who, since he left professional football for professional wrestling in 1954, has become the most disliked and most feared man of his profession.
On through the crowd he moved, his gigantic arms hanging outward from his frame because of the muscle spread he possessed in his great chest and shoulders that makes it impossible for him to relax either arm down to his side.
He shrugged off a hysteric fan who had slipped through the police to attack him, then pulled his 6-1, 265-pound frame onto the ring apron. With surprising agility for his huge body he leaped across the top rope and immediately rushed across the ring to attack Ellis, sending autograph seekers flying from the ring apron.
Order was restored and he returned to his corner, pacing like a mad bull during introduction formalities. Cheers for Ellis informed the crowd of the occupant in the other corner. To all this the Bruiser only growled, with gestures of contempt for his would-be tormentors. The bell rang and it started as a good night for the Bruiser. He quickly won the first fall with his questionable ring tactics.
He had Ellis groggy from his clinched fists and vicious knee drops in the second fall when the referee jerked him by the shoulder to pull him off the disabled Cowboy hanging helpless on the ring ropes. The enraged Bruiser turned on the official, slugging him with an elbow and tossing him from the ring. But even the Bruiser cannot get away with this type of action. He was disquilified and lost the match, fined $500 and suspended from Indiana wrestling for 60 days.
To all this the Bruiser had only a cruel smile: "The promoters will be the ones to suffer," he growled. "I have plenty of money and can still wrestle in other states. Those fans come out to see a real he-man in actioin and with me on the card it's a sure sellout. Without me they have nothing. Yeah, only the promoters will suffer because of that hick commission."
Two months later he was back in his native state (although he hates to admit he was born in Indiana) and once more wrestling before sellout crowds just as rough and nasty as he was before the Hoosier commission "cracked down."
From pro football player to bouncer in Las Vegas to one of the top box office attractions in wrestling is the story of Dick Afflis, accurately nicknamed "The Bruiser" for his bone-jarring ring tactics. One of the strongest men in wrestling (he claims to be the strongest), Bruiser has gained fame as one of the roughest and most talented grapplers in the world.
He is also one of the most wealthy. From wrestling the Bruiser's estimated income (he keeps the actual figure a closely guarded secret) is more than $100,000 a year. In addition he has a large investment in a contruction company, building more than 20 homes a year in addition to larger construction work.
And despite his crude ring tactics, Dick is one of the most intelligent men in the wrestling ring. He has attended Purdue, Notre Dame, Alabama, Miami and Nevada Universities, receiving his degree from Nevada.
"I could have graduated from any of those places," the conceited wrestler declares. "I just wasn't satisfied with the small time activities of most of them. Nevada is a wide-open state where anything goes. That's the place for me."
That's why he has abandoned his home state of Indiana and now bills himself out of his adopted home, Reno, Nevada. It was at Harold's Club in Reno where for five years Dick served as bouncer while not playing pro football that he learned the ways of the care-free, gambling, money-loaded visitors.
"That's the way I want to live," the transplanted Hoosier declared to his few friends.
He couldn't do it on his football or bouncer pay, so when a promoter took a look at his remarkable body after watching his jarring tackles on the football field he suggested the Bruiser try wrestling. "In a few years I'm sure you could be making $50,000 a year," was the promoter's promise.
Dick took him up on the proposition, but didn't wait "a few years" to move into the big money. That was in 1954, and in 1955 his earnings exceeded $75,000 and since then are estimated to be between $100,000 and $150,000 every year.
"The fans hate me and I sure have no love for them," the Bruiser says. "They can hate me all they want as long as they buy tickets to see me massacre their heroes."
Dick Afflis as a youngster was the same as thousands of other Hoosier boys. Born in Lafayette, Ind. of middle class parents there was no indication he would become the most feared brute in the wrestling ring.
It was during his high school days at Lafayette Jefferson that this ruggged athlete started a training campaign, bent on becoming the world's strongest and most feared human. During his four years of varsity football in his high school his slam-bang style of play was so violent that he left many opposing linemen with hosptial injuries.
Other teams assigned three and sometimes four men to stop the crushing force of the teenager who was strong enough and cruel enough to have been clashing head on with college, or even professional gridiron roughnecks.
In 1946 when he was graduated from high school, Dick Afflis was the unanimous choice of all three major wire services for All-State honors. His fame had become so great that almost every major college and university in the nation offered him a football scholarship.
He chose Purdue in his hometown of Lafayette where he so impressed the coaching staff that he was given a starting tackle assignment in his freshman year. His second year as a sophomore his performance won him a place on many of the nation's All-America teams and he was an almost unanimous choice for the All Big Ten team.
That's when he decided he was destined for bigger things than "this hick Hoosier state has to offer" and moved his college training and football talents to Nevada. He was a unamimous choice for the All-Pacific coast team in 1949 and 1950.
In 1950 the Bruiser signed a professional contract with the Green Bay Packers and for four years was a mainstay in the line. So great was his play in the 1951 and 1952 seasons that he was chosen team captain in 1953 and 1954. The National Football League will probably never forget the big No. 72 across the powerful shoulders of the great offensive and sometimes defensive tackle of Green Bay. His bone-crushing blocks and jarring tackles earned him the title of professional football's strongest man.
Afflis brought the same human shattering power into the wrestling ring. The awesome visage that is so much a part of the Bruiser has caused American sports writers to speak of him in terms of titanic being. Today the many unbelievable stories of his physical prowess has become an inseparable part of his biography.
He's proud of the time he wrestled and defeated a huge ape. Also of the time he challenged and beat one of the nation's top tag teams--beating them alone.
Many experts speak of Dick as the "greatest attraction in the history of professional wrestling." It can hardly be denied when checking gate receipts from his appearances--receipts from filled stadiums across the country--from the huge San Francisco Cow Palace to Briggs Stadium in Detroit and on to Madison Square Garden in New York. He's broken attendance records in almost every state in the union and several foreign countries.
It's his terrific hatred of the fans, his opponents, the officials, the promoters-all those with whom he comes in contact that has made the Bruiser a top drawing card. Crowds flock to arenas in hopes of seeing him pinned to the mat, but their hope is seldom fulfilled. There are few strong enough to hold him on his back for the required three seconds. Most of his ring losses have been because of disqualifications or injury that his own aggressiveness have brought on.
The Bruiser's temper has become known wherever he has appeared. Almost anything can set it off and the one-time gambling hall bouncer goes berserk every time he gets into the ring. A murderous fury seizes him and he becomes a raging animal. It was that temper that caused opponents to fear him and coaches to demand his ouster while he was playing both college and professional football.
As a professional wrestler he is even meaner and nastier than ever. At times he has been suspended in 16 states and three Canadian provinces for his assaults on other wrestlers, officials or fans.
"Nobody is going to push me around," the brute snarls and means it. "All my life I've had to fight for everything I got. I'm used to fighting. When someone gets in my way, I can't control myself. I want to tear them to pieces and try my best to get the job done. I don't take nothing from nobody."
Many of today's top grapplers express scorn for the Bruiser's wrestling talents. They don't think much of the ex-gridder's technical skill or scientific prowess.
"The Bruiser is no wrestler," claims Bill Melby who has felt the wrath of the Hoosier strongman in the ring. "He's just a big, ugly, dirty bully. He knows practically nothing about wrestling holds and counter-holds-and he cares less."
Despite these claims the Bruiser has beaten some of the ring's greatest-fellows like Verne Gagne, Don Eagle, Wilbur Snyder, Don Leo Jonathan, Ed Carpentier and a score of others.
Carpentier, who has a great deal of respect for Bruiser's strength and ring ability despite the foul tactics, says: "This is not strong man turned wrestler because he couldn't do anything else. The Bruiser was great in football and after college he could have gone in for social work, applied psychology or any of several other fields. Instead, and wisely so, he chose a professtion that afforded him a good income and made use of the incredible physical power that nature, with an assist from weight lifting and football, had endowed him with."
Persons close to the Bruiser (and there are very few) confide that he is not really a psychotic-he's not a schizophrenic or anything like that-but he does have two definite sides to his character.
One is the ring monster the fans see-the vicious, brawling beast that seems to delight in seeing his opponents helpless on the mat as he applies more and more punishment.
But they say there is also another side to the Bruiser-one which the public never sees. That's Dick Afflis, the man who is decent and feels sorry for humanity and wants to do something about it. The "humanity" part of the Bruiser will never be seen by wrestling fans.
There is nothing faked about his hate for his ring foes and fans. His animal instincts in the ring are real and something he enjoys too much to give up.
He almost became a ring hero recently when he teamed with Wilbur Snyder as one of the most successful tag-teams in the midwest. Bruiser had always respected Snyder's ability as a wrestler but declared "he is too nice to ever be really dangerous in the ring." Snyder admired Bruiser's strength, but has called him "the meanest man in the ring."
Promoter Balk Estes of Indianapolis originated the idea of teaming the two, and the move was a great success. In 12 matches the two were undefeated, but their personalities simply would not fit. Bruiser attempted to change Snyder into a roughouse brawler and Wilbur tried to reform the Bruiser.
But the combination was almost unbeatable and, although they have broken up for the present, both admit that they made a good team and someday may rejoin forces to challenge the best among tag-teams.
"Those crazy fans thought just because I accepted Snyder as a partner I was going to be gentle with my wrestling opponents," the Bruiser snarled. "Those guys are out to whip me, so I'll continue to use any means I see fit to beat them to the mat."
And so long as the Bruiser remains a wrestler his fury in the ring will be felt in blood and bumps.
And as long as he is the demon he has shown himself to be in the past, fans will flock to arenas where his name appears. His claim to wrestling greatness is borne in scars and stiches-mostly on the bodies of his opponents. But the fans love it.
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