Wrestling legend Baron Von Raschke, Larry Lisowski and “The Incredible” Kenny J stand with the life-size bronze statue of Reggie “Da Crusher” Lisowski at Crusherfest on June 8. (Photo from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, taken by Erik S. Hanley/Now News Group)
Recently, the City of South Milwaukee designated June 8, 2019, officially, Reggie “Da Crusher” Lisowski Day, in honor of the recently unveiled statue of the professional wrestler. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also issued a proclamation, delivered in his absence. Other celebrities present included Baron Von Raschke, before a crowd of a few hundred fans.
(Photo from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, taken by Erik S. Hanley/Now News Group)
According to Wikipedia,
Reginald Lisowski (July 11, 1926 – October 22, 2005) was an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, The Crusher (sometimes Crusher Lisowski to distinguish him from other Crushers, such as Crusher Blackwell). In his obituary, The Washington Post described him as “a professional wrestler whose blue-collar bona fides made him beloved among working class fans for 40 years”.
My grandfather loved Da Crusher, and would surely have donated some coin to the community fundraiser.
There is something interesting, to me, about erecting a statue to Da Crusher in 2019. It participates in one phenomenon worth thinking about, especially in light of kayfabe, and it runs counter to another.
Statues of Fictional Characters
(Image from Wikipedia)
This is the third statue celebrating a fictional character to pop into my news feed, after Mary Tyler Moore and the Fonz. But this presumes that we see Da Crusher as a fictional character. The statue of Da Crusher blurs the line between fiction and reality in much the way old-school wrestling, pre-WWE wrestling, especially, blurred a line between fiction and reality.
Minneapolis is celebrating an entirely fictional character in celebrating Mary Tyler Moore. Milwaukee celebrated an entirely fictional character in the Fonz; little to none of the energy in creating those statues was about celebrating the actors who brought those characters to life.
But Da Crusher is being celebrated as a character and as the local son. I’m still puzzling through how to parse this relationship — if asked, who, or what, is South Milwaukee celebrating when they celebrate the Crusher: their local son, or the character he portrayed?
Communities and New Histories Being Built
At the moment South Milwaukee was building this statue to Da Crusher, statues are coming down across the United States, because the cultural values embedded in those statues have fallen from dominance. What cultural values are being manifest in this celebration in bronze?