“Da Crusher” Celebrated in Milwaukee

Works-In-Process, Wrestler Studies

Wrestling legend (from left) 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.

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.

The bronze statue of Reggie "Da Crusher" Lisowski standing in the crowd on June 8 in South Milwaukee has a very lifelike appearance.

(Photo from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, taken by Erik S. Hanley/Now News Group)

Media coverage was intense: Fox NewsWISN, WTMJ, WTMJ again, and more, both on the day and leading up to it.

According to Wikipedia,

Reginald Lisowski (July 11, 1926 – October 22, 2005) was an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring nameThe 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”.[1]

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 result for mary tyler moore minneapolis

(Image from Atlas Obscura, by lindyi)

Image result for fonz statue

(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?

Hacksaw Jim Duggan Comic Biography

Works-In-Process, Wrestler Studies, Wrestling Comics

This comic biography of Hacksaw Jim Duggan begins “in medias res” — “into the middle of things,” in a Royal Rumble.

Like many mythical births, Hacksaw Jim Duggan was born special.  Consider the baby years of Paul Bunyan:

Now I hear tell that Paul Bunyan was born in Bangor, Maine. It took five giant storks to deliver Paul to his parents. His first bed was a lumber wagon pulled by a team of horses. His father had to drive the wagon up to the top of Maine and back whenever he wanted to rock the baby to sleep.

As a newborn, Paul Bunyan could hollar so loud he scared all the fish out of the rivers and streams. All the local frogs started wearing earmuffs so they wouldn’t go deaf when Paul screamed for his breakfast. His parents had to milk two dozen cows morning and night to keep his milk bottle full and his mother had to feed him ten barrels of porridge every two hours to keep his stomach from rumbling and knocking the house down.

It’s a bit bigger than life, but not much bigger than imagining Hacksaw Jim Duggan born with his signature whoop in place.

hjdc

But then, that’s what makes these biography comics fun, not historical drudgery.

The rest of issue one is drudgery, relatively speaking — the story of a promising young football player whose football dreams are squashed.  But this will be a multiple issue series, so I look forward to the rest.

 

 

Alpha Vs Omega

Fan Reviews, Wrestler Studies

Alpha_Omega_1Wrestle Kingdom 12 has come and gone, and New Japan Pro Wrestling picked up some new fans along the way.  This was largely due to interest in the Alpha Vs Omega dream match between Chris Jericho (Alpha) and Kenny Omega (Omega, obviously).

The build for this match was beautifully done with the rivalry starting on Twitter. I honestly thought they might have a match or interaction on Jericho’s cruise that he has planned for later this year. Like many others, I was proven wrong when a video aired of Jericho challenging Omega to a match. Jericho’s been quoted on several occasions as saying that he would only wrestle in WWE, so the moment this happened was very surreal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiV4Mwfp24w

I was proven wrong again when Jericho showed up in Japan to attack Omega after one of his matches. The attack left Omega a bloody mess and showed a different side to Jericho.  They clashed again at a press conference, which saw Jericho toss a table at Omega. The match was announced to be a No-Disqualification match, which meant that this wasn’t going to be the usual Kenny Omega match. Omega’s matches can range from comedic to very serious athletic affairs. Rarely does he find himself in these No-DQ types of matches, and it’s been a very long time since New Japan had a match that could get this violent.

The No-DQ stipulation would seem to benefit Jericho since he was the older of the two and not quite as spry as he used to be. Before the match even started, the two had to be pulled apart so the bell could ring and the match would start. Most of the early portion of the match took place outside of the ring. Omega went for a dive onto Jericho when Jericho was laid out on the announce table. Jericho got out of the way at the last minute and Omega crashed. Jericho played the heel throughout the match with various tactics, like attacking the referee and the referee’s son, who is a “Young Lion” — basically a wrestler-in-training. Jericho even grabbed a camera and filmed himself flipping off the crowd.

All of the screencaps below are from NJPWWorld.Com.

Omega would get in a little bit of offense, but Jericho always seemed to have a counter. Eventually Jericho wedged a chair in one of the corners of the ring and proceeded to throw Omega face first into it. After three attempts, Omega was cut open.

The way Jericho wrestled the match seemed similar to how the Great Muta would try to injure or maim his opponents instead of getting a victory. Jericho wanted the win, but he wanted to inflict as much punishment as he could on Omega. Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho numerous times in the match, but Omega managed to get out of it each time. Jericho had set up a table outside of the ring earlier in the match, but would eventually get put through it himself after Omega did a jumping knee strike that would knock Jericho off the top rope and through the table. The end of the match saw Omega throw a chair at Jericho when he was going for a Lionsault. Omega then grabbed the dazed Jericho, moved the chair that he just threw at him, and hit the One-Winged Angel on the chair.

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Did this dream match live up to the hype?

In my opinion it definitely did and I had a blast watching it. Omega and Jericho really did a great job of selling that they hated each other. Omega is generally great in his singles matches, but I was most impressed with Jericho. I’ve been a dyed in the wool Jerichoholic for years, but the energy he brought to this match did not feel like that of someone who is 47 years old. It felt like someone who was much younger and had a lot to prove.

Maybe it was the change of scenery, maybe it was how good of an opponent Omega was, but this newly reinvented version of Jericho is one I hope sticks around for a while.

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The match wasn’t perfect though. There were a few moments that took me out of it.

Early on the referee started to count Jericho and Omega out when they were outside too long. No-DQ typically means anything goes as long as a pin takes place in the ring. They could’ve brawled outside for over half the match and there should’ve been no count.

There was also a spot where Omega broke out of the Walls of Jericho by using some cold spray that was under the ring. After blinding Jericho with it, he sprayed himself with it and also sprayed it down his pants. I’m all for comedy spots in matches, but it felt really out of place in this particular match. Finally, there was another bit of a botch in the officiating when near the end of the match, Omega used a rope break to get out of the Walls of Jericho, but earlier in the match Jericho refused to release the hold since it was No-DQ. I know these are general nitpicks, but they did take me out of the match briefly.

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So where do Jericho and Omega go from here?

In the press conference after the event, Jericho said that he was done in Japan. This of course was a lie and the next night he would attack Tetsuya Naito, who is another top New Japan star coming off a loss from the night before. At the same event Omega would offer rising star Jay White a spot in the Bullet Club, but White declined by hitting his Blade Runner finisher on Omega.

Even though it seems like both men are going in separate directions, I would not be against seeing Alpha vs Omega 2 sometime in the future.

Breaking the Fourth Wall in Reverse

Audience Studies, Works-In-Process, Wrestler Studies

Mr_CanadaWithout a doubt, one of the proudest moments of my life occurred on January 29, 2013, when I made my professional wrestling debut in a tag-team match in a show co-hosted by American Pro Wrestling, an upstate South Carolina based promotion, and Wofford College, the institution that made me a tenured professor the year before. I wrestled that night as Mr. Canada, a masked, French-Canadian heel; my partner was Ben Wright, whom APW had named its 2012 “Heel of the Year.” We lost our match in fantastic fashion: after I “accidentally” broke my hockey stick across my partner’s chest, he was then demolished through a ringside table, while I was shamefully de-masked – and then powerslammed, superfly splashed, and pinned.

Mr Canada1I was 39 when Mr. Canada made his debut – not exactly in the springtime of my youth – and I often get asked how in the world I ended up in the wrestling ring and why I thought it would be a good idea to do so. After all, the career trajectory of graduate school to tenure track job to tenure to professional wrestler is not exactly the most common one in the world of academia.

I’ll begin this blog entry answering these how and why questions, and then I’ll move to the questions I pondered for months after my 2013 wrestling debut: what new lessons about pro wrestling did I learn when I moved from careful observer of professional wrestling to actual professional wrestler – when I broke the fourth wall in reverse (so to speak)? Did this experience give me new insights into a cultural form that I previously appreciated only as a fan and a scholar?