Lisowski was born and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of South Milwaukee. Early on he was more interested in football, playing fullback for the South Milwaukee High School football team, but took up wrestling while stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army. Having developed a liking for the sport, he continued training with Ivan Racy and Buck Tassie at Milwaukee's Eagle's Club when he returned, eventually wrestling Marcel Buchet in his first recorded match late in 1949.
His early career included wrestling 3 to 4 nights per week at a Chicago armory, typically earning $5 a night. To support himself and to stay in shape Lisowski worked various blue collar jobs by day, from meat packing to being a bricklayer. Fred Kohler was the first promoter to put him on TV, and by 1954 he had developed a barrel-chested physique which would stick with him for most of his career. Decades before Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Sandman, Lisowski perfected the gimmick of the beer drinking tough guy. To further his career he bleached his dark hair blonde and started to get over as a strongman heel, famous for his bolo punch as well as a devastating full nelson. This eventually led to him winning the Chicago-area NWA World Tag Team Championship with partner Art Neilson.
Lisowski continued to have tag team success throughout the remainder of the 1950s, often paired with his "brother" (gimmick) Stan Lisowski. By 1959 he was being billed as "Crusher" Lisowski, which legend has came from a promoter's off-hand comment that he "just crushes everybody." Until January 1965, Crusher was the most hated heel in the AWA. After meeting the legendary team of Larry Hennig & Harley Race for the first time, the fans adopted Crusher and his "cousin" Dick the Bruiser as full-fledged heroes in AWA territory. His bluster was legendary, as he would threaten to maul opponents in the ring and afterward "have a party, take all the dollies down Wisconsin Avenue and go dancing." Besides his impressive physique, The Crusher's gimmick was to absorb a tremendous amount of punishment and still be able to make a comeback for the win.
Over the next 30 years Crusher & Bruiser were tag partners off and on, and a natural combination due to their common background and brawling wrestling style. If Dick the Bruiser and Crusher felt they hadn't bloodied their opponents enough during a match, they would trade punches with each other afterwards. They won the AWA World Tag Team Championship 5 times, the WWA Tag Team Titles 6 times, and the NWA International Tag Titles among others.
Crusher was successful as a solo wrestler, winning the AWA World Heavyweight Championship three times, the first time unifying it with the Omaha version of the World Heavyweight Championship on July 9, 1963 in a match where he defeated Verne Gagne. He was skillful at cutting promos, as he would brag about his "100 megaton biceps" and offer to pummel "da bum" he was facing in the ring with ease, and he often delighted in calling opponents "turkeynecks." His most quotable and famous phrase though was: "How 'bout 'dat?" When asked how he trained for a match, he'd claim he ran along the waterfront in Milwaukee carrying a large beer barrel over either shoulder for strength, and that he'd dance all night with Polish barmaids to increase his stamina.
In 1964 garage rock band The Novas wrote a song dedicated to him called "The Crusher" which included the lyrics "Do the hammer lock, you turkeynecks!" In 1974 he and Dick the Bruiser starred in the movie "The Wrestler," where they beat up a posse of mobsters on the big screen. His career in wrestling almost ended in 1981, when Jerry Blackwell botched a top rope move (Blackwell weighed 450 pounds) and landed on his right arm, causing nerve damage from his shoulder all the way to his wrist. Doctors told him he'd never wrestle again, but Crusher did strength training for two years while he was unofficially "retired," returning to the ring in 1983. Seeing that the American Wrestling Association (AWA) promotion with which he had the most success over the years was crumbling, particularly when Hulk Hogan and many of the other top talent jumped ship to Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Crusher went to work for McMahon on a part-time basis.
Officially Crusher's last match was for the WWF in 1988, but Crusher still found himself involved in wrestling throughout the 1990s. World Championship Wrestling (WCW) elected him to their Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 1998 he made an appearance alongside Maurice Vachon at WWF's Over the Edge PPV held in Milwaukee. Jerry 'The King' Lawler attempted to run down the two as past their prime, and even tried to steal Vachon's artificial leg, but instead got whacked over the head and took a punch from Crusher, to the crowd's delight. As Lawler bailed, the two men who had once regarded each other as enemies shook hands. Lawler tried a second time to get the best of Crusher, but with a trademark cigar in his mouth, he still got the best of The King and sent him packing.
In his later years, multiple surgeries on his hips and knee crippled him, as well as a non-cancerous tumor removed from his brain stem, leaving Crusher partially paralyzed. He died on October 22, 2005.
- Finishing and signature moves
- Stomach Claw
- Bolo Punch
- Full Nelson
Championships and accomplishments
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Minneapolis version) (2 times) - with Stan Lisowski
- WWA World Tag Team Championship (6 times) - with Dick The Bruiser
- Other Titles
- (Minneapolis) British Open Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Stan Lisowski
- World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha version)