St. Louis Post-Dispatch – November 12, 1991
By Keith Schildroth
Richard Afflis, known to wrestling fans locally and around the country as ”Dick the Bruiser,” died Sunday afternoon at his winter home in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.
He was 62.
Mr. Afflis died of internal bleeding, according to a spokesman for Sun Coast Hospital in Largo, Fla. His widow, Louise, told The Associated Press her husband had been weightlifting at home and ruptured a blood vessel in his esophagus.
There will be no funeral or memorial service, said his daughter, Michelle Replogle.
Staying fit was almost an obsession with Mr. Afflis. He worked out daily with weights and also did a vigorous series of calisthenics. He still wrestled throughout the Midwest and wrestled in St. Louis in 1989.
Born June 27, 1929, in Lafayette Ind., Mr. Afflis attended Purdue University in 1947 on a football scholarship and was named to the All-Big Ten Conference team. He transferred to Nevada later that year and finished his college football career there.
He was one of the heavier players in the National Football League when the Packers selected him in the 1951 draft. A 5-foot-11, 252-pound tackle, he was chosen in the 16th round.
He earned his nickname while playing for the Packers because of his style of play.
Mr. Afflis left football for professional wrestling in 1954 ”to make a better buck.” His decision turned out to be profitable.
In his prime in the mid 1960s, Mr. Afflis earned $100,000 a year, one of the first in his profession to do so.
His trademark scowl, crew cut and gravel voice, the result of a football injury to the larynx, helped earn him the prime-time marquee billing as ”the world’s most dangerous wrestler.”
Mr. Afflis held the distinction of ”world champion” five times in the Worldwide Wrestling Association and the National Wrestling Alliance. He wrestled on many cards in St. Louis at Kiel Auditorium.
Often billed as the villain early in his career, his style was straightforward, rough and always unpredictable. His matches at the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel in the 1960s-70s on ”Wrestling at the Chase,” a live TV show, often were memorable.
”A lot of people didn’t understand Dick,” retired wrestling promoter Sam Muchnick said. ”If I had to walk down a dark alley with a lot of money, Dick is the guy I would have wanted as my body guard. I went to his daughter’s wedding and saw him cry when he walked her down the aisle. This guy had a big heart.”
Mr. Afflis was known for his wild ringside manner. He often would break the pens of autograph seekers and tear down the signs of fans. However, a match with Black Jack Lanza, in the mid-’60s, turned him into a fan favorite.
”I always think the fans deep down liked Dick because he was their type of wrestler, he was a man’s man,” wrestling promoter Larry Matysik said.
”You never knew what Dick was going to do. He was the first real tough guy and a great draw. They talk about [Hulk Hogan selling out. Hogan couldn’t touch Dick.”
Matches against Pat O’Connor, Lou Thesz, Cowboy Bob Ellis, Johnny Valentine, Fritz Von Erich, Wilbur Snyder and later Jack Briscoe, Dory Funk Jr. and Ric Flair were fan favorites.
”He was the toughest man I’d ever faced in the ring,” said Bobby Heenan, who now works in the World Wrestling Federation as a manager. ”He was so tough I thought he would live till he was 200 with the will he had.”
(Some of the information in this story was supplied by The Associated Press.)