Known to wrestling fans as Da Crusher, Reggie Lisowski was a devout Catholic who was married to his wife Faye for 55 years. (Submitted photo)

Reggie Lisowski was best known as “Da Crusher,” a professional wrestling legend whose persona embodied the beer-drinking, polka-loving, working-class spirit of Milwaukee’s Polish community.

But another part of Lisowski’s legacy is equally emblematic of Polish Milwaukee — his Catholic faith. So, when the first “Crusherfest” was being planned in Lisowski’s honor four years ago, his family made a special request: let the high point of the weekend be a polka Mass on Sunday morning, when all other festivities would be suspended for worship.

“It was so important for us to have a polka Mass,” said Lisowski’s youngest daughter, Sherri Brozoski. “Years ago, they had polka Masses everywhere, and it was something our family always did.”

When Crusherfest returns June 3-4 for another weekend of wrestling, music, beer and brats next to the life-size bronze statue of Da Crusher in South Milwaukee, a polka Mass will once again kick off the last day of the celebration — a family tradition, just as Crusher would have wanted it.

“My dad’s whole family loved the polka, and he was a really good polka dancer, for such a big guy,” said Brozoski.

Lisowski was a lifelong South Milwaukee resident whose career in professional wrestling spanned over four decades. He was a three-time American Wrestling Association Heavyweight Champion, a five-time AWA tag team champion, a member of the World Championship Wrestling Hall of Fame and a World War II Army veteran.

He was also an observant Catholic — he and his wife of 55 years, Faye, raised their five children across the street from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in South Milwaukee (St. Mary’s later merged with other parishes to become Divine Mercy Parish).

“Our dad would travel for work — he could be on the road for six weeks at a time and back home for a day and out the door again — but my mom made sure that we all went to Mass. She was there with us every Sunday,” said Brozoski.

“All of us children were brought into the Catholic religion at Baptism, and we had to have all our sacraments and we all went to Catholic school. That was really important to our dad,” said Dawn Lisowski, Reggie Lisowski’s oldest daughter. “Our whole year was kind of planned around sacraments. Every holiday, like Christmas and Easter, was more about the Catholic part of it, and then the celebration. We’ve always carried that faith through our lives.”

Both Reggie Lisowski’s daughters are now parishioners at Old St. Mary’s Parish in downtown Milwaukee. Fr. Tim Kitzke, the pastor of Family of Five Parishes, of which Old St. Mary’s is a part, will preside at the Crusherfest polka Mass.

Dcn. Gary Nosacek, who also serves the Family of Five Parishes, will deliver the homily. Before becoming a deacon, Dcn. Nosacek worked in radio broadcasting and was the manager of the Marvelous Medicino Brothers tag team. He saw Da Crusher wrestle on many occasions, and he said Lisowski’s legacy is one of hard work, good fun and unity.

“It didn’t matter who you were. Everybody was on Team Crusher,” Dcn. Nosacek said. “I remember sitting in the auditorium and people would say, ‘Hey, we won,’ like they were in the ring. Or, on the rare occasion he lost, they would say ‘We’ll get him next time.’ His real legacy is that he brought all these people together.”

Lisowski died in 2005 at the age of 79. In 2018, South Milwaukee City Attorney Chris Smith started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for a bronze statue of the wrestler, and within just a few weeks, he had generated sufficient donations. The statue was unveiled in June 2019 at the first Crusherfest — a celebration of everything Lisowski stood for, said organizer Peggy Clark.

“Crusherfest brings back the blue-collar values of days gone by,” she said. “The festival really stands for the human spirit, the human condition — weaving faith and family into that, because that’s what (Da Crusher) was known for and that’s what was important to him.”

Crusherfest 2023 will be held June 3-4 next to Da Crusher’s statue at 1101 Milwaukee Ave., South Milwaukee. The polka Mass will take place at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 4. For more information, visit

What is a polka Mass?

A polka Mass is a normal Mass in the ordinary form where the liturgical settings — such as the entrance hymn, the responsorial Psalm and the Alleluia — are performed in the polka musical style or in waltz meter.

Musician Jeff Winard has been performing polka music professionally for more than 50 years, and his band will provide accompaniment for the Crusherfest polka Mass. Like Crusherfest itself, polka Masses harken back to a time gone by, said Winard.

“People started out their Sunday with Mass, and then they enjoyed their day with family and so forth,” he said.

The heyday of polka Masses was in the 1970s, said Winard, and he would perform them at almost every parish in Milwaukee, even for weddings and funerals. Though they have grown less popular, they are still “very well received.”

“I think what I like the most about it is that when we’re up there playing, you hear all the people singing along. These folk songs are very melodic and very simple for people to catch onto. A lot of people think they’re going to hear ‘The Beer Barrel Polka’ just with words like ‘Praise God’ — that’s not the case. We present it with reverence, the way it should be done.”