The Greatest Bar Fight in History: Mongo vs. the Bruiser
Patrons fled out the door. The Bruiser bellowed. He pitched stools and chairs wildly, against the walls, into rows of clean glasses, onto tables of half-filled beer mugs. The bar stank of spilled beer and spirits.
Automatically, Karras slipped his glasses off and tucked them safely under the bar. He stalked toward Dick silently. He wasn’t sure if there was a damn thing he could do to stop Dick right now. When the Bruiser flew into these rages, it was like fighting an iron tornado. This night would hit the papers, but not like Karras wanted. What a screw-up.
Instead of a semi-suicidal charge at the Bruiser, Karras picked up a bar chairs, clutching its legs tightly his fists and holding it over his shoulder. Dick had his back to him, whipping bar stools end over end into the wall.
Karras took a deep breath then arced the chair down and across the Bruiser’s shoulders, hoping the blow would stun him or at least slow him down. Karras brought beasts down for a living and put everything he had into the swing. The chair exploded across the Bruiser’s back leaving only two shards of wood in Karras’ hands.
The Bruiser didn’t fall or slow, but Karras had certainly gotten his attention. For a moment, the two men faced off, nearly equal in height and weight but not in raw rage. Karras cursed and stepped back.
Dick was crazy and now Dick wanted to kill him. He might have done just that if a swarm of his underworld buddies hadn’t thrown themselves on the Bruiser at that moment. Two men held his arms. One hopped up and hooked an elbow across the Bruiser’s neck. Another punched wildly at the Bruiser’s gut, trying to knock the wind out of him. Yet another wrapped his hands around the Bruiser’s waist to topple him over.
Karras felt a tug at his arm. Jimmy Butiscaris pointed at the bar’s rear exit. “We called the cops, man” Jimmy said. “You need to scoot.”
Before he could protest, Jimmy cut him off. “It’ll be a lot less messy if you’re gone. Easier on me. Personally. Please.”
The Bruiser stumbled, bellowed, and hooted like an angry ox, trying and succeeding in shaking off his attackers. Over his cursing and shouts, Karras heard the approaching whine of a police siren.
“Thanks, Jimmy,” Karras said and left.
In the end, the greatest bar fight in history only started with Dick the Bruiser and Alex “Mongo” Karras. Then it was between the Bruiser and the underworld chums that helped Karras get out with his career intact.
For the main event, Dick the Bruiser faced off against eight Detroit police officers who finally, painfully, brought him down. It took them twenty minutes to tackle Dick and clamp shackles and manacles on him, trussing him in steel and chains. Two officers would be hospitalized afterwards, one for broken ribs, the other for a broken wrist.
The Bruiser went to jail. Detroit police formally charged him with aggravated assault and battery, a serious offense with serious jail time. Dick called his lawyer, made bail, and was out within a few hours, but now had a court date. The April 27th match went on as scheduled, although the attendance was nowhere near what they had expected.
It seemed the barroom brawl and especially the injured policemen had turned the loyal Detroit crowd’s enthusiasm to distaste. When the Bruiser pinned Karras and won the match after less than 12 minutes, the crowd applauded lazily and started filtering out. Both wrestlers would receive a nice paycheck from the bout, but the incident tarnished their careers for years afterwards.
Karras didn’t let his former friend dangle though. Knowing that Dick was, on most occasions, a great guy that sometimes lost his cool, Karras insisted the entire incident, from start to finish, had been a publicity stunt. The police involvement had surprised them both. Karras even suggested Dick thought the police were part of the stunt. A professional mistake, that’s all.
Dick’s lawyers, knowing a judge would probably care little for the Bruiser’s reputation as an entertainer, insisted on a jury trial. The strategy worked. By the time the dust cleared, Dick would pay $400 to the Detroit police and walk away with a stern warning to never pull a stunt like that again.
Alex Karras readily agreed. Although he eventually became part owner of the Lindell Bar and helped finance its move to a less-seedy location, he returned to the NFL in 1964 and played six more years. Later on, he became an actor (most famously on Webster) and football commentator.
Dick the Bruiser kept wrestling and quickly became an early icon of the sport. He wrestled and coached and became part owner of the National Wrestling Association and, later, the World Wrestling Association. He continued wrestling until 1986.
Karras and the Bruiser would have brief “rematches” in later years, capitalizing on the notoriety of the infamous brawl, but kept things carefully scripted and rehearsed. Karras made sure of that. Dick, on the other hand, didn’t understand why everyone got so worked up over a little tussle.