While many others have made the claim, The Dusek Riot Squad is the true "first family of wrestling." From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Dusek family's reach ranged from fighting heavyweight championship matches to popularizing tag team wrestling to booking and promoting.
The family, which consisted of seven boys and one girl, were born to a fisherman/butcher who hailed from Omaha, Nebraska. Four brothers who decided to enter the mat wars were: Rudy, born in 1901; Emil, born in 1905; Ernie, born in 1909; and Joe, born in 1910. The family's real last name was Hason (pronounced Haa-son). "Even though they're full-blooded Bohemian, it didn't sound like a Bohemian name," explained Jo-Ann Dusek, Joe's daughter. "So, the way I hear it, the name Dusek, there was a lady that was the godmother to Rudy, and her last name was Dusek. So they took her name for wrestling." Those same Bohemians would pronounce the new name Du-shek.
Raised on the riverbank of the Missouri river, Rudy had set up a ring on their land.He trained with the legendary Farmer Burns when he started out and also wrestled at the local YMCA, where he won a state amateur title in 1918. He turned pro in 1922, and hit the road traveling to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he became Rudy Dusek, and moved up the cards fast. By 1926, he was battling top names such as Joe Stecher, and by 1930, he was competing for the world's title.
Emil and Ernie would follow their brother into wrestling by the late 1920s, and the youngest brother, Joe, came after them. Before tag team wrestling became popular, they would often wrestle in singles on one card, cheering each other on.
Their style was rough and rougher. "They were big, rugged guys. They weren't smooth workers, there weren't a lot of smooth workers back then compared to the way these guys are so articulate today," said Nick Bockwinkel, whose father Warren battled them often.
"The Dusek brothers, Rudy and Ernie, left their bruises on me. They had done all the damage to my ears it was possible to do, so they concentrated on pounding me into a docile hunk," said Paul Boesch in his autobiography.
When tag teaming took off in the early 1940s, it was natural for the Duseks to work together for a common goal of chaos. They were dubbed the "Nebraska Riot Squad" and "The Dirty Duseks". The great slogan, "Never a dull match with a Dusek", was coined.
"Emil and Ernie traveled more as a team, but when they were in Omaha or the Midwest, Joe and Ernie wrestled a lot together for tag teams. But Emil and Ernie went all over the country more. They went to California, Florida, Texas, Canada," said Jo-Ann. These Duseks would hold the NWA World tag belts in the Central States area three times from 1958-60, the NWA World tag title in San Francisco in 1957, as well as the tag championships in Nebraska (1952), Toronto (1954) and the NWA Southern tag belts in 1957.
By the early 1930's, Rudy was involved with the New York City territory, and over the years, his behind-the-scenes power grew and he schooled his brothers in the finer points of promoting. Rudy returned to Nebraska shortly before his death from a heart attack in October 1971.
Ernie and Emil wrestled as late as 1960, and would referee or fill in where necessary on Nebraska are cards that their brother Joe promoted. Emil became a commercial fisherman in Omaha, and died in July 1986 in the hospital. Ernie died in 1994 from congestive heart disease.
Joe Dusek would become the well-respected promoter in Omaha in 1957. Unlike his brothers, he was a homebody, and loved Omaha. His travels were limited to the Midwest states of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas. On October 31, 1992, Joe died from congestive heart disease.
The PWHF is proud to induct the team of Ernie and Emil Dusek as members of the Class of 2008.
- Greg Oliver & Steven Johnson