The Dusek Riot Squad
Growing up in an Italian family that loves pro wrestling, I was drawn to families who were involved in the business. Families like the Harts, Von Erichs, Vachons, Funks, Anoa'i/Maivias etc. I also was a big fan of the "bad boys" of pro wrestling, the heels. Upon joining the Pro Wrestling Historical Society a whole new world of wrestling knowledge opened up to me. In my newfound access to seemingly endless wrestling history, I discovered a wrestling family that combined everything I loved. That family is the Duseks.
Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, the family whose real last name was Hason, consisted of eight children. Their father Anton was a fisherman/butcher. Both their father and their mother Maria, instilled a strong work ethic in their children. Of the seven boys, four would enter the world of pro wrestling; Rudy, Ernie, Emil, and Joe. Rudy was the first to show an interest in pro wrestling. He set up a ring on the families land, and started training at the local YMCA. He won a state amateur title in 1918, which caught the eye of the legendary Farmer (Martin) Burns. Burns took Rudy under his wing and trained him in the nuances of pro wrestling. Feeling his family surname was too ethnic, Rudy adopted the surname Dusek after his godmother. He turned pro in 1922 and his career took off rapidly. By the late 1920s he was on the card against the top pro wrestlers of the time-such as Jim Londos, Steve Casey, George Zaharias, Ed Lewis, and Sandor Szabo.
Seeing the success of their brother Rudy, Ernie and Emil convinced him to train them, and by the late 1920s they entered pro wrestling. Their brother Joe quickly followed suit. By the 1930s all four brothers were active in the business of pro wrestling. At the time tag team wrestling had not yet caught on so the brothers wrestled as singles competitors, cheering for each other when they were on the same card. According to the Wrestling Writers Association of America, it was Rudy who introduced his brothers to the roughhouse style of wrestling, which many of today's top superstars use. When tag team wrestling started gaining popularity in the 1940s it was only natural that the brothers would team together. It was their rough style of wrestling that started to garner attention from the pro wrestling world. According to legendary wrestler and promoter Paul Boesch, "The Dusek Brothers left 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."
Their reputation continued to grow, as did the number of bruises and contusions on their opponents. Rough and rougher was their style. Another legendary wrestler and booker George Scott would say, "They were tough in the ring. If you couldn't wrestle and know what to do, they'd beat the crap out of you." Soon they were dubbed the "Nebraska Riot Squad," the "Dusek Riot Squad," and the "Dirty Duseks." In the 1930s brother Rudy started showing an interest in the politics and promoting of the business. Just as he taught his brothers how to wrestle, when his backstage power started to increase he taught them about promoting. Rudy would become a big player in the New York territory until the late 1950s when Toots Mondt, Willie Gilzenburg, and Vince McMahon rose to power. For the most part Ernie and Emil were the main team. Together they competed all across the country winning 9 tag team titles in various territories, and establishing themselves as a model tag team for future wrestlers. Ernie stayed partners with his brother until they both finished their careers in 1960. In retirement Ernie would referee or fill in on cards for his brother Joe's promotion. Emil would become a commercial fisherman. Joe Dusek followed Rudy into promoting. Unlike his older brother Joe liked being at home and opened up a territory in Omaha in 1957. He ran a successful promotion in the Midwest until the 1970s when he sold his interests to Verne Gagne and the American Wrestling Association. In retirement the brothers were legendary hunters, and fishermen. The stories moved away from their feats in the ring to their feats in nature. Rudy died of a heart attack in Nebraska in October of 1971. Emil died in July of 1986. Joe and Ernie would both die of congestive heart failure. Joe in October of 1992 and Ernie in April of 1994. The legacy they left behind is that of a tough group of wrestlers united by a common bond. In a business full of unscrupulous people, they relied on each other. They traveled together, fought together, bled together, and prospered together. They were family. That's what drew me to the Duseks.
*Note: Charlie and Frank Santen were brought in and given permission by the Duseks to be billed as Wally and Frank Dusek respectively when they wrestled. They were of no relation to the Duseks. Wally would end up becoming a road agent and announcer before he retired. Frank would end up becoming commentator for WCCW and UWF before retiring.
By John Volino
As unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society