Crusher Carlsen was billed at 6’4” and 450 lb. So, when he walked into Regina’s legendary Exhibition Auditorium, I couldn’t help but look up from the task I was doing. The size of Crusher was always amplified by his walk. Big steps, big arm swings, somehow methodical without being slow.
It was January 1997, I was in grade 9, and it was my second day on ring crew with Hardcore Wrestling. We were setting up for the first big event of the young wrestling company. Before this, Hardcore Wrestling was running free shows out of a garage in front of a couple dozen fans. To me, most of these wrestlers appeared larger than life, but none larger than Crusher.
With an amateur wrestling background, Crusher was more than the average big man. He had strong technique, his moves were crisp in the ring, and if he grabbed you for a belly-to-belly suplex, get ready because it’s happening.
Initially, my impression was that Crusher was a man of few words. At the time, I was a kid helping set up the event, so anything I knew about Crusher in those times, I learned from watching him in the ring. And there was no sight more impressive in a Crusher match than seeing him hit his finisher.
A Great Big Man
Most of the audience at the Exhibition Auditorium on that night in January 1997 had never seen Crusher Carlsen before. So when Crusher began climbing the ropes, with his opponent laying beneath him, there was an audible gasp from the crowd. Crusher executed the Vader Splash (made famous by Big Van Vader) to perfection, and the crowd’s gasp turned into one of those classic collective OHHH! moments that only wrestling can offer. A 450-pound splash from the second rope made the 3-count that followed elementary at best.
With that first match to the Regina crowd, Crusher’s legend began to grow.
Once I got to know him outside the ring, it was nearly impossible to have a conversation with Crusher without him cracking a joke at my expense – all in good fun! It was worth it, though, because, despite his size, Crusher’s laugh was more like an adorable giggle.
He’d occasionally come down to wrestling training and offer his insight. I remember he’d always tell the new trainees the same thing when they were taking their first bumps.
“Bumping is like sex. If you want to get anything out of it, you have to use your hips.”
One time, the veterans at the training ring decided to mix it up for everyone. The plan was to have a shoot wrestling tournament. By this time, I had already been wrestling for a few years, so I was excited to show the new trainees a thing or two. But I wasn’t going to be facing the new trainees. I was facing Crusher.
I tried to be quick. It didn’t work. He got ahold of me and took me down (Remember what I wrote earlier about how if he wants to suplex you, it’s happening?!) Once on the mat, my efforts to escape were futile. I was lying facedown; Crusher had his arms around my waist and was pinning my legs down. At this point, my end was near. Crusher wasn’t letting me go, so he had to make me tap out. He drove the point of his chin into my ribs as he tightened his grip.
Somewhere in the world exists footage of me screaming as Crusher squeezed the life out of me until I tapped out. I get still get ribbed about that from those who saw it – particularly Billy Bones.
After venturing out of his home territory, Crusher found success in other companies – most notably when he became the NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion. And although he did officially retire in 2002, fans in Regina, Sask. on November 25, 2005, were lucky to witness Crusher coming out of retirement to face one of the hottest tag teams in High Impact Wrestling: Thryllin’ Dylan (THAT’S ME!) and The Screaming Eagle.
Watch the footage.
Pay attention to how Crusher Carlsen moves.
His footwork, his swings, his timing, and his landings are all perfect. I mention this because it highlights how talented he was in the ring. And all that aside, when Crusher finishes Dylan and the Eagle simultaneously, the crowd shows their appreciation via a legitimate Holy-Shit-chant, which was not too common from wrestling crowds in 2005. link to footage:
Wrestling lost a lot more than a good big man when Crusher passed away on June 20, 2021; wrestling lost a great man. To his wife, Brenda, who lost a part of herself with his passing, I offer the sincerest condolences. The wrestling scene in Canada is better because Crusher Carlsen was part of it, and all who knew him are a little better for having the privilege of being part of his story.
Rest in peace, Crusher.