My early memories of the WWE are sometimes hazy, but the characters that are encompassed by that haze are often crystal clear. Back when the WWF used enhancement talent to beef up their weekly events, there was one man, among many, who stood out from the much forgotten pack.
He was born in Motorcity, but raised in the tough neighborhood of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn during the 60’s. The later dubbed Brawler, knew after seeing his first event in MSG that he wanted to be involved with the World Wrestling Federation. It took months of annoying the hell out of the producers when they finally caved and he got called up to the big leagues as a body against the late, great Mr. Perfect, Curt Henning.
1983 marked his first of what would eventually be many loses at the hands of wrestlers who the fans preferred to adore. Something Steve would never really ever come to fully know. He would become the common heel who was being booed by entire stadiums as he racked up the infrequent win against other human punching bags. This was until he was bestowed his first ring name that would go down in wrestling infamy, The Brooklyn Brawler.
The 90’s arrived and as the BB was getting booed by tens of thousands, I was in my Long Island living room cheering like there was no tomorrow for the man who encompassed the very essence of my two favorite uncles. Not only did they both wear ripped jeans, love the Yankees, but one of them is named Steve. They were my heroes, even though later in life I found out that a door wasn’t the cause of their not so occasional black eye or that their forehead stitches weren’t because of a slip on sidewalk black ice.
Outside of his uncanny resemblance to my good guy uncles, I starting following the many faces of the Brawler very closely because of what he represented. Between reading every word of WWF magazine and soaking in my two uncles conversations, who both had a knowledge of the federation beyond my comprehension, I was inundated with Lombardi factoids. Seeing my friend’s faces when I revealed to them who was behind the makeup of Doink the Clown, was, to say the least, satisfying. Although interesting, I usually left out the part that he stepped up to the plate and donned the green wig because Matt Borne was fired for drug abuse.
Other notable characters that the ultimate utility man took on were Kim Chee, Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz, the Boston Brawler and my least favorite MVP. It seemed that the baseball themed characters were slightly played out and his one appearance, as an afterthought, at a random Battle Royal didn’t live up to the Brawler’s stable. I luckily managed to score tickets to see the 15th anniversary of RAW back in 2007 and the highlight had to of been seeing Lombardi, decked out in his Knuckleball garb. He even went to the extent of replacing his iconic ripped Yankees shirt for the zebra stripes as a scab during the ref strike story arc. No job was too big or too small and that is what gave him the tenure that very few have been able to achieve.
Call him the ultimate jobber if you want, but I agree with John Cena, that Steve Lombardi is the greatest technical wrestler in WWE history. Whether that is true or not may be up for debate, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the Brooklyn Brawler was and always will be one of the greats.