In wrestling, there are guys who lose occasional matches. There are guys who are full fledged jobbers. Then there is this week’s Jobber Of The Week, Steve Lombardi, aka the Brooklyn Brawler. It can be argued that no one in the history of wrestling has lost more matches. To his credit, he kept things fresh as well. When people grew tired of seeing a New York streetfighter get his tailed kicked, Steve was quick to hop into the closest clown or druid outfit he could kind to mix things up a bit. While all the Sharpes’, DeFalcos’, and Horowitzs’ have long since departed the WWF, this legendary man has withstood the decades long test of time. This is his story.
Like most wrestlers, Steve started off as an interested fan. In the early 80’s, after taking in a show at Madison Square Garden, he wound up at a bar where some wrestlers were unwinding. Introducing himself to fellows such as Don Muraco and Pat Patterson, Steve took his first steps to becoming a wrestling icon. He expressed his desire to want to step into the ring. Initially brushed off, he would run into the wrestlers repeatedly at the same bar following MSG events. He kept hounding them, and eventually after some basic training, Steve would step into the ring for his debut match. In what would become his trademark, he went down in defeat to S.D. Jones. After another year of learning the ropes here and there, Lombardi began to be booked and featured on a regular basis by the WWF. Enhancement talent as we knew it would never be the same.
By the mid 80’s, you couldn’t watch a WWF program without catching a glimpse of Lombardi in action. As a singles wrestler or in tag-teams, there was a 99% chance you would see Steve-O getting a fork stuck in him by Gorilla Monsoon every week. Working primarily as a “heel” jobber, he went mano-a-mano against all the good guys of the “Rock N’ Wrestling” era. He even made history, as he earned a spot in the WWF’s first ever King of the Ring tournament in July of 1985. It was an untelevised event back in those days, which for Steve was a good thing. That meant no one had to witness him exiting the tourney with a first round loss to Les Thornton.
Having tasting what a big time event was like, he returned back to Superstars of Wrestling and his normal life as an anonymous jobber. However, in 1986, things would change. A dark, sinister force would call out to Lombardi. It whispered, “join me, it is the only way.” Tempted by the dark side, the Lombardi we all knew and loved disappeared. Steve shockingly transformed into the Dark Lord of the…Pith?!? Guided by the evil Wizard (who would go onto greater infamy as the leader of the Dungeon of Doom), Steve donned his pith safari hat and a mask and became known as Kimchee, the handler of Kamala. This stint did not last very long however, as Kamala had rather nomadic tendencies in the 80’s. The Ugandan Warrior soon departed the WWF, leaving Kimchee a lonely, unemployed savage-native handler.
Steve removed the gear and went back to being himself full time, unknowing that his moment of glory was near. In the winter of 1989, Bobby Heenan was having a feud with his former protege, the Red Rooster. Determined to show the world that he truly was the Brain and could take anybody to the top, he decided to bring Lombardi into the Heenan Family stable. But this was no longer boring, plain old Steve. By the time he made his grand entry, “Pearl Harboring” the Rooster and Gorilla Monsoon on Prime Time Wrestling, he had stopped changing his clothes and doing his laundry and was now the dirty, street tough Brooklyn Brawler.
“I told him he was a tough guy from Brooklyn, so he needed to get dirty,” explained Bobby Heenan. “He went out and rolled in the mud. I grabbed him and said, ‘You’re from the CITY, not a BARNYARD’ and took him down to the boiler room and smeared grease on him. He just didn’t get it.”
Finally, after seven years of never winning a match, he had reached midcard nirvana. With the Brain by his side, it was now Steve’s turn to go over the Dusty Wolfes’ and Omar Atlas’ of the world. While racking up his first handful of wins, The Brawler and Heenan’s feud with the Rooster continued over the spring, reaching its climax at Wrestlemania V. At Trump Plaza however, even the Brawler couldn’t save his new manager from getting embarrassed by a man moonlighting as poultry, as Heenan lost in under a minute in a match versus the Rooster.
The midcard was not to be, however. Heenan soon let him go and it was back to doing the J.O.B. by himself. He did have a brief stint as Bad News Brown’s tag partner, which would see the New Yorkers defeat the legendary team of Hillbilly Jim and the Blue Blazer. The good times didn’t last. Bad News turned on the Brawler following a loss to the Bushwhackers and later defeated him in a grudge match.
That was where anything resembling a push ended. It appeared to be the end of the Brawler’s glory. The 90’s wore on with the Brawler still employed by the WWF, and still losing. The early 90’s were a busy time for him as he seemed to become the WWF’s resident “multiple gimmick man.” When Kamala returned in 93, Steve donned the hat and mask once more to become Kimchee, and later feuded with him when the big man couldn’t stop dreaming of a glorious PBA career and turned face.
Matt Borne jobs to “personal demons?” No problem. Let Lombardi study an episode of Bozo the Clown and give him some greasepaint and presto… he’s the new Doink the Clown.
The WWF needs a wrestling baseball player to go with their respective wresting
garbage man, hockey player, and tax man? Who better to kick imaginary dust on the feet of a ref than Lombardi, playing the role of the infamous Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz.
Hell, he even managed to throw in stints as a referee and one of the Undertaker’s druids, as well as still jobbing as the Brawler. In 96, when it came time for the Rock to have his first ever wrestling match, who do you think got the call?
Talk about your “employee of the month,” give that man “employee of the decade!!!!” I don’t know if he ever got that award, but in the fall of 1996 he received something better. On his home turf, Madison Square Garden, he would shock the world by winning a 20 man battle royal, with the winner receiving a main event shot at the world champion, Shawn Michaels. Needless to say, he went on to receive a little sweet chin music, but hey, how many wrestlers can say they fought for the world title at MSG?
The Brawler’s appearances became a little more sporadic as the 90’s moved on, and by the late nineties he seemed ready for the life of being backstage. By the dawn of the Attitude era, the Brawler had all but vanished from tv. New fans tuning in in record numbers had no clue who he was, they were there to see Stone Cold and the Rock. But yet, the legend still loomed. Who was this terrible old wrestler who wore a torn Yankees shirt and lost every match he was in? What ever happened to him?
In the summer of 98, something very strange occurred. At the Fully Loaded PPV, Mr.McMahon teased Stone Cold by telling him his tag partner for the evening would be the Brawler. It didn’t end up happening, but the sight of Lombardi suited up and on PPV was still shocking. As the months went by, he would show up every now and then, but in 2000, it could no longer be contained. WWF Attitude-style Brawler mania was set to explode. Over the spring/summer, he popped up doing everything from facing the Rock, going toe-to-toe with Tazz in a battle of Brooklyn, and teaming up with Kurt Angle to face the Dudleys.
Oh yeah, the Brawler did one more thing. He did the wrestling equivalent of parting the Red Sea blindfolded with one arm, while suffering from a hangover-induced migraine headache. On Smackdown, July 6th, 2000, Steve teamed with Kaientai, facing off against Triple H in a handicap elimination match. Trips would elimnate the “evil” ones, making it a one on one “dream” match-up for the ages. Thanks to interference from Chris Jericho, the Brawler would roll Triple H up for the winning three count and in the process, making the 1980 US Olympic hockey team’s “Miracle On Ice” victory look like just another afternoon spent frolicing at the local ice-skating rink. His legacy now cemented, the Brawler stepped back into the shadows of the backstage area, as usual, ready to help the WWF out whatever way he could.
Today, 21 years after making his debut, the Brawler is still a part of the WWE, his tenure one of the longest running in their history. He occasionally pops up, most recently as Kimchee at Wrestlemania 17’s gimmick battle royal, and at the 2003 Vengeance PPV, for the APA invitational bar brawl. Have we seen the last of the Brawler? Highly unlikely, to quote Gorilla Monsoon. The business may be cyclical, and trends may come and go. But Steve Lombardi, the Brooklyn Brawler, will be getting his ass kicked until he’s got one cheek buried in the grave.