It can’t all be Hogan versus André. Indeed, it most definitely wasn’t. Remember when WWF television was predominantly superstars making short work of ‘enhancement talent’, with maybe one or two marquee matches if lucky? I don’t, as it happens – with competition as it was and had been, things were the epitome of star-studded and balls to the wall when I started watching in 2000 – but I can certainly see why it was done: solidifying characters and storylines while saving the cash cow contests for the Pay-Per-View.
‘The Brooklyn Brawler’ Steve Lombardi is probably the most recognised from this band of performers, not least because he was with the WWF/E for thirty-three years. There were glimmers of a push in 1988, when he was treated to a new look and came under the tutelage of legendary manager Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, even appearing at WrestleMania V, but soon he seemed to revert to his previous status, with appearances becoming steadily more sporadic into the nineties. He later filled in the role of Doink The Clown when the original jester was fired.
I love The Brawler primarily because he was part of the first ever episode of Smackdown! that I watched. He was teaming with cruiserweights TAKA and Funaki, taking on Triple H in a three-on-one elimination match. It was a quick but fun match, characteristic of the time, that sticks in the memory as a contest that piqued my interest. Thanks to interference from Chris Jericho, with whom HHH was feuding at the time, The Brawler beat ‘The Game’! I wonder when The Brawler had last scored a win on television? The moment was sweet indeed, or at least it was until an enraged HHH spoilt the party and beat The Brawler senseless post-match.
It’s quite a list of opponents for The Brooklyn Brawler: Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, The Rock and The Undertaker, not to mention that victory over Triple H. The often one-sided clashes rather wax nostalgic of the television of old, as indeed does The Brawler himself, making for a heady cocktail, cleverly deployed. It seems adequate repayment from WWE after decades of diligent service that his opponents were of such calibre, as indeed does his long-standing role backstage as road agent. Let’s hope The Brawler keeps on cropping up!