Brooklyn Brawler

Brooklyn Brawler’s 33-Year WWE Career, The Term “Jobber”, The Rock’s First Opponent, Beating Triple H

Steve Lombardi (@brawlerreal) is a professional wrestler known for his 33-year career in WWE where he wrestled under the name Brooklyn Brawler. He was also known as Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz and Kimchee. He sits down with Chris Van Vliet in Indianapolis, IN to talk about how his career got started, having matches with pretty much everyone including Hulk Hogan, Paul Orndorff, The Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart and many others, being The Rock’s first WWE opponent in a dark mark in 1996, getting a win over Triple H on Smackdown in 2000, the hilarious backstage segment he did with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, his legacy as the greatest enhancement talent ever, whether he should be inducted in the WWE Hall Of Fame and much more.

Quote I’m thinking about: “Going from being worried about what might happen to being excited about what might happen is only a mindset shift away”

PURE PLANK: The future of core fitness! Use the code CVV to save 10% on Pure Plank which was designed by Adam Copeland & Christian:

PRIZEPICKS: Download the app today and use code INSIGHT for a first deposit match up to $100!

BONCHARGE: Use the code CVV to save 15% off your infrared sauna blanket at

BLUECHEW: Use the code INSIGHT to get your first month of BlueChew for FREE at

ROCKET MONEY: Join Rocket Money today and experience financial freedom:

BETTERHELP: Get 10% off your first month with the code INSIGHT at

PLUNGE: Get $150 off your Plunge with the coupon code CVV150 at

On his in-ring career:

“Well, the career is beyond my expectations. It all began when I was 16 years old. I used to watch wrestling on television in Brooklyn, New York, but it was called Lucha Libre, all the competition was in Spanish. I did not care about the commentary I was looking at the guys and I was saying holy cow. It was Bruno Sammartino, The Valiant Brothers, people like that, Superstar Billy Graham… and I’m 16 years old, I’m in my mother’s backyard, looking at wrestling magazines with my brother and my friends not realising I am going to wrestle every one of these guys on their way out. And I actually had Bruno Sammartino’s last match of his entire career, which he reminded me of every autograph session I was on, he was a great guy. He really was a fantastic person. He had no ego. And he just had all good intentions in life.”

Did you ever think this would be possible?

“It was possible to me because I got a spark inside that became confidence. And when you get confidence inside of you, and you believe it with all your heart and soul, people around you can feel it. But the people around me were telling me that I was never going to make it. [They said] It’s a dumb dream, you’re not going to reach that goal. I call those people inspiration. I said You’re telling me I’m not going to do it, you just drive me even more towards doing it. They said don’t you feel it? Aren’t you worried about it? I was 16, why is the 16-year-old able to say fear and worry does not exist? Because it has never changed the outcome of any situation. They looked at me like you’re too young to say that. And I knew it.” 

Where’d you get that from? 

“I always felt that I just made it up or I’m think I read it because I was 16, I said just crazy things when I was 16. The teacher says What’s your theory? I raised my hand, I said upon a possible explanation, why did I say this? It’s freaky things like that, the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, things are retained in my mind. So anyway, just as I got older, I started getting more into wrestling, mostly bodybuilding because I was looking at the wrestler’s bodies. I looked at Bruno Sammartino and I worked my chest and I got really big. My brother was looking at Superstar Billy Graham, he got biceps like bowling balls. So it started like that. So then finally, someone gave me tickets to Madison Square Garden. I’m watching the show. The guy next to me says to me I could tell this is your first wrestling match you’ve been to. I said how’s that? He goes, because the way you’re watching the match, you’re watching it like you’re like you’re intrigued by it. You’re looking at it in a way that no one else looks at. I said, I’m fascinated. He said to me, Well if you want to meet all these guys, they go to this bar that’s about four blocks away. He goes, wait about an hour, first of all is gonna take you about an hour for The Garden to empty because it’s 23,000 people. Go to that bar, and you’ll meet all these guys that you’re watching in the ring right now. So I looked at my friends, because they were with me and I said what do you think? They said, We’re in. So we walked because you take the train, there are no cars in New York we were kids. I walk up to Mr. Fuji, I said, Mr. Fuji, I’m so I am so intrigued it’s my first wrestling match. I can’t believe it or not, I think I fell in love with this one. And he says to me, can you not see we are talking?! you’re interrupting me! I said, Okay, I apologise. I went and sat at the bar. And I said, Holy cow, who’s sitting next to me at the bar, Jimmy Superfly Snuka. So I say, Jimmy, he goes, brother, he became a very good friend of mine. And I said, Jimmy, I just wanted to let you know, I’ve never been to a wrestling match before. I watched you fly off the top rope and I watched you wrestle, it was amazing. And if for some reason, I want to put all my heart and soul, I want to be a wrestler. He turned to me and said, If you believe in what you want to do, and you have in your heart, you could do anything you want. If you want to be a wrestler, you will be a wrestler. I never forgot those words. Later, Jimmy and I became really good friends. I know his daughter. We travelled together, we shared rooms together. Just my first year in wrestling, when I first got into WWE, they give me a deal where they said, if you show up and somebody doesn’t show up, we’ll will pay everything. And if everybody shows up, you will not work, you will not get paid, you will not get your expenses paid. And I said fair enough, I’ll do it. So I did it. I made $43,000 That year, because everybody was, not screwed up but they had demons and they would miss shows and do all this and that.” 

“But the thing is, as time was passing I was getting better and better and better. Then Ricky Steamboat came in. They used to put a paper on the wall and show all the matches. And my name was next to Ricky Steamboat. And I wne tup to him and said Mr. Steamboat. My name is Steven Barnett I’m going to wrestle you tonight. He says, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I just want to let you know, I do not beat dish rags. He goes, I’m going to give you a competitive match, you’re going to have offence, and you’re going to really, really have a great match. I said, really? So then we go in the ring. Ricky Steamboat was a fantastic wrestler, he’s over in the Carolinas, and we had a great match. And I mean, this guy was selling for me. He’s doing double leapfrogs he’s doing this. He’s doing that. And then I come back and all the other wrestlers have seen it. I remember Tito Santana came up and says How did it feel? I said I could always do this. I said, you guys were always just not giving me any offence. From that day on they started giving me offence. Then time was passing and all of a sudden, four years pass or something, Bobby Heenan comes up to me. He says, Steve, I’ve been watching you, you learn how to wrestle, now I’m going to teach you how to make money. He goes, I am going to create you as the Brooklyn brawler. You’re gonna wrestle with a rival of mine who’s in my family right now Terry Taylor and I am going to take you under my wing, you are now in the Heenan family. So all of a sudden I go from Brooklyn Brawler getting beat every night. And now he says we’re a Yankee shirt.” 

On wearing the Yankees shirt:

“The only reason I wore a Yankee shirt is that in the 80s Everybody hated it. He says wear a Yankee shirt because you’re gonna get a lot of heat. He said wear a leather cap, and put on a cigar. And then we were in Hershey, Pennsylvania and he goes, come outside with me. He says you see that mud right there? He goes roll around in that mud. I said, Bobby, come on, stop joking with me. He goes, No. wants you to be a grimy, greasy, dirty-ass-kicking Brooklynite. I said anything you say, Bobby, I’ll do anything you want. And then I just, I just started winning every single night he was walking out with me. And people were weird. Like when I went to the God who they were asking for autographs of the Brooklyn Brawler and not knowing that I was Steve Lombardi because I had a leather cap on. They weren’t putting two and two together.”

On having The Rock’s first match in WWE:

“Then the magic phone rings, it was Howard Finkel. He said, ‘Steve, Vince told me to give you a call. We want you to wrestle a new guy who has never been in the ring, and never wrestled, ever. He is going to wrestle you in Corpus Christi, Texas, it was in 1996, that man’s name is Dwayne Johnson.’ I’m The Rock’s first match ever in front of 15,000 people. When I talk to Rocky he says, Well, you had my right dad’s first match in WWF too. And he actually did an episode on Young Rock, season two episode eight. But I met Rock. I was driving with Rock and I said, How many matches did you have? He goes, Steve, this is my first match. I said your first match in WWF? He says no. My first match ever in my life in front of an audience. Then we went to the dressing room, we wrote down, we talked about the match. I told him let’s do this. Let’s do that. First of all he said to me, we were walking with Michael Hayes down the hallway and he goes how’s the Brooklyn Brawler gonna beat me? I turned to him and I said, Vince did not bring you all the way here to lose. You are going over. And then Rock says going over? That is unheard of for a person’s first match, and in front of 15,000 people. I said to myself, this is going to be fun as hell for me. This is going to be so fun and so easy it’s ridiculous. Because he had a great look. People would say that’s 90% I say it’s 10% because I’ve wrestled football players, I’ve wrestled bodybuilders. I’ve wrestled guys that look like they could win Mr. Olympia, but they got two left feet. I knew he had agility, because I’ve seen him work out in the ring. So he walks into the ring in Corpus Christi. First of all, it goes to Bruce Prichard, he says give me some music. And then Bruce Prichard gives them some really crappy music. And he goes, that’s the last time I’ll for music. He says it in in the commentary in Young Rock and he and he walks out. And he just gives generic like, hey, and people are going get out here. We don’t want to see you, go back to Florida. And he’s taking it to heart. I loved it. Not because they booed him, but because I know psychology. The psychology is, the more they boo you, the more they’re going to cheer you. So I went to ring and I took him to the ropes. I said just listen to me, believe in me. Self-belief is the secret to success. And that is the bottom line. And he goes to me Kanaka, which means friend in Samoan. He goes, I will believe you. I took him to the ropes and I hit him once and I go I’m the man on the man. I went to throw him in he gave me a backdrop. And then people booed him again. And he says these people hate me. He’s whispering to me, these people hate me, I said watch the magic. Then I said to him, watch what happens. Then he did a bunch of high spots where he jumped to the second rope. He did a flying press and then he tried to show boat and he did a kip up, it was like showboating but he was showing me his athleticism. He was showing the people his athleticism. They were booing the hell out of him. I said, Watch. I kicked him in the stomach and I beat the hell out of him to the point where people thought he could never win. Then I flipped them over and I put them in a reverse chin lock, which means he’s on his butt. I’m on my knees. I got him in a headlock. Then he takes his hand and he puts it straight out. Then he starts shaking his hand. Then he starts raising it. Now this is the psychology of the business that no one realises. He says to me, first of all, he stood up he looked up at me. He goes, what do we do now? And then he says, this is where my dad taught me it’s not about the wrestling. It’s about what the people think. I said, if people believe in you, they are going to let you know. And you could hear us say that in Young Rock. And then as He’s raising his hand, people are going silent. Then all of a sudden, as his hand gets all the way up. We’re both standing up, I still got his head. I said, Now here’s your comeback, make it a good one. And then he gives me two elbows in his stomach. He throws me around like a rag doll beats the hell out of me. He gives me a sunset flip 1 2 3. 15,000 people stand up out of their seats yelling We love Dwayne. That was the creation of Dwayne Johnson. After that, he got a contract. Then he became The Rock and then he got confidence. He had confidence. And I just talked to him on the phone like, a week ago. I told him, I said, you believed in yourself. The guy is like, he’s not opening doors. He’s kicking doors open. Today’s the first day of the start of his football company and he just put a video out today. This man has got self-belief. He’s got confidence. He realises that you don’t get opportunity, you make opportunity. He sent me a giant picture that’s about the size of a 46-inch TV set. And it’s got him hip-tossing me in the first match we ever had at the top of the picture. And he’s got $7 in glass. And in gold on the bottom it says, Steve, I had $7 to my name when I had this match, I can never thank you enough. I mean, to me, it’s just hanging on my wall at home. I love it. Even though he was worth, millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars, that meant more than the money.” 

On being many top star’s first opponent:

“I had Bret Hart’s first WWF match. I had Mark Henry’s first match of his whole life. I had Ricky Steamboat’s first WWF match. I had so many, Warrior. I wrestled him about 47 days. One time during our tenure, they came to me and they said, We’re going to ask Warrior to have you win today to test his attitude. And I know he would have said f*ck this I don’t want to do this. I don’t care about this. I took him in the room and I said, Jim, I shouldn’t I don’t know if I should do this or shouldn’t do this. But you’re my friend and I care about you. They’re going to ask you to do a job for me. What I want you to do, and this is your choice, is to say anything for the business, I will do anything. And he did it. I beat the Ultimate Warrior that night. And then after that he became The Ultimate Warrior after they tested his attitude. And then after that he beat Hulk Hogan and was on top of the world. And he was on bad outs with the company then he was on good terms and he went into the Hall of Fame.”

On losing a lot of matches:

“You know what the funny thing about it was I enhanced talent, I didn’t lose. I chose to do that. I could have fought the other way and chose to be a big star and my longevity would have never been 32 years. But they realised my talent was I can hide their weaknesses, and I can accentuate their strengths.”

On becoming Doink:

“So The Rock match passes and it was always a phone call to me. I don’t know why my life is like a phone call. The phone rings, I’m washing my car in the driveway. My wife goes. Vince is on the phone and wants to talk to you. I said Vince? She goes yeah, it’s Vince McMahon. She’s covering the speaker. [Vince says] Steve, I need you to do something. I said anything you want Vince. [Vince says] I know that. I need you to fly to Calgary. I need you to wrestle Bret Hart in the WWF World Heavyweight Championship in his hometown, which is the biggest match you can be in. I says no problem. I had Bret’s first match in Cincinnati Gardens when he came in. I love Bret, I would do anything for Bret any day of the week. I said to him I’ll do it. He goes, but the only thing is I want you to do it as Doink.  I said to him, Vince, I don’t mind the wrestling. I have no worry of fear of wrestling Bret because I wrestled him many times and I’m comfortable with him. And I like him and he likes me. I said but the paint job? I mean, come on.” 

Was this the first time you played Doink?

“The regular Doink was suspended for some reasons that I don’t even know, so I can’t comment on. It was Matt Bourne. So I said to Vince, that’s the only thing I worry about. He goes, Oh, I knew you were gonna say that. I have the plan right here. Here he goes. The plan is we’re gonna follow you from Detroit. We’re gonna fly you to Cleveland, where Matt Borne’s wife is gonna give you the Doink outfit in baggage claim in Cleveland. Then you’re going to get back on the plane. You’re going to fly to Calgary. You’re going to meet Jill the makeup girl. She is going to teach you how to paint the Doink face and give you a diagram and all the necessities you need to paint it up as Doink that we’re gonna fly you to Calgary and you’re gonna wrestle Bret in the main event. I did all this in two days, I said to Vince, you can count on me. He goes, I know I can. I know I can count on you. And I did it. And the funny part about it was, it’s going from I’m The Brooklyn Brawler! I’m gonna get my hands on you to [clown music]. When I walked through the curtain, he was the hottest heel in WWF. People erupted and it was Brett’s hometown, sort of the pop was bigger than ever. So we had that match that was dark, unfortunately. But you could ask Bret.” 

On being called a jobber:

“They see it now. They used to say the word jobber. I don’t care, because my comeback used to be ‘Everybody’s a jobber and your boss is your jobbee.’ A job just means you have a job. They call it enhancement talent and they are starting to get it, then they call it an architect. Then they call it ring general and they even called me a ring general in The Rock’s show. [They said] ‘Rock, he’s a ring general, listen to everything he says.’ I said I’m not a ring general. I’m the most humble guy that you know because all I want to do is make everybody look great. I did fail at times, I wrestled bodybuilders that had come out of Mr. Olympia who looked like they could do it, but they had 2 left feet and they just couldn’t do it. They moved like robots.” 

On a possible Hall of Fame induction:

“I think The Brooklyn Brawler has more contributions more accolades to be in the Hall of Fame. I believe that being in the Hall of Fame is their choice. I am not losing sleep over not being in the Hall of Fame. But I believe that there’s no way in life that one day I won’t be in the Hall of Fame. I just hope it’s not when I’m dead. You know what I mean? I’ve done so much. And the one thing that no one can ever take away from me is my memories. My memories are second to none.”

On nearly becoming WWE Champion:

“Bret Hart said to Vince, and you could ask Bret this. He said ‘I will not drop the belt to Shawn Michaels’, that’s the Montreal Screwjob. ‘But I will drop it to Steve Lombardi.’ And he said that I quote him, and he would tell you right now if you interviewed him, he will tell you that he said that. But of course, Vince wouldn’t do it. I told him that and he goes to me if you did wrestle me in The Garden I wasn’t gonna kick out. I said, ‘You know what would have happened Bret? I would have got fired. Because if I didn’t throw my body off for you, Vince would have said it was my fault for pinning you.’ He goes, That’s not fair. I said, Life isn’t fair.” 

On his popularity in New York:

“I could walk out right now in Barclays Center on Monday, which I tweeted out. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. I said, ‘What would happen if the Brooklyn Brawler walked out in Barclays Center on WWE Raw?’ That’s all I said, 200 likes in like 20 seconds. People would become unglued because I was at one time the first show ever in the Barclays Center, and I won a six man match. It was me, The Miz and Del Rio against 3MB and I beat Jinder Mahal in a Boston crab, they call it the Brooklyn crab, whatever, they put a spin on it. But the funny part about it was now this is something no one knows about. After I did this, they put a picture on the wall in the Barclays Center of me and Jinder Mahal on the wall, right next to Madonna, and all these different people. And Vince hated it. He hated it. So Vince said, ‘You should take it down.’ So then all of a sudden, he’s like, it’s your fault the picture is up there. I said, ‘How’s it my fault? I don’t own the building. I don’t own anything.’ He was playing a stupid joke. But anyway, he took it down. He took it down and the picture the boys were loving it. They were like freaking out, I move the boys would take a picture of it, tweet it out, and it would do all this stuff. And then he said to me, ‘Well, I’m putting you in the ring with Ryback.’ He wanted to punish me the following day. Ryback comes up to me, he goes, You know what? I’m gonna give you a match like you are a main eventer.”

What is The Brooklyn Brawler grateful for?

“My past, my wife and the future.” 

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enter your email address to receive exclusive content from CVV!



Enter your email address to receive exclusive content from CVV!