Operation Gimmick Impossible – Mission 5: Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz

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It’s Cpl. Dick Peters back after completing my latest mission, where I took a trip through the cornfields to find a hidden diamond… A baseball diamond that is. Someone built it, and so I came. My mission this week was to scout a fine physical specimen, a true dual sports athlete if there ever was one! This weeks mission we go looking for an MVP.

 

 

Objective 1: MVP – Most Vulnerable Player
We take a trip back to 1993, SummerSlam is now in the books and we begin to make our move towards the fall season. With the fall season comes one of the biggest past times of the U.S. of A., it’s Major League Baseball’s “World Series”. And while the Blue Jays and the Phillies were making a play towards the World Series, the real MVP was making his way to the WWF…. sort of.

No, we’re not talking about him.

I’m talking about the ORIGINAL MVP of wrestling!

Following the WWF SummerSlam PPV, which featured such matches as The Undertaker vs. The Giant Gonzalez, and Bret Hart vs. Doink the Clown, the WWF decided it was time to unleash their next gimmick into the world of professional wrestling. Enter this guy.

MVP… The Most Valuable Player!

A real throwback to the hard-nosed days of Professional Baseball. Sporting a face painted up like a baseball, and wearing a pinstripe uniform, this character was portrayed by long time student of the Pat Patterson & Terry Garvin “School of Self-Defense”, Mr. Steve Lombardi (AKA The Brooklyn Brawler).

The MVP was given a dry run at both the Superstars & Wrestling Challenge tapings on 8/21 & 9/1/93. Without any vignettes, interviews, or hype, the MVP would eventually make his Television debut, without any fanfare, as one of the 20 participants in the Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal which aired on the 10/4/93 episode of Monday Night Raw. As this man stood in the ring alongside 19 other competitors, Vince McMahon would take a brief second to introduce him by name, “MVP”. It was truly a “WTF” moment, as this character had never even been introduced prior to this match, and now he’s randomly inserted into a 20 Man Battle Royal for an opportunity at a WWF Championship? Boy, he really must have been close with Pat Patterson after all.

Unfortunately for MVP, after a fair showing, he was eliminated 13th overall in the Battle Royal by “The Rocket” Owen Hart and was never seen again. Wrestling a total of 4 matches, one of which made it to air, he truly was a one hit wonder… With the baseball season coming to an end, the usefulness of the character was wearing away and his one shot at getting called up to the big leagues was a strike out. Or was it???

 

Objective 2: The WWF Throws us a Curveball, or rather a “Knuckleball”

He’s baaa-aaack. July 16th, 1994, some nine months since his last time up to bat, vignettes began airing of a familiar face. After a brief run replacing Matt Borne as Doink the Clown, Steve Lombardi was ready to give the baseball character a second go.

By this time, he apparently had lost the appeal of an MVP, but rather now he was going by the new moniker of Abe “Knuckbleball” Schwartz. A true heel, who liked to perform batting practice while cutting promos filled with baseball metaphors (don’t you hate that?) was getting his second chance at the big leagues. Abe Schwartz was again being called up to the majors, and this time he had some vignettes to support his character. Unfortunately for Mr. Schwartz, he got called up at the wrong time. On August 12th, 1994 the MLB (Major League Baseball) went on STRIKE! A true supporter of his Baseball Union, Schwartz immediately went on strike from the WWF before ever wrestling a single match on TV. He even took to picketing at the 8/15 Monday Night Raw, where he cut an in-ring promo in regards to his league’s strike. Abe blamed the WWF fans! Here’s the video of his first, and only, in ring promo.

While working as a glorified enhancement talent on the house shows, putting over guys like the 1-2-3 Kid, and other newcomers who hadn’t even debuted on TV yet like Sparky Plugg, and PJ Walker (Aldo Montoya), Schwartz would stay true to his word and remain on strike, at least for TV purposes. Hey you know the WWF’s motto at the time, if it didn’t happen on TV, it didn’t happen! Schwartz would begin appearing in the crowd, much like Doink the Clown in 1992, walking up and down the aisles with an “I’m on Strike” sign or a variation thereof. Schwartz’s biggest claim to fame was his appearance at the 1994 edition of SummerSlam, where Abe showed up in the crowd toting a “I’m on Strike” sign during the Jeff Jarrett vs. Mabel match. Seriously? That’s the best time he thought to come out? During the piss break match? Schwartz would continue his strike through most of September.

 

Objective 3: The Strike Is Over… At least in the WWF!
When it was clear that there would be no MLB playoffs, and no World Series, Abe decided to throw down his batting gloves and put on his kneepads. No, he wasn’t visiting Pat Patterson’s office, he was stepping into the WWF rings! Hey, you’ve got to make a living! The wrestling ring was a perfect second sport for Abe, I mean in baseball you have 4 bases, in the wrestling ring you have 4 corners. It’s a perfect fit, let old Abe step up to the plate in the WWF and see if he can’t swing for the fences! As he made his way down the aisle to a musical version of “Take me Out to the Ballgame”, Schwartz would finally make his actual wrestling debut on the 9/25 episode of Wrestling Challenge, and then again on the 10/1 episode of WWF Superstars. Like the mighty Babe Ruth, Schwartz would call his shot, pointing to the corner, then placing his foe on the top rope before putting them away with the “Grand Slam” (Superplex). Without looking, I can only hope that he kicked imaginary dirt at the officials, if he didn’t he sure missed the boat on that spot.

ABE, CALLING HIS SHOT!

You can check out one of Abe’s rare ring appearances below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nqgr3FMRb4

 

Schwartz would continue on, working the house shows for another month against the likes of Jimmy Powers & Louie Spicolli (the future Rad Radford), his final appearance would be a loss to the 1-2-3 Kid on November 4th, 1994 in Columbus Ohio. Even though he was in a league of his own, alas, even after “batting a thousand” in his two homerun squash matches, old Abe (the character) would retire from the sport, never making it to “the big one”. Even though he was taught by the legendary Pat Patterson, the one thing Pat couldn’t teach Schwartz, was to LAY OFF THE BALLS. Yes, fans, after only being in the company a total of 14 weeks (“ballpark figure”) the Mighty Abe had indeed struck out!

HERE’S LOMBARDI IN ONE OF HIS MORE.. COMFORTABLE POSITIONS

 

Debriefing Mission 5: MVP / Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz
I don’t believe for a second that Vince McMahon thought he’d hit this gimmick out of the park, it was likely more a favor to Lombardi for his years of “service” in the company. If you just stood back and looked at the character, it was kind of cool. I thought the baseball painted face was a nice touch. While the character came at just about the perfect time (the baseball strike) where it would be noticed and have more importance, there was still very little you could do with the character once the baseball season ended. It was obvious by the way Lombardi was booked on the house shows, this gimmick was meant as another in a long line of undercard characters to put over the bigger stars. In the world of baseball, you get three strikes, but in the WWF it was two strikes with this character, and Abe my friend, YOU’RE OUTTA HERE, it’s time to go back to the minors!

Mission Accomplished! And as I leave the baseball diamond now and make that long journey back to Operation headquarters, I don’t know what my next mission will be but I can only hope it’ll be another trip to home plate! This has been Cpl. Dick Peters, standing at attention!

 

 

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