The Brooklyn Brawler's guide to Brooklyn

Hey, remember me? It’s The Brooklyn Brawler. For 30 years I’ve been locking up with all the greats in WWE rings, and for 30 years WWE has refused to take Raw across the East River from Manhattan to the greatest city in the world: Brooklyn, N.Y. Finally, after all this time, WWE is bringin’ a real-life Raw show to where the real New Yorkers live, the County of Kings. And if anyone knows a thing or two about bein’ a king, it’s me, The Brooklyn Brawler.

Watch Brawler pull a stunning upset over Triple H | Follow @BrawlerReal on Twitter

So let’s get ready for Raw at the sparkly new Barclays Center on world-famous Flatbush Avenue, right around the corner from the famous Brooklyn Academy of Music. Allow me to guide you through my hometown. We’ve got a lotta history, the best pizza and the toughest fighters. Think you know New York City? Think again. This ain’t Broadway. This is Brooklyn.

Watch the very "best" of The Brooklyn Brawler | Visit Brawler's Alumni profile

Cryme Tyme & The Coney Island Cyclone

Hey, get a load of these bums. Shad and JTG were just two boys from the rough and tumble area of Flatbush who made good all the way to WWE. I’ve seen some hard-hitting battles in my day, but nothing as tough as these two hoodies. They faced all the top tag teams, but as rough as Cryme Tyme was in the ring, they had as much fun out of it, like that time they stole Trevor Murdoch’s hat and gave it to a fan. Funny stuff. Eh, it was a stupid hat anyway.

Watch Cryme Tyme face off with The Hart Dynasty | Visit JTG's Superstar profile

For a buncha years, these boys seemed to come and go with a career that had ups and downs like Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster. I tell ya, I rode that thing hundreds of times in my day. It’s been around for 85 years and still scares the bejesus outta me. Especially after eating a buncha hot dogs from the original Nathan’s right down the block on Surf Avenue. But I’d do it all over again to have a coupla brews with Cryme Tyme at Ruby’s Bar & Grill on the famous Boardwalk.

Tazz & Grand Army Plaza

Look out, if you’re not careful, this guy will suplex ya six ways from Sunday and twice on Tuesday. The hard-nosed ’hood of Red Hook must’ve done Tazz well and toughened him up to hang with the big boys in ECW. All the way down by the docks, Red Hook is known as being one of the most dangerous parts of all of New York City. But now they’ve got an IKEA and all kinds of fancy food stores. I guess that’s fitting for the former ECW Champ who was as hard to face in the ring as puttin’ together a Swedish bookcase. Who can figure that stuff out?!

Watch Tazz's WWE debut in New York City | Visit Tazz's Alumni profile

As brutal as Tazz’s style was, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is just as beautiful. I still say it’s better than overrated, oversized Central Park up in Manhattan. Back in my romantic days, I used to love hangin’ on the Long Meadow, havin’ a picnic with my girl. Grand Army Plaza is the big main entrance to the park at its northern corner in the fancy pants Park Slope neighborhood. It’s got a pretty fountain and this big thing called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ arch that was built all the way back in the 1800s to honor the Civil War. I ain’t no history buff, but Tazz sure was involved in some civil wars in his time, including as part of 2001’s Invasion by WCW and ECW. Get a slice at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria and enjoy the view.

Watch Brawler vs. Tazz in a Brooklyn Strap Match

Kaval & Ebbets Field

Hey, remember this guy? Blink and you mighta missed him. Believe it or not, Kaval was a kid from the seaside hamlet of Fort Hamilton down by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge who ended up winning the second season of NXT. He wasn’t around long, but Kaval was anything but low key. He hit harder in the ring than an oncoming R train to Bay Ridge. With that chest-crunching double-stomp, the little tough guy even once beat Dolph Ziggler in a big time match.

Watch a hard-hitting battle between Kaval and Dolph Ziggler

Kaval was never able to take Ziggler’s Intercontinental Championship, and even the lowly Brooklyn Dodgers won more titles. They went Hollywood in the ’50s, but “Dem Bums” of Ebbets Field were the borough’s pride and joy, and were named after the fans that hopped out of the way of the streetcar trolleys barreling down Brooklyn’s streets. Sometimes it seems like the Dodgers lost more World Series than I’ve won matches, but the boys finally won it all in 1955 and took off for Tinseltown two years later. Winning and leaving? Sounds like Kaval and the Dodgers have plenty in common.

Watch Kaval discuss his upbringing in Brooklyn | Watch Kaval win NXT

Johnny Rodz & The Manhattan Bridge

Sure, Johnny Rodz might be in the WWE Hall of Fame, but he still don’t get the credit he deserves. A lot like the Manhattan Bridge! Yeah, yeah, we all love to talk about the Brooklyn Bridge. And hey, don’t get me wrong, it’s a helluva bridge. But the Manhattan Bridge is just as important, just as Rodz was to WWE. He took on ’em all: Ricky Steamboat, Bob Backlund, Dusty Rhodes, you name him, Johnny was right there in the ring takin’ him on.

Watch Rodz' WWE Hall of Fame video package | Visit Johnny Rodz' WWE Hall of Fame profile

And the Manhattan Bridge is always right there, too, connecting Manhattan’s Canal St. to Brooklyn’s Flatbush Ave. But be careful. The B, D, N and Q trains don’t run underground between the boroughs, their tracks run right alongside the cars goin’ across the East River. The Manhattan Bridge ain’t much to look at, but it’s been around forever and hey, it does the job.

Gleason's Gym in DUMBO

These days, Johnny Rodz is still goin’ strong, training wrestlers at the world-famous Gleason’s Gym. Jake LaMotta, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson have all hooked rights and lefts at Gleason’s, and wouldn’t ya know it, it’s right underneath the Manhattan Bridge in a ’hood called DUMBO. It stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, but Johnny’s students ain't no dummies. Some of the best toughs from around New York City got their start there. Real hardcore guys from ECW like Tazz, Tommy Dreamer and The Dudley Boyz learned from Rodz. Even Matt Striker, who’s from that lousy excuse for a borough called Queens, was trained by Johnny and hit the pavement on DUMBO’s streets.

Watch Brawler face off with Kurt Angle in ECW at the Hammerstein Ballroom

These days, all the hip guys from up in Williamsburg with their big hair and tiny pants have headed down to DUMBO to see what all the fuss is about. What you’ll find there now are fancy coffee houses and overpriced clothing boutiques. Not my taste, but as much as the County of Kings has changed, you betta believe Gleason’s is still there, churning out the best that Brooklyn’s got to offer. Because when ya get right down to it, the borough is tough as nails. And when Raw finally makes its Brooklyn debut, fans should get ready for a fight. I’m bringin’ my wrestling boots … just in case.

Visit Alumni profiles:  The Dudley Boyz | Tommy Dreamer | Matt Striker

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