Wrestling history is littered with great and iconic moments that have captured the imagination of wrestling fans around the world. However, for every Austin 3:16 King of the Ring promo there’s also the debut of the Gobbledy Gooker and for every Curt Hennig there’s a Tiger Ali Singh. In other words, there are many moments and superstars that have quickly been forgotten by wrestling fans or, in the case of the Shockmaster, remembered solely for the utter ridiculousness of it.
In a new series on the blog, titled ‘Well, That Didn’t Work’ we’ll look at some of these woeful moments from wrestling history starting today with ‘The Brawl for All’.
Ah, ‘The Brawl for All’ tournament, what a legacy that has left of the world of wrestling and if there was a Hall of Shame then it would be a sure fire inclusion. With a bloated roster, owing largely to Vince snapping up stars in order to prevent WCW signing them, the WWF needed something for many stars to do. And keen, as ever, to cash in on successful trend outside wrestling – the Ultimate Fighting Championship becoming somewhat of a hit and garnering a great deal of attention, the WWF decided to launch a legitimate shoot fighting tournament titled ‘The Brawl for All’.
The much maligned Vince Russo was given the green light to go ahead with this venture with inclusion being voluntary bar two superstars; ironically in Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock two superstars with a MMC/UFC background. That said, the WWF would eventually relent and allow Severn to take part.
The rules were straight forward. Each match consisted of three one-minute rounds, the wrestler that connected with the most punches per round scored five points. Additionally, a takedown scored that superstar five points and a knockdown was worth 10. If a wrestler was knocked out, decided somewhat bizarrely by an eight-count as opposed to a 10, then the match was over. There were judges at ringside, including Gorilla Monsoon, that would score the matches.
Sixteen superstars would go on to take part in order to win the £75,000 prize money and the bragging rights. Those taking part were certainly a who’s who of being lost in the midcard: Steve Blackman, Marc Mero, Mark Canterbury, Bradshaw, Brakkus, Savio Vega, Droz, Hawk, Bart Gunn, Bob Holly, Pierre, the Godfather, 8-Ball,Scorpio, Dan Severn and, in Steve “Dr. Death” Williams, the man the WWF expected to win and were set to capitalise on that with a sustained push for him.
In the end, no one really won. Blackman and Hawk both picked up injuries that would keep them off of TV for a period whilst Savio Vega would aggrevate an injury that would mean he’d never compete in the WWF again. Additionally, the man the WWF had expected to win Steve Williams was knocked out in the second round. In the end, to virtually no fanfare, Bart Gunn won the tournament by defeating Bradshaw, setting up a match at Wrestlemania XV against Butterbean.
Not only did the final receive little fanfare, but the crowd showed no interest throughout – owing much to the slow going start – and chanted “boring” and “we want wrestling” throughout the tournament. This is without one of the worst attempts, and there have been many, to create cross-over appeal in the WWF. After years of pointing out that wrestling is a work the WWF then wanted fans to believe that this tournament was a “shoot”.
But could WWF have done things better? Well, if I had been in charge of booking it wouldn’t have gone ahead but for all its faults, and there were many, they could have capitalised more on Gunn’s success rather than feeding him to the wolves in the way they did by having him face Butterbean at Wrestlemania 15. After all, with the tournament being in part to build up Dr Death Steve Williams as a legitimate tough guy, why did the WWF not give that push to Bart Gunn in the end? Sure, he’d been around the block a bit never amounting to much as a solo star but they would have had nothing to lose in giving him a bit of a push as a result of this. Not doing so, as they did, meant that the tournament meant even less in the grand scheme of things. In the end they allowed an amateur fighter take on a professional one and have his ass handed to him in less than a minute. Clearly the WWF had had enough of the whole thing by that stage.
Perhaps it’s best to leave it to Jim Cornette to give his thoughts on ‘The Brawl for All’ who described it as “the stupidest thing that the WWF has ever done”.
You can hear more of his take on the tournament in the video below…