WWF Brawl for All
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The WWF Brawl for All was a shootfighting tournament held in the World Wrestling Federation that lasted from June 29, 1998 to August 24, 1998. The tournament, which resulted in a number of legitimate injuries for WWF performers, was received negatively by fans and industry figures.
Throughout 1998, the WWF experienced a growth in roster size but due to limited amount of TV time a number of their more genuine "tough guys" were left without much to do. As a result, the idea for a legit tough guy tournament was bandied about as a way to both utilize some of these men and capitalize on the recent interest in Toughman Contests around the country.
According to John Bradshaw Layfield, Vince Russo came up with the idea when Layfield wanted to create a hardcore wrestling division in the WWF. When asked about it, Bruce Pritchard stated, "we're going to put you in gloves, and it's going to be a legit fight." Participation in the tournament was strictly voluntary.
Each match consisted of three one-minute rounds. Whichever wrestler connected with the most punches per round scored 5 points. In addition, a "clean" takedown scored 5 points and a knockdown was worth 10. If a wrestler was knocked out (decided by an eight-count rather than a ten-count), the match ended. The matches were scored by ringside judges including Gorilla Monsoon.
Fans in attendance instantly voiced their disapproval of the tournament. Chants of "Boring!" and "We want wrestling!" were audible during the segments.
The tournament resulted in a number of legitimate injuries -- Steve Blackman and Road Warrior Hawk were unable to work in usual WWF capacities for a while after. Savio Vega aggravated an old arm injury and would never work for WWF again.
Jim Cornette has described the tournament as "the stupidest thing that the WWF has ever done". He argues that the WWF misjudged the appeal that legitimate fighting would have to their audience, considering that the WWF had aggressively promoted the idea that their matches were "sports entertainment" with scripted finishes. Furthermore, because the fighters were trained to work professional wrestling matches and not to fight, they risked both injury and the possibility that a defeat would hurt their marketability. Cornette also criticized the WWF for failing to use the tournament to promote Bart Gunn as a new star wrestler.
In the WWE documentary The Attitude Era, Jim Ross stated that it was "one of those ideas that looked really cool on paper," but Layfield added that the execution was "a bad idea." Layfield also stated, "nobody knew Bart Gunn was that good."
Bob Holly claims that the WWE had already paid "Dr. Death" Steve Williams the $100,000 prize money before his second round loss to Bart Gunn. He also claims that Bart Gunn's match with Butterbean was punishment for defeating Steve Williams.
Bart Gunn defeated Bradshaw by TKO on the August 24, 1998 episode of Raw is War to win the tournament and $75,000. Bradshaw received $25,000.
After winning the tournament Bart Gunn disappeared from TV for a few months before reappearing to feud with former tag-team partner Bob Holly, now known as Hardcore Holly. He was later matched against pro boxer Eric "Butterbean" Esch at WrestleMania XV. Gunn was knocked out approximately 35 seconds into the bout and soon after was out of the WWF. Though Gunn's legitimate knockout of Williams did not bring him success in the WWF, he was seen with great mystique in Japan where Williams is highly regarded. He tours the independent circuit and Japan under the name Mike Barton.
As of 2012, only Bradshaw–under his real name John Layfield–and Darren Drozdov are employed by WWE, although Drozdov suffered a severe injury in 1999 leaving him a quadraplegic and Layfield was out of the company between 2009 and 2012. Most of the other participants departed the company within a year after the tournament, with Steve Blackman and The Godfather continuing to work for the renamed WWE until 2002 and Bob Holly departing in 2009.
Brawl for All tournament bracket
KO - knockout; TKO - technical knockout; Pts - points; Dec - referee's/judge's decision
|First round||Second round||Semifinals||Finals|
|8/17||Darren "Droz" Drozdov|
|8/10||Darren "Droz" Drozdov||Pts|
|RAW||Darren "Droz" Drozdov||Draw|
|7/6||Road Warrior Hawk||Draw|
NOTE: Steve Blackman defeated Marc Mero but was unable to compete in the next round, permitting re-entry into the tournament for Mero.
NOTE: Dan Severn defeated The Godfather but withdrew from the tournament, citing he had nothing to prove and permitting re-entry for The Godfather.
NOTE: Quote from Dan Severn off of Sherdog radio says he and Ken Shamrock were not allowed to participate, but then Dan Severn was asked to participate. After defeating The Godfather he was told he was no longer allowed to continue.
- "What's Going Down...". Power Slam. July 1998. p.5.
- WWE: The Attidue Era (DocumentaryWWE Home Video. May 22, 2013.) (DVD).
- The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story. p.121.