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 legit 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.
According to Jim Cornette, "Dr. Death" Steve Williams was the WWF's favourite to win the tournament, with the company looking towards a lucractive pay per view match between Williams and Stone Cold Steve Austin; Bob Holly asserted that Williams had already been paid the $100,000 prize money before his second round fight against Bart Gunn. During the fight, Williams sustained a hamstring injury and was knocked out by Gunn. Bart Gunn went on to defeat Bradshaw by KO on the August 24, 1998 episode of Raw is War to win the tournament and $75,000. Bradshaw received $25,000.
The WWF's most prominent tough guys at the time, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock, had little to no impact on the tournament. Severn defeated The Godfather in the first round but then withdrew from the tournament, stating he had nothing to prove. In a radio interview, Severn asserted that the WWF at first hadn't allowed him or Shamrock to compete at all and that they removed Severn from the tournament after his first-round victory over The Godfather. However, Steve Williams recalls Shamrock "backing out" and Severn withdrawing because of his "frustration at the rules and the idea of having to wear boxing gloves".
The tournament resulted in a number of legit 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 the WWF again. Brakkus sustained injuries to his knee and shoulder that led him to retire in 1999.
Fans in attendance instantly voiced their disapproval of the tournament. Chants of "Boring!" and "We want wrestling!" were audible during the segments.
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 legit fighting would have to their audience, considering that the WWF had aggressively promoted the idea that their matches were "sports entertainment". 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 that "nobody knew Bart Gunn was that good."
After winning the tournament, Bart Gunn feuded with both Bob Holly, now known as Hardcore Holly, and Steve Williams, both angry at having been beaten in the tournament, the latter masking himself and pushing Gunn off a stage. Gunn was later matched against pro boxer Butterbean at WrestleMania XV. Gunn was knocked out 35 seconds into the bout and soon after departed from the WWF. Bob Holly asserted that Gunn's loss to Butterbean as a punishment for defeating Steve Williams.
Most of the other participants departed the company within a year after the tournament; Steve Blackman and The Godfather left in 2002 and Bob Holly stayed with the company (now renamed WWE) until 2009. As of 2012, only Bradshaw – under his real name John Layfield – is still employed by WWE.
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|
- Steve Blackman defeated Marc Mero but was unable to compete in the next round, permitting re-entry into the tournament for Mero.
- Dan Severn defeated The Godfather but withdrew from the tournament, stating he had nothing to prove, permitting The Godfather to re-enter the tournament.
- Jim Cornette on WWE's Brawl For All Part 1, Part 2
- Bob Holly, The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story. p. 121.
- Steve Williams, How Dr. Death Became Dr. Life
- Henson, Joaquin (June 6, 2003). "Pacquiao backs off from wrestler". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
- "What's Going Down...". Power Slam. July 1998. p.5.
- WWE: The Attitude Era (DVD). WWE Home Video. May 22, 2013.
- The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story. p.121.