Posted by CANbike on Mon, 24 Feb 2014

Tough Guy Tournament: WWF Brawl For All (1998)

The WWF Brawl For All was a failed concept, that has aged well. Looking back at it 15+ years later, it’s actually quite entertaining as a standalone event.

The tournament featured 16 professional wrestlers in a legitimate tough man contest that was a hybrid of wrestling and boxing. Most of the competitors were tough guys with no professional fighting experience. Hence it was a brawl.

Brawl For All Rules

  • 3-One Minute Rounds
  • Point System:
    Most Punches Per Round 5 PTS
    Takedown               5 PTS
    Knockdowns             10 PTS
  • Knockout Ends Brawl

Additional Notes

A knockout was determined by a standing 8-count, and matches were scored by ringside judges.

After Dan Severn vs The Godfather, an additional rule was added. Failure to make a clean break within 5 seconds of the referees request results in a 5 point deduction.

Results

The tournament took place on WWF’s Monday Raw is War from June 29, 1998 to August 24, 1998.

Round of 16

  • Raw is War (June 29, 1998)
    - Steve Blackman defeats Marc Mero by decision
    - John Bradshaw Layfield defeats Mark Canterbury by decision
  • Raw is War (July 6, 1998)
    - Savio Vega defeats Brakkus by decision
    - Darren “Droz” Drozdov and Road Warrior Hawk draw by decision
  • Raw is War (July 13, 1998)
    - Bart Gunn defeats Bob Holly by decision
    - Dan Severn defeats The Godfather by decision
  • Raw is War (July 20, 1998)
    - Steve Williams defeats Quebecer Pierre by TKO in the third round
    - Scorpio defeats 8-Ball by decision

Quarterfinals

  • Raw is War (July 27, 1998)
    - Bart Gunn defeats Steve Williams by KO in the third round
  • Raw is War (August 3, 1998)
    - The Godfather defeats Scorpio by decision

Note: Dan Severn withdrew from the tournament. The Godfather was re-entered into the tournament as an alternate.

In a professional wrestling interview segment before the match, Dan Severn said “a man of my stature, I have nothing to prove. When I have a score to settle, I will do it when my hands are not bound.”

  • Raw is War (August 10, 1998)
    - John Bradshaw Layfield defeats Marc Mero by decision
    - Darren “Droz” Drozdov defeats Savio Vega by decision

Note: Steve Blackman was unable to compete. Marc Mero was re-entered into the tournament as an alternate.

Note 2: Road Warrior Hawk was unable to compete due to a broken nose. Darren “Droz” Drozdov advanced into the tournament.

Semifinals

  • Raw is War (August 17, 1998)
    - John Bradshaw Layfield defeats Darren “Droz” Drozdov by points
    - Bart Gunn defeats The Godfather by KO in the third round

Finals

  • Raw is War (August 24, 1998)
    - Bart Gunn defeats John Bradshaw Layfield by KO in the first round and is declared the winner of Brawl For All

Bonus Brawl For All Match

  • WrestleMania XV (March 28, 1999)
    - Eric “Butterbean” Esch defeated Bart Gunn by KO in the first round

15+ Years Later

On September 5, 2013 a YouTube user, EdwardJohnStazak, had compiled and published the bouts together as a single event. As a bonus, Bart Gunn’s reward match versus professional boxer Eric “Butterbean” Esch was included.

In February 2014, the video has a become a topic of discussion on a few MMA forums. The event was largely criticized by the wrestling community on debut, and it’s often criticized now. The reaction of MMA fans is divided. Some find it horrible, others find it a real hoot due to the number of knockouts.

Personally, I watched it and thought it was a blast. Most of the athletes weren’t fighters but tough guys. They were brawling. Even better was Bart Gunn unexpectedly destroying the competition. Unfortunately, his punishment was to fight professional boxer Eric “Butterbean” Esch at WrestleMania XV.

Overall the concept reminded of the early UFC tournaments format which I also liked.

Must see matches are:

  • Bart Gunn vs Steve Williams
  • Bart Gunn vs The Godfather
  • Bart Gunn vs John Bradshaw Layfield
  • Eric “Butterbean” Esch vs Bart Gunn

Thankfully, though, there was only one Brawl For All. As much fun as it was to watch and reflect on now, there were too many things wrong with it. Most notably would be the injuries suffered and professional wrestling careers ended.

Observations: Failed Concept and Issues

There were several problems with the tournament, but it was even more entertaining as a result.

Tough Guys Not Fighters

The tournament featured some of the toughest guys in professional wrestling. With the exception of Dan Severn, they were not professional fighters. Results were bound to be unpredictable and disastrous.

In the end, all the competitors except Bart Gunn came across as inexperienced.

Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn

Both Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn were former UFC fighters. They were well known and successful MMA fighters.

Ken Shamrock was not in the tournament.

Dan Severn, however, did compete in the first round. Unfortunately, anytime he started wrestling, submittting, or beating his opponent the referee would separate the competitors. Yet, according to the rules, he did nothing wrong.

Seriously, he should of won the entire tournament. But no. After winning the first round, he withdrew from the tournament in a wrestling sketch.

Wrong Audience

The tournament took place during Raw is War a professional wrestling show. Clearly, the audience did not like the event, as they booed and chanted “boring” loudly. They wanted to see scripted wrestling, not fighting. Understandably, the fights came across as boring as they probably thought it was scripted. After all, the tournament took place in between scripted wrestling matches and sketches.

Fight fans, on the other hand, weren’t going to tune in just for the tournament matches as the show appears scripted.

Shoot or Work

To further confuse the audience, some competitors entered under the ring name with gimmicks while others entered under their real name.

This was a shoot (real), but it was tied in with story lines. Jim Cornette was there dealing with the WWF Midnight Express (Bart Gunn and Bob Holly) breaking up to fight each other. In addition, the Godfather came out with his “companions” and offered them to his opponents.

Quebecer Pierre – Carl Joseph Yvon Ouellet

Carl Ouellet has only one eye. He lost his right eye at the age of 12. As tough as he is, the fight against Steve Williams should not of happened due a lack of perception of depth. A legally sanctioned fighting organization would not allow him to compete.

In a interview by Great North Wrestling (published on September 10, 2013),

Carl Ouellet claimed Road Warrior Hawk requested he take the shot from Steve Williams and lay down. He refused.

WWF/WWE Careers Aftermath

  • Steve Blackman – Contract expired in October 2002. It was not renewed by WWE.
  • Marc Mero – Last WWF televised appearance was at Capital Carnage on December 6, 1998. In 1999, he left the WWF.
  • Mark Canterbury – In 1998, left the WWF and retired.
  • John Bradshaw Layfield – Retired from WWE on April 6, 2009. Returned on March 7, 2011. Currently employed as a commentator.
  • Brakkus – Last WWF televised appearance was at Monday Night Raw on July 27, 1998. Left the WWF in 1999.
  • Savio Vega – Last WWF televised appearance was Brawl For All – Quarterfinals (August 10, 1998). He was soon released from his WWF contract.
  • Darren “Droz” Drozdov – Still employed by WWE.
  • Road Warrior Hawk – In 1998, he left the WWF.
  • Bart Gunn – Last WWF televised appearance was at WrestleMania XV (March 28, 1999). Shortly thereafter was released by WWF.
  • Bob Holly – Released by WWE from his contract on January 16, 2009.
  • Quebecer Pierre – Left the WWE after his contract expired in January, 2000.
  • Steve Williams – Released by WWF in early 1999.
  • The Godfather – Released by WWE in December 2002.
  • Dan Severn – Left the WWF in early 1999.
  • 8-Ball – Left the WWF in the summer of 1999.
  • Scorpio – Released by the WWF in early 1999.

Winner Faces Eric “Butterbean” Esch

Bart Gunn was the unexpected Brawl For All winner. His punishment was a WrestleMania XV match against Eric “Butterbean” Esch a professional heavyweight boxer whose record was 42–1–1. Moreover Butterbean was the IBA World Super Heavyweight Championship.

A professional boxer versus a person with no professional fights is a total mismatch. It was completely lopsided and should of never happened. Most legally sanctioned fighting organization would not allow this bout.

Although takedowns were allowed, there was a huge weight difference. Butterbean was around 400 lbs while Bart Gunn was a billed weight of 264 lbs. Big difference.

For that matter, none of the other Brawl For All contestants, with the exception of Dan Severn would of stood a chance. In the case of Dan Severn, the WWF crippled him by not allowing him to use his wrestling or submission skills. In other words, he would be forced to box with Butterbean. Wisely Dan Severn would decline as was a MMA grappler, not a striker.

Jim Cornette Speaks Up

Insight into the Brawl For All.

Jim Cornette who was with WWF at the time and indirectly involved with the event summed up the issues in a critique on a whosslammingwho podcast (March 16, 2009). They coincide and explain many of the previous observations.

Warning: Jim Cornette swears a lot in these podcast!

Jim Cornette on WWE’s Brawl For all (Part 1)
Jim Cornette on WWE’s Brawl For all (Part 2)

Fan Confusion

  • WWF emphasized the sports entertainment for years.
  • Confusion with fans
    • This was suppose to be a shoot (real).
    • But WWF always advertised themselves as scripted and fake.
    • No fan would believe it was real.
    • Management thought fans would understand this was a shoot.

Bart Gunn

  • A great athlete.
  • Has fought in some tough man contest.
  • Has a pretty good punch.

Inexperienced Fighters

  • Bunch of tough guys. Most without training or fighting experience.
  • Bob Holly could fight, but had no experience per say.
  • The Godfather was a bouncer. Might of had some mixed-martial background but far removed from competition. No time to train.
  • Bradshaw played pro-football. 10 years removed from competition.
  • Wrestling skills didn’t matter due to gloves. Could not take people down.

Dr. Death Steve Williams

  • Legitimate tough guy.
  • NCAA All American wrestler.
  • Pro football player.
  • All American collegian football player.
  • Had been in fights with fans.
  • Just started in WWF.
  • Management thought he would win it all.
    • This would propel him to stardom and challenge Stone Cold Steve Austin for the title.

Dr. Death Steve Williams at Brawl For All

  • Never boxed with gloves before.
  • Not professionally trained.
  • Legitimately tough. Can hit him hard an he won’t be hurt.
  • Trying to be mobile, tears hamstring.
    • One legged can’t move out of the way.
    • Gets caught with a shot from Bart Gunn.
    • Done goes Dr. Death.
  • Bart Gunn wins Brawl For All.
  • Cost the PPV plan for Steve Ausin vs Steve Williams for the wrestling title.
    • PPV revenue would of been around $5 million.

Aftermath

  • Numerous injuries to wrestling talent.
    • Godfather hurt.
    • Dr. Death Steve Williams hurt.
      • Career never recovered with WWF.
      • Hurt friendship with Jim Ross.

Brawl For All Winner: Bart Gunn

  • A new Superstar.
  • Have him fight professional boxer Butterbean in a big marquee WrestleMania XV match.
    • Fans don’t follow boxing.
    • Fans don’t know Butterbean.
  • Butterbean knocks out Bart Gunn in a minute.
    • Kills Bart Gunn’s WWF career. He leaves afterwards.

Jim Cornette’s Closing Summary

  • Injuries on the talent roster.
  • Bad feelings on the boys who actually beat each other up.
  • Fans didn’t care.
  • No one believed it was a shoot.
  • Killed Dr. Deaths WWF career.
  • Cost themselves millions of dollars.

Final Words

Watching the Brawl For All as a standalone event without the wrestling was enjoyable. It was similar to the early UFC tournament days. However, instead of different martial art styles, it was tough guy wrestlers.

The event stands out as being unique due to the issues and strange decisions made by the WWF. There will be nothing like it again as MMA has evolved into it’s own successful sport, and present day athletes would be protected from such fighting mismatches.

The event was fun. The background stories and issues were unbelievable. Go ahead and watch it at least once for the absurdity.


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