Written by: Luke Owen
It has gone down in wrestling history as the dumbest thing WWE have ever done: a prize-fighting shoot tournament which put several wrestlers on the injured shelf, ended one than one man’s WWF career, and didn’t create a single star. In fact, its conclusion was nothing short of punishment for the winner.
Brawl For All will never be remembered as a good idea, and Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring brilliantly dissects why with new interviews from Jim Cornette, Vince Russo, Droz, Bart Gunn, Godfather, and even Butterbean, shows why.
And here are 12 things we learned from the episode.
1. The Brawl For All Was Because Of John Bradshaw Layfield
Bruce Prichard has stated on his podcast that Brawl For All, or at least the idea of a shoot fight tournament, was the idea of Bradshaw, who wanted to find out who the toughest guy in the locker room really was. The man credited for the name and final product was Vince Russo, but he argues that Bradshaw was responsible for Brawl For All for a different reason.
“The Brawl For All started because I was not a fan of JBL,” Russo admits. “I was from New York, John was from Texas. I thought he had a big mouth, I thought he was full of himself, I thought he was a bully.” He adds: “We were backstage at a show one day, and Bradshaw made the comment that, ‘if this were real, I would beat everyone’s ass in the locker room’. So I’m sitting there thinking, ‘you braggadocious, bully, bastard – I know at least 10 guys in this locker room that will kick your ass.’ I went to Vince McMahon and proposed the idea of a Brawl For All.”
2. Bart Gunn Didn’t Want To Do It
Eventual winner Bart Gunn was at first hesitant to sign up for a shoot fight tournament saying, “I thought it was a stupid idea”. However, his position on the card was frustrating him. He had previously been a tag partner of Billy Gunn, but that team was split up and he was struggling to get over in a new tag team with Bob Holly as The New Midnight Express. After initially turning down Bruce Prichard, he was convinced by Kevin Kelly to do Brawl For All as his career was stuck. And his career could become unstuck…
3. The Winner Would Get A Program With Steve Austin
…Because the winner of the tournament was going to get a program with Steve Austin. Gunn says, “At the time he was the hottest thing going. You work with a top guy, you get top pay. I thought about it, and that’s when I decided I was going to do it.”
This was good incentive for a lot of guys to sign up. Bob Holly has also argued that he wanted to fight people and prove he was really tough, and Godfather liked the cash prize and knew that he was a tough guy because…
4. Godfather Used To Knockout Pimps
…In an anecdote with a certain lovely hint of irony, The Godfather tells the story about how he used to slap pimps that came into the strip club he managed during his WWF career. He says that he hates pimps, and would walk out into the bar and tell them to leave. And if they didn’t, he would slap them and send them packing. “I used to be able to knock people out by slapping them in the face,” Godfather notes in the documentary.