In an attempt to capitalize on the fledgling Ultimate Fighting movement—and to appease several underutilized lower-card wrestlers—the WWE set up a pseudo-mixed martial arts tournament in the spring of 1998.
Called the Brawl for all, this odd combination of boxing—kicks, elbows and headbutts were illegal—and amateur wrestling—but no ground attacks—didn’t exactly take professional wrestling by storm. In fact, it injured several competitors and ruined the reputation of yet more, including the highly touted Dr. Death, Steve Williams.
The eventual winner Bart Gunn, who finished three of his four opponents on the way to winning the tournament, was rewarded with a cheque for $75,000 and a match at SummerSlam against cult sensation Eric “Butterbean” Esch. Gunn was subsequently knocked out in 35 seconds and the whole experiment was quietly forgotten.
Both the WWE and the world of mixed martial arts are unrecognizable from their forms back then, but the question of who would win such a tournament now is still intriguing to fans.
The tournament would certainly be of a higher standard today, as many of the WWE’s wrestlers train in MMA to improve their wrestling ability and some have even competed in actual mixed-martial-arts matches.
The general public’s better understanding of mixed martial arts would likely see a second reincarnation of Brawl for All follow the unified rules of MMA, which is the standard rule-set observed across North America.
It still wouldn’t be a good idea to actually run the tournament, as injuries and the potential for embarrassment that arose in the inaugural contest would surely be repeated. Yet these practical issues cannot stop the questions over who would win such a tournament now.
Here are the 10 most likely candidates to win a Brawl for All if it did happen.