Step right up, come inside and enjoy your visit to Pro Wrestling's Hall of Shame. You'll find the Shockmaster's glitter-covered storm trooper helmet, the egg that the Gobbledy Gooker hatched from and John Morrison's charisma.
The Brawl for All was truly a Hall of Shame event in the making. It met all the requirements to be inducted into the HoS and will always be remembered as a great Wrestlecrap moment.
Without further ado, I give to you the first inductee of the Hall of Shame's Class of 2012, WWF's Brawl for All.
The WWF's roster was bloated back in 1998. Vince was signing every talent he could get his hands on; he didn't want to lose out on a guy and watch them go to WCW. Bischoff was doing the same thing down in Atlanta. So that's why we were treated to such talented guys like Brakkus, The Harris Brothers, Beaver Cleavage and the Oddities.
1998 was also the year that Ultimate Fighting Championship was becoming popular and drawing a lot of attention. Senator John McCain called it "human cockfighting," and many states banned the UFC, but shootfighting was the brand new thing, and it peaked the interest of fight fans and wrestling fans alike.
Vince McMahon, never one to not try to capitalize and cash in on a recent trend, gave Vince Russo the green light to book a legit shootfighting tournament. Participation in this tournament was voluntary, except for two men, Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn. They were told they weren't allowed to participate, which makes no sense to me considering these guys are actual MMA fighters, but go figure.
The rules were simple enough. Each match consisted of three one-minute rounds. Whichever wrestler connected with the most punches per round scored five points. In addition, a "clean" takedown scored five points, and a knockdown was worth 10. If a wrestler was knocked out (decided by an eight-count rather than a 10-count), the match ended. The matches were scored by ringside judges. I don't know why they went with an eight count instead of 10. I didn't book it, though, and even if I was given the chance, I wouldn't.
Sixteen would-be tough guys entered the tournament with the chance to win $75,000 and major bragging rights. There wasn't a lot going on for these guys, and with this rundown, you can see why: Steve Blackman, Marc Mero, Mark Canterbury, Bradshaw, Brakkus, Savio Vega, Droz, Hawk, Bart Gunn, Bob Holly, Pierre, the Godfather, 8-Ball,Scorpio, Dan Severn (yes, they let him in) and the Fed's favorite to win, Steve "Dr. Death" Williams.
See, they had their money on Dr Death plowing through the tournament and cementing himself as the toughest in the WWF. Why they let him take part in a tournament where he could legit lose to a guy like Droz is lost on me. These plans went straight to the Wrestlecrapper, as Dr. Death was knocked out by Bart Gunn.
No one really won in this tournament; just about everyone came away with an injury—some minor, some major. Steve Blackman and Hawk weren't able to wrestle for a while after; Savio Vega had to retire from aggravating an old arm injury. Severn was pulled after defeating the Godfather; it was believed a loss would hurt his MMA career. Losing to a near seven-foot tall pimp that used to be a voodoo master wouldn't look good.
The Brawl for All went over like a lead balloon with the fans; they chanted "we want wrestling" in the first week and grew very impatient with the slow-going action. Jim Cornette was very vocal with his dislike of the whole thing; he 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.
Yes, that's right. Bart Gunn won the tournament with little fanfare after defeating Bradshaw. He then went on to getting knocked out by Butterbean at Wrestlemania 15. He was knocked out of the WWF shortly thereafter and became big in Japan as Mike Barton, the man that put Dr. Death on his ass.
This wouldn't be the last time that Russo tried to bring MMA into wrestling, putting Tank Abbott in WCW and Frank(rear-naked) Trigg in TNA. Wrestling and shootfighting just don't mix.