When the WWF got real in 1998, introducing the most brutal tournament ever seen on wrestling TV
The only time WWE (then WWF) went beyond the script by orchestrating real fights on live TV was when they presented the most vicious tournament ever seen on WWE TV, Brawl For All .
As pro wrestling fans, we know that everything that happens on screen is scripted and predetermined. The job description of a wrestler is to hold the kayfabe in front of the camera and make it look real. However, amidst all the drama, there was a time when things got brutally real.
In 1998, a new tournament was invented in WWE named “Brawl For All”. The tournament featured wrestlers engaging in dirty boxing in the wrestling ring. Bob Holly’s elucidation of the event in his autobiography “The Hardcore Truth” succinctly details just how vicious the tournament was. According to Holly, some of the wrestlers who participated in the event had martial arts backgrounds.
In his book, Bob explains how the tournament came about. He said, “As usual, time was passing, I wasn’t really making any money and I wasn’t going anywhere. Austin was taking off, and a few of the other guys at the top of the map were doing well, but there was a bunch of guys in the middle of the map just floating around doing nothing. Then someone came up with the idea of a shooting contest, which eventually became the Fight for all.
Back then, the competition was fierce and there wasn’t room for a lot of guys to feature at the top of the card, which made a lot of guys redundant. The WWF was neck and neck with WCW in terms of viewership. However, Vince, being the ambitious owner that he is, thought out of the box and decided to employ 16 men from the roster who were inactive and put them in the shoot fight tournament.
In an attempt to boost the ratings, wrestlers were forced to don the boxing gloves and fight legitimately on live television. The ultimate motive was to feature a wrestler who goes by the name of “Dr. Death” Steve Williams as the man of the tournament, so he was eventually pitted against Steve Austin in a wrestling match.
Steve Williams had the reputation of a real “Badass”. He wrestled in Japan for most of his career and his dominance resonated enough that he brushed aside every other guy he locked horns with. JR was the man who promoted Steve Williams in the tournament to the point that other guys didn’t like him and hoped he would be eliminated.
After the tournament was organized and the names of the top 16 players were on the cards, Bob Holly was surprised to learn that his name was not on the card. Naturally, this pi**d Holly like Holly is one of the nastiest and toughest wrestlers to ever step foot between the ropes.
Interestingly, one of the wrestlers named Tiger Ali Singh stepped down and a spot became free. Bradshaw urged Bruce Prichard, one of the event organizers, to add Holly’s name to the list.
So let’s set the scene, the rules were set and the pay was huge, whether you win or lose. For each game, participants received the staggering sum of $5,000. Bob Holly was the first to face his tag team partner, Bart Gunn. Bart was also the man who rode all the way. Unfortunately, Holly couldn’t survive due to their size disparity. Bart Gunn was also the man who went ahead and knocked out the show’s star, Steve Williams.
Who won the Tournament?
Unsurprisingly, Bart Gunn won the tournament by scoring three knockouts against Steve Williams, Bradshaw and The Godfather.
Bradshaw was the runner-up.
What happened to Bart Gunn?
After winning the tournament, he was brainwashed into taking on a legit boxer, Butterbean. The two men faced off at Wrestlemania XV in 1999.
Bart may have overestimated himself before saying yes to the match and paid a heavy price. This was the end of his live television career.
Why was the tournament not reintroduced?
Since these were real fights, the injuries sustained by the wrestlers were severe. Bob Holly said he had a black eye for a good week. Head injuries from games have resulted in superstars having concussions and other severities.