Dark Side Of The Ring – Brawl For All

Bart Gunn Got Screwed

That could be the title of this episode of Vicelands ‘Dark Side Of The Ring’ docuseries. Brawl For All was an event conceived of by then WWF Head Writer Vince Russo, one of professional wrestlings’ most controversial personalities. Russo stated in this episode that he had conceived of this event because Bradshaw aka John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield was bragging in the locker room one day about being able to beat anyone in the locker room in a straight-up fight. He then presented to concept to Vince McMahon, who OK’d the idea, and proceeded to get the event organized.

Taking place in 1998, in the Attitude Era, ‘Brawl For All’ was a boxing tournament, with modified and ever-changing rules. A field that included The Godfather (Charles Wright), Marc Mero, Steve Blackman,’Dr. Death’ Steve Willams (fresh off a hot run in Japan, newly arrived in WWF), Bradshaw, and the aforementioned Bart Gunn – formerly of the Smokin’ Gunns tag team.

Bart Gunn wins the Braw For All by KO over Bradshaw
photo: WWE.com

At the time, Bart Gunn wasn’t even a thought to compete, much less win this thing. The Smokin’ Gunns had been broken up, Bart was just floating around, and he was presented with a chance to compete in this event. He was, as the expression goes, the meat in the room, not to contribute, just be a warm body. The popular opinion/notion was that the tournament was meant as a vehicle to elevate Dr. Death to get him into a program with the current WWF Champion and epitome of the Attitude Era “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. According to Bart Gunn, in a conversation with Bruce Prichard at the time, he says he was told the winner (whoever that was) would get a shot at Steve Austin.

 

Bart Gunn Got Screwed

One of the things I did not expect in this episode is how this makes Jim Ross look, and it’s not a positive light. Steve Williams was an Oklahoma guy, went to OU, had worked with JR in the past, got good money to come to WWF and that he was JR’s pet project. Ross seemed very perturbed by the notion that Steve Williams would get favorable treatment, and it comes across as “He doth protest too much”. I also did not expect to agree with Jim Cornette, but he was right in this particular instance that this idea was a horrid idea, and led to the derailment of multiple careers.

 

Bart Gunn Got Screwed

Bart Gunn won this tournament as a serious underdog, and how he beats Dr. Death (in which Steve Williams tore his hamstring), then beats The Godfather (who was seriously injured) and then KOs Bradshaw (the person this tournament was ‘inspired’ by)…and then was sent home for 6 months. This guy, wins the tournament, the WWF writing staff *cough* Vince Russo *cough* couldn’t come up with a story for the underdog winner of a legit boxing tournament, sits at home because “Creative has nothing for you”, then gets thrown in WrestleMania against the current King Of The 4 Round Prizefight, Butterbean. Butterbean was at 60+ victories with commensurate knockouts and Vince McMahon being Vince McMahon, chasing the mainstream notoriety, threw Bart Gunn to the wolves to get KO’d at WrestleMania.

 

Scorecard

Steve Blackman – injured

Road Warrior Hawk – injured

Godfather – injured

Brakkus – injured

Dr. Death Steve Williams – inured (torn hamstring)

Savio Vega – aggravated previous injury

 

Bart Gunn Got Screwed

Out of the entrants, Bart Gunn, Savio Vega, Steve Williams, and Brakkus would all be gone from WWF within 12 months.

 

‘Dark Side Of The Ring’ is currently airing Tuesday nights at 10pm on Viceland.

Vice is also making the episodes available on YouTube