As it turns out, Ken Shamrock may have not been allowed in the tournament at all originally. WWE execs thought that including him and fellow UFC star Dan Severn would make for a possibly unfair competition.
"(Management came and said) The only people who weren't going to be allowed to do it are Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn, so originally I was banned," Severn said. "I didn't stick around. Whenever I found out I wasn't in it, I left and went back to the locker room. Several weeks into this Brawl For All sequence, I'm just in the back laying or something, probably using my duffle bag as a pillow. One of the road agents came up and said 'how would you like to be in the Brawl for All tonight?' I said 'against who, and how much?' They told me and I said done deal."
When Shamrock and Severn were banned from participating, the plan had been for the tournament to be done MMA style. According to Jim Ross, state athletic commissions began to step in, and the tournament rules had to be drastically changed. This opened the door to the former UFC stars to be invited back to participate. Severn accepted, Shamrock did not.
The original field looked rough. WWF newcomer and former NFL player Darren Drozdov, former WWE tag champions-turned lower card wrestlers Mark Canterbury, Bob Holly and Bart Gunn, one-eyed Pierre Ouellet. 8-Ball, Scorpio, Bradshaw – all who had indistinguishable runs with the company, and a suspiciously huge newcomer in Brakkus. According to Bob Holly in his book The Hardcore Truth, Tiger Ali Singh was originally set for the tournament after bragging about his background, but ended up backing out, leaving the spot open for Holly.
There were a few names of interest that signed up, though. Road Warrior Hawk was one half of the most intimidating tag teams of all time, and had an image to uphold. Marc Mero had a legit boxing background as a Golden Gloves champion. "Dr. Death" Steve Williams was a four time All-American wrestler. The Godfather and Steve Blackman had at least portrayed shoot fighters on TV at some point, although the general public had no idea if their accomplishments were real or not. Vince Russo thinks that the perception of these talents played a role in their choices.
"The guys who had reputations as bad asses, could you imagine if they didn't sign up for it? You have a locker room full of talent, this is a shoot. It's time to put up or shut up. If you're as bad as you want people to think you are, it's time. In a guy like Road Warrior Hawk's case, I think he really didn't have a choice," Russo said.
As mentioned, the original rules recommendations were for MMA-style bouts, before they were changed. Steve Blackman began training accordingly, planning on taking his opponents' knees out with kicks. When Blackman revealed his game plan to WWF management, they decided more strict rules should be put in place in order to protect their talents.
It didn't work.
Either way, the Brawl for All was off to the races.
The fights weren't pretty, the combatants were not skilled, and the crowd was not entertained. If anything, the live audience seemed confused. Just minutes in, the project looked like it was a complete failure.
The comparisons to toughman contests were well founded. Bradshaw vs. Mark Canterbury and Droz vs. Hawk were slop fests. Droz fought with his chin straight up in the air, throwing punches from his hips, and Hawk 's fundamental striking was laughable for someone who'd intimidated the world of wrestling for 15 years. The fighters were exhausted after only one-minute rounds. Danny Hodge, who served as a referee, looked embarrassed to be involved. By the end of the opening round of bouts, matches were being taped before Raw and shown in brief clips instead of live.
There were a couple of bright spots in the first round, too. Dan Severn looked like he had something to prove, and despite having a takedown stuffed by The Godfather, he dominated the match. Steve Blackman spammed takedowns on the former Golden Gloves boxer Marc Mero on his way to a victory. Although he wasn't technically sound, Savio Vega completely dominated Brakkus, who looked jacked to the gills.
The company also used the opening round to try to work some interesting angles and storylines. Hawk and Droz fought to a draw (Droz advanced), and had been working a bit of a rivalry on-screen prior. Bart Gunn and Bob Holly had been tag partners for a while, and The Godfather, a wrestling pimp, was flocked by hos during his entrance. The matchups at least, were just the luck of the draw.
"We did the brackets in my office, with everybody's name on a piece of paper put in a bag," Prichard said. "Savio Vega actually drew the names, and had two other witness it. We did a legit, blind draw to do brackets. They didn't want me or an agent or anyone connected with it for fear of people calling it a work."
'Dr. Death' Steve Williams won his fight, but it wasn't a work of art by any stretch. Still, he was considered an odds-on favorite to win the thing, maybe even a ringer, so it wasn't surprising. What was surprising was that his opponent Pierre Ouelett, who had one eye, was even allowed to fight.
"I couldn't even begin to tell you the rationale behind it," said Prichard of Ouellet. "He wanted to be in it. It scared the s--t out of me. And against Doc! There's not an athletic commission in the world that would allow that."
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