Dr. Death wasn't the only one put on the shelf because of the Brawl For All tournament, either. Steve Blackman got hurt and was shelved for three months. Hawk was out of the ring for over four weeks, Droz for three.
One of the scariest injuries was suffered by The Godfather, who was Bart Gunn's latest left hook victim. He'd miss three months after a terrifying knockout.
"He hit that man so hard, his eyes rolled into the back of his head. I've never seen anybody get hit that hard in my life," Russo remembered. "I don't think we thought that through, if half the roster gets f'd up. It didn't really affect our (creative) plans, though."
Even those who weren't hurt, like Brakkus, Savio Vega, Mark Canterbury and Pierre Oullette, were barely seen in the WWE again. Most of the talents used weren't factored in to the WWF's creative landscape.
Still, the WWE's early ringer, the one who the Brawl For All was going to be used as a vehicle for, had been defeated. Steve Williams was down and out. Prior to the fight, Gunn was intimidated, but for the wrong reasons.
"Bart called me the week before and asked me if he'd be fired if he knocked out Dr. Death," Prichard said. "He said 'I know this was set up for Doc, and he's the chosen one, but I will knock him out.'"
One person that was said to be upset was former world champion Terry Funk (who actually picked Bart Gunn to win the Brawl For All), who felt that wrestlers and crew members backstage disrespected Dr.Death with the '1985 Road Warrior pop' in response to his knockout. Despite the lukewarm audience reaction, the Brawl For All was a 'curtain sellout' among active roster members.
"75 percent of the time backstage, nobody is watching. When a Brawl for All fight was going on, it was standing room only," Vince Russo said. "You had to fight to get a spot in front of the monitor because all the boys were so into it."
Despite the interest backstage, many talents still shared Ross and Prichard's sentiments that the Brawl For All was a bad idea. Shoot fights during a worked program confused the audience, and also seemed to undermine the point of the show. Waltman remembers his feelings on the tournament.
"It was the dumbest f--king idea in WWE history. These guys are fighting for real, and everything else you're watching is bulls--t. That's basically what they were telling everyone watching. That, the injuries, and having guys fighting each other that are supposed to be working with each other is just the dumbest f--king thing I can ever remember in my years in wrestling. Real f--king easy for guys that have never fought, let alone been real pro wrestlers to think that s--t up while they're sitting around playing Dungeons & Dragons in a writing meeting to come up with that dumbass f--king bulls--t. They don't have to suffer any of the consequences. Is it any wonder no one wants to take full credit for that abortion of a f--king idea?" Waltman said.
Waltman reminds us of yet another overlooked aspect of the Brawl For All tournament. Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn had been pro wrestlers in the past, but transitioned from the world of no holds barred fighting, a precursor to today's mixed marital arts, which has regulations and rule sets. Many WWE talents weren't sure if they could trust the former UFC stars in a scripted environment.
"When I got approached about it, I was disappointed," Shamrock said. "It took me a long time to be able to build trust with the different people I got in the ring with and would wrestle with. They're trying to do this fight that's real, but they're not professional fighters, and they're going out there and mixing it with their jobs. It put a lot of pressure on them to perform and do both. I felt bad for them."
If The Hardcore Truth is to be believed, the fact that Jim Ross was putting over Steve Williams backstage wasn't the only reason Dr. Death had started getting resentment backstage. Holly also has publicly stated that many talents felt as if the scorecards were being generously tilted in the favor of Williams. Williams himself brought the issues about, as he'd told Holly that he was already paid to win the tournament.
"I spoke to Bob Holly, who had written in his book that Dr. Death got paid ahead of the Brawl For All, and he didn't hear me say it, he didn't hear the office say it, ," Jim Ross explained. "Dr. Death told him that. The wrestlers are the wrestlers. One of the great arguments and controversies in any wrestling locker room is the wrestlers to talk about their paydays with their peers. They rarely tell the truth, and are embellishing their pay to look better than their peers. I love Doc like a brother, but he's no different than any of the other boys. He wanted to make himself look better than he was."
Despite the rumors that Williams started about being paid ahead of time and the hype surrounding him, he was still well regarded and heavily respected backstage. He wasn't necessarily the favorite to win among talents, though.
"I felt awful for Doc," Waltman said. "He was such a good man, and I don't think he wanted to do it anymore than half the other guys who were asked and afraid to say no. Blackman was all for it & probably would've won if they hadn't changed the rules halfway through. I'm pretty sure Blackman said "f--k this" when they changed the rules."
Prichard agreed with Waltman, saying, "I think Blackman would have won it if Steve would have stayed in. Steve is tough on all fronts. He was a good grappler, and lightning fast."
But Blackman was gone. Severn was gone. Shamrock couldn't be financially convinced. Dr. Death had been defeated. Bart Gunn didn't care. He kept knocking people out.
Bart Gunn had defeated his own tag team partner in Bob Holly, knocked out the early favorite in "Dr. Death" Steve Williams, ruined at least one higher-ups plans, and then brutally KO'd and shelved The Godfather. The finals were pretty much a formality. In the words of Holly, Bart Gunn "knocked Bradshaw out colder than a well digger's ass." Bart Gunn was the Brawl For All Champion, and his left hook would forever be associated with the tourney.
The prize (outside of the bonus cash) wasn't much of a prize at all. Gunn was scheduled to face well known pro boxer Eric "Butterbean" Esch at WrestleMania 15, which was right in the middle of one of WWE's hottest periods of all time. The fight was going to have standard Brawl For All rules, meaning Gunn could take down Butterbean, who wasn't an experienced wrestler.
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