It’s no secret that Vince McMahon likes to be on top.
Not only is WWE the most successful wrestling promotion in the world, but it’s also one of the biggest in combat sports.
So when UFC arrived in 1993 as the new kid on the block, it’s little surprise that McMahon became concerned.
After all, MMA was drawing a lot of fans towards the Octagon way before it had the star power of Conor McGregor, Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey.
In fact, in the late 1990s, even WWF fans were being pulled away from the squared circle. Vince needed to do something big to get them back and thus… ‘Brawl for All’ was born.
Trying to cash in on the clear potential of combat sport, McMahon let his talent fight for real in a tournament, with a prize of $75,000 on offer.
Stars would do battle in three one-minute rounds with boxing gloves and similar to traditional MMA fights, takedowns and knockdowns scored points, while a KO ended the bout.
But rather than drawing fans back to pro wrestling, ‘Brawl for All’ became known as the ‘dumbest f***ing idea in WWE history.’
First off, the WWF’s biggest stars like The Rock, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker understandably declined to enter, unwilling to risk their careers for the tournament.
But mid-card talent was willing to fight – and was willing to beat the hell out of each other while trying to prove themselves.
It was a completely non-scripted tournament, but WWF made no secret of the fact they wanted Steve Williams (Dr Death) to win – setting up a match with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
But things didn’t go to plan. Williams was beaten in the second round by Bart Gunn, with those backstage unaware of his real fighting ability.
A clubbing left ended the bout, which left Dr Death with a dislocated jaw, torn hamstring and dislocated knee.
He wasn’t the only WWF star injured in the tournament.
The Godfather was hurt, while Steve Blackman and Road Warrior Hawk were unable to work in their usual capacities for a while after.
Savio Vega aggravated an old arm injury and would never work for the company again.
The injuries were all for nothing, too. Fans in attendance made their feelings heard, chanting ‘we want wrestling!’ and ‘boring!’ during the early fights, refusing to get into the action.
Gunn went on to beat JBL in the ‘Brawl for All’ tournament final, knocking out one of the WWE’s future top stars in 40 seconds to claim the $75,000 prize.
Shawn Michaels declared on commentary that the guy had just ‘made a name for himself in this business!’ but that wasn’t the case.
Gunn was never pushed as a main event player in WWF and instead was effectively buried for beating Dr Death in the tournament.
‘Brawl for All’ then, was a massive failure and it led Sean ‘X-Pac’ Waltman naming it as the worst idea in history.
“These guys are fighting for real, and everything else you’re watching is bull s***. 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***ing thing I can ever remember in my years in wrestling.”
‘Brawl for All’ really will go down in history as a massive failure and you can be sure we’ll never see anything like it again.
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