Bring it Back!: Brawl for All

Page 2 of 3
July 10, 2012

Steve Blackman and Marc Mero trade fists during Brawl for All.

“When they first told me about Brawl for All, I thought someone was ribbing me,” former WWE Superstar and Brawl for All contestant Steve Blackman told WWE.com in 2010. “I thought it was someone trying me to get me to train for a week or two and I would come back and there would be nothing. I didn’t believe them, so I didn’t train for the thing!”

An expert in Shotokan karate, jiu-jitsu and other martial arts, Blackman was one of the 16 WWE Superstars asked to take part in what announcer Jim Ross called “a hybrid of boxing and wrestling.” Although he hadn’t prepared, Blackman discovered he’d be facing former Golden Gloves boxer Marc Mero in a full contact fight when he showed up at Cleveland’s Gund Arena, now the Quicken Loans Arena, for Raw on June 29, 1998. Mere hours before the first bout, “The Lethal Weapon” was clued in on what the competition was all about.

What he learned was this — each Brawl for All bout consisted of three one-minute rounds with each round scored on a point scale. Punching and takedowns were legal, headbutting, elbowing and kicking were not. Kicking was legal, but that was before a ring filled with Superstars watched Blackman practicing his karate and complained to Mr. McMahon. Takedowns earned five points, knockdowns earned 10 and knockouts meant the fight was over. Boxing gloves were mandatory.

So that night, moments after William Regal made his Raw debut, the turnbuckles were replaced with the padded corners familiar in boxing rings and the house lights were dimmed. Squared circle legend Danny Hodge took his place as referee and Blackman and Mero became the first Superstars to face in a Brawl for All. What followed was, to borrow a phrase, bowling shoe ugly.

“Blackman absolutely destroyed Marc Mero,” Daniel Bryan recalled. “You could tell that Marc Mero was angry that he wasn’t able to use any of his boxing.” (WATCH)

Marc Mero shows his frustration during the first Brawl for All fight.

Blackman remembered the fight the same way.

“I think I took him down like 13 times in three minutes,” the former Hardcore Champion said without exaggeration. “I knew he would be hard to hit, but I hit him with one bomb. I hit him a couple inches too high — on the cheekbone and not the chin. I think I would have dropped him if it hit the chin.”

Over the next two months, a lineup of Superstars straight out of a Chester Gould comic strip slipped on the gloves and started swinging. There was former MMA champion Dan Severn who withdrew from the tournament after beating Godfather in the first round, lumbering German mesomorph Brakkus who was slaughtered by Savio Vega, (WATCH) the nasty Texan Bradshaw and Quebecer Pierre who fought with an eye patch on. And then there was Bart Gunn.

Best known as the less exciting member of The Smoking Gunns, Bart had most recently paired up with Bob Holly in an unsuccessful relaunch of The Midnight Express. WWE fans didn’t expect much out of the otherwise staid grappler, so everyone was kind of shocked when he started dropping dudes. First with his left hand — which inspired the expected hyperbole about his deadly southpaw — and then with his right.

While the winners of most Brawl for All bouts were decided on points after a sloppy back-and-forth between two Superstars who looked as desperate as fish on a dock, Gunn’s fights routinely ended in highlight reel KOs. Outweighed by most of his opponents, the 250-pounder still managed to level heaving brutes like The Godfather, odds-on favorite “Dr. Death” Steve Williams and, in the $75,000 finals, the malicious Bradshaw. (WATCH)

Somewhat unexpectedly, the Brawl for All had done what any good sports-entertainment concept is supposed to do — it created a new star. But that was before Butterbean came along.

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