Where Are They Now? Bart Gunn

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May 22, 2013

It was a strange place for a wrestler to find himself, standing in the ring with boxing gloves weighing down his hands as one of his colleagues tried to punch him in the mouth.

But that’s exactly what Bart Gunn went through during the infamous Brawl for All tournament in summer 1998. Gone were any chances at armbars and leglocks — this was a legalized street fight, designed to find out who was really the toughest Superstar in WWE. Any friendship was out the window when the bell rang and Gunn took on dangerous brawlers like Bob Holly, Steve “Dr. Death” Williams and JBL.

“They were going to try and knock your block off,” Gunn said of the brutal fights. “I just had to beat them to it.”

How did Bart Gunn go from squared circle cowboy to WWE’s resident toughman?

Growing up in Titusville, Fla., Gunn, whose real name is Mike Polchlopek, was a big fan of Florida Championship Wrestling. Every Saturday morning, he watched his heroes like Eddie & Mike Graham and Jack & Gerald Brisco do battle as Gordon Solie called the action. Enthralled by his idols, he knew he wanted to step in the ring someday.

“It was something I always wanted to try,” Polchlopek told WWEClassics.com. “I always talked about doing it.”

Classic Bart Gunn photos | Current pictures | Watch Bart in action

He got that opportunity when a friend started training at the wrestling school operated by Professor Boris Malenko, father of WWE, WCW and ECW standout Dean Malenko.

He was already an electrician, following his father into the trade after high school. Joining the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Gunn did a lot of travelling for work, while wrestling on local shows in his spare time.“I took a knack to it,” he said. “Work pulled me away, though. I had to make money.”

“I think that’s why wrestling didn’t bother me,” he explained. “I didn’t mind the travelling.”

Mike soon met WWE Hall of Famer Blackjack Mulligan, who urged Gunn to get back into training. He followed Mulligan to Orlando, where the former World Tag Team Champion was involved with a promotion that taped television shows at Universal Studios.

While working with Mulligan, Polchlopek was paired up with another wrestler. Together, they would go on to achieve success far beyond the amusement park they started out in. The man’s wrestling name was Billy Gunn and the two joined forces in 1992 as The Long Riders, a pair of cowboys fresh from the rodeo.

The pairing was perfect, and it showed in the ring. After a few short months, they had sent a tape of their work to WWE headquarters and earned themselves a tryout with the company.

“It was pretty cool,” Polchlopek said. “Most of what we had done was little independent shows. Then we came to WWE and you have a sold out arena. Plus, it was a TV taping, so it was even crazier.”

Despite some nerves, he and Billy made a big impression on WWE officials during their tryout match.

“We were actually hired on the spot,” Polchlopek recalled. “We met with Mr. McMahon and he liked our look and what we did. He hired us and the rest is history.”

Rechristened Bart and Billy, The Smoking Gunns certainly wowed the WWE Universe with their pre-match antics. Like a couple of cowpokes straight out of the old west, The Gunns fired off blanks from their old-school six shooters and twirled lassos around with ease.

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