The Princess Rant on Dark Side of the Ring (Season 2, Episode 3)

This episode is titled “The Brawl For All”

The narrator (Chris Jericho) describes Brawl 4 All “wrestling’s worst idea ever”


First up on introductions is Vince Russo. He was a head writer for WWF Magazine in 1995. He talks about the cartoon-ish nature of the product. He says with the emergence of the internet the secret was out of the bag and “people know this is fake”. He said people wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes and that’s where the business was moving.

Second up is Jim Cornette. He will not call wrestling fake. He says yes it’s choreographed and pre-determined, but there’s nothing fake about guys beating up their bodies.

They talk about Vince. Russo says that Vince and his team looked at the business from within whereas he was a fan and could bring a different perspective. Cornette describes Vince as a “genius” and a “demon” and says he’s probably hasn’t been to a grocery store or out to a movie in 40 years.

Russo wanted the TV to resemble the Jerry Springer Show. He admits they had the show on the background while he was wiring the show. He wanted to attract casual viewers to watch even if they weren’t wrestling fans. He mentions RAW’s big hook with college students.

Jim Ross jumps in and says that Vince is always looking for ideas and the new big thing. The idea for the Brawl 4 All came from Russo. Ross says “get inside his head”.

Russo admits the idea for the Brawl For All came from his dislike for Bradshaw. He didn’t like, thought he was a bully…the usual issues people had with Bradshaw. Basically Bradshaw talked about how much of a bad ass he was and Russo said he felt like 10 of the boys in the room could beat his ass. He presents the idea to Vince and Vince gives it the green light.

We get introduced to Bart Gunn. He’s now living in Titusville, Florida, which is on the east coast of the state. He came to the WWF as part of the Smoking Gunns. They had a nice tag run, eventually split up and Bart was kind of just out there as enhancement talent. He was presented with the Brawl For All and he wanted no part of it. But Kevin Kelley told him that he could get some extra cash and the winner was going to get a run with Austin. He decided to do it after that.

Russo says there were a lot of tough guys in the locker room. We get introduced to Godfather and he runs through his many gimmicks. He describes The Godfather as “selling white girls on TV, getting high and promoting pussy”. Cool. He was all in on the Brawl since he was a bouncer at strip clubs and loved it.

Ross recruits Darren Drozdov and we get introduced to the former “Puke”. Drozdov said he did whatever it took to get through the door and was willing to try anything. Ross mentions Vince’s love for sophomoric humor like guys who can puke on demand.

Cornette said when he first heard of the idea he was concerned. Ross says he didn’t kill the idea because it was hard to know what was going to work until they tried it. Cornette says the story was that the pairing was chosen randomly out of a hat. Bruce Prichard also claims this to be true.

Russo and Ross goes through the participants. They take turns ripping Brakus. Ross says he had about as much business in the tournament as he would have. Hard to believe Dan Severn was actually part of this charade. The one stand out was Steve Williams. Ross talks about his relationship with Williams. Gunn puts over Williams as a All-American football player and wrestler.

Ross said Williams came in to work with Austin and maybe this tournament could be a vehicle for that happening.

Russo speculates that the boys probably often talked about who could whip the most ass and now it was happening.

The rules were kind of disjointed. We had punches and takedowns.

The fights looked bad. Cornette said that poor Jim Ross had to explain to fans why these athletes looked like two drunks at a bar. The referee wasn’t qualified, nor were the judges. Cornette just rips the shit out of this and calls it “stupidity on a grand biblical scale”. Russo says as a television viewer he’s entertained. Severn beats Godfather and decides that it ain’t worth his time, especially after Godfather sorta kinda took him down. Blackman beat Marc Mero and did the same thing although that wasn’t mentioned. Godfather says he was smoking weed before his fight with Severn.

Godfather says no one really knew the rules so it’s best to just throw punches. Bart Gunn was matched with Bob Holly, who was running as his tag partner (they were the “new” Midnight Express). He had doubts about the “random” selection and hated fighting his partner and friend. He beat up Holly pretty badly and then they had to ride and room together after that. Cornette said Vince probably played with the match making, which I don’t have a problem with. Steve Williams fought Carl Ouellete in the first round and as Ross reminds us Carl is blind in one eye and had no business in there.

Guys are getting injured all kinds of ways as the first round has become a disaster. We’ve got hamstring pulls, ACL sprains, facial injuries, etc. etc. Droz says the whole thing seemed jinxed. Russo said Vince could’ve pulled the plug on it at any time but chose not to. Fair enough.

Gunn’s next opponent is Steve Williams because they “changed the brackets”. Bruce Prichard basically lets the cat out of the bag by saying that the office has complete confidence in Williams to win. Ross says why wouldn’t they? He was a four-time All-American in wrestling. Gunn says he’s going to knock the guy out and was getting needled by guys about his declaration all day. Russo said when the match happened everyone was watching on the monitors.

Anyway the match happens. The exchange takedowns and Williams tears his hamstring and as Cornette describes he becomes a “300-pound one-legged man in an ass kicking contest”. Gunn catches him with a left and knocks him cold. Williams not only destroys his hamstring, but destroys his credibility and any chance of success in the WWF. Russo says it was no big deal because Williams wasn’t coming in at the peak of his career. Cornette wants to kill him (Russo, not Williams). Ross says so many of the rumors about him, Williams and the Brawl For All are outlandish. Gunn says he didn’t hear much from the office.

Semifinal matches now and we’ve got Droz vs. Bradshaw. Russo says that Bradshaw probably knew he built the Brawl For All around him and to get his just due. Droz apparently won the fight, or at least make it super close, but Bradshaw got the win. Droz says it was shaky and Bradshaw didn’t brag about it because he knew he got beat. Russo said he just wanted Bradshaw to get his ass kicked.

Back to chatting with The Godfather as he talks about kicking ass at his old strip club. He claims he could knock a guy out with an open hand. He beats Too Cold Scorpio in the second round and I bet Scorpio had to provide the blunts after that fight. The Gunn-Godfather semifinal match is next and Godfather said he had been smoking all day, which was his normal preparation. Bart tells him he’ll knock him out and Godfather is like “good luck with that”. Russo again claims every person was at the monitor for the match. Bart knocks him out with a right-hand haymaker…damn near knocked him out of the ring.

Godfather’s wife was pissed because she wanted that extra cash, but he says he didn’t take Bart as seriously as he should have. The collateral damage for Godfather was a blood clot in his leg that got infected and put him on the shelf for a while. Ross said the injuries were numerous and it thinned out the roster considerably because guys couldn’t work shows. Cornette basically calls Russo a fucking moron for putting this together and jeopardizing career just because Bradshaw was a goof.

The finals are here and Gunn knocks out Bradshaw and clearly concusses him and his legs were twitching. Russo’s delight in seeing this again really makes me wish Bradshaw catches up to him one day…and I really hate rooting for Bradshaw. Even worse it’s like…you’re supposedly a man and if you got issues with another man you deal with them. Even Joey Styles stood up to Bradshaw for being a dick and he was none the worse for doing it. Russo just comes across like a total punk and a pussy. The fact that workers got hurt and one lost his opportunity at a main event spot makes it worse. Cornette says the same thing in so many words.

They get into he Cornette-Russo feud. The difference can be summed up in the close of the segment as Russo can’t believe Cornette would hate him so much and threaten him so much over professional wrestling and Cornette says, with his voice cracking a bit, that wrestling has been the most important in his life.

Anyway back to the topic. Bart Gunn is now the Brawl For All champion, he’s won the big cash prize ($50 or $75K depending on who you believe) and should be in line for a raise on the card. Ross tells Gunn that there are no hard feelings, which Gunn smartly and correctly took as the office was pissed at him. Cornette says the truth was that Bart Gunn was always presented as a mid-card/enhancement guy and not a main event player. Ross says that the fact is no one got over because of the Brawl For All. It didn’t elevate anyone.

(I call bullshit. Here’s the fact. Bart Gunn checked a lot of boxes. He was a big guy, he was a good athlete, he looked good, nice hair, good body…and now he had the credibility of being a tough guy with a finisher (his knockout punch) that was believable and over. And bitterness from Ross and Prichard and probably some others kept them from trying to take advantage of that. Gunn wasn’t a great promo, but they could’ve worked around that. And they didn’t have to main event him with Austin, they could’ve paired him with Big Show or Foley or anyone. They missed an opportunity however slight it was because they were bitter he knocked out Steve Williams.)

Gunn was sent home and the office had nothing for him. Eventually they present the idea of fighting Butterbean (real name Eric Esch). Butterbean says that it was presented to him like Vince was pissed at Bart and wanted Butterbean to come in and knock him out. Bart agrees to this because he’s bored and they send him to a boxing school to freshen up his skills. Godfather was hanging out and smoking with Duane Gill and while they were smoking Butterbean tells them, “hey you’re tough guys and I take nothing away from you, but you’re not professional fighters and I’m going to knock him out.”

Butterbean says Vince wanted him to knock Gunn out. He describes the Wrestlemania experience. Meanwhile Bart has went from being a good brawler to learning him to be a traditional boxer with very amateur skills. Butterbean said when he saw Gunn trying to box it was a big mistake. Butterbean was too skilled and knocked him out cold. The right hand he hits Gunn with still sends shivers through my body, it was so vicious. Gunn knew his WWF career was over at that point and he was never seen (and barely mentioned) again.

Bart had another chance to face Butterbean in an MMA fight in Japan, but the logistics didn’t work out for him. Oh well. What could’ve been.

They get into Droz’s injury a little bit. It was a power bomb gone wrong and he broke his neck. D’Lo Brown was working with him and says that incident is something he’ll never forget or forgive himself for. Droz says “it happens” and he thinks D’Lo is a great guy. Cornette says things happen in the business and it’s not ballet. It’s why he gets angry when people say wrestling is a bunch of bullshit, one move leaves a guy paralyzed for over 20 years now.

Russo says he has regrets about the event and no one should be taking punches like that. He comes across as an insincere schmuck, but that’s him. Ross says the Brawl For All sucked and there’s no reason to embrace it. It was developed to create new stars and new opportunities and it didn’t do that.

The After Dark for this one was pretty good. A couple of notes from that.

— Godfather, Bart Gunn and Vince Russo were the guests. Godfather says he didn’t take it as serious. He just wanted to have fun and make some cash. He also smoked a lot…and still smokes a lot.

— None of them knew that the Brawl For All was created to see Bradshaw get beat up. Bart said it was clear the intentions were for Steve Williams to win it. Both guys said they never had a bad experience with Bradshaw…and course they wouldn’t. Who the fuck is going bully around Godfather or Bart Gunn? Especially Bradshaw, who only picked on guys he didn’t think would fight back.

— Bart and Godfather were/are friends. Godfather remembers Bart calling him and checking in on him after their fight to make sure he was ok.

— They show an extra segment of the Cornette/Russo feud. Cornette was served a restraining order and used it to raise charity for a children’s cause. He calls Russo a dickiess, ball-less, gutless pussy.

— Russo claims that there were no discussions about what would happen with the winner or having a program with Austin. None of that was determined. Gunn says Kevin Kelley was the one that told him about the Austin push, but all the promotional material around Brawl 4 All was centered on Steve Williams.

— In one of the extra segments Godfather talks about how much Vince loved his gimmick and every time he walked by him he would say “pimpin’ ain’t easy”.

— Gunn says Wrestlemania was a horrible mistake. The rules were changed and they went to smaller gloves. The whole thing was stacked to favor Butterbean.

The Bottom Line: I enjoyed this episode. They jammed a lot in an hour and told the story from many different angles. It’s my personal opinion that they missed an opportunity with Bart Gunn. Not necessarily a chance to make a big superstar, but they were handed a lower-card guy that had all the physical attributes and now he was equipped with something they could use as a tool to make him an important part of the promotion. But they didn’t want to look past their anger for him knocking Williams out. I believe that bitterness toward Gunn was led by Jim Ross and he convinced Vince to completely sabotage the guy.

Next week we get back to murders with Jimmy Snuka on deck.