The Brawl For All is remembered as one of WWE's greatest mistakes.
The competition pit up-and-coming midcarders from the beginning of the Attitude Era in shoot boxing matches. The event caused multiple injuries to competitors, including a hamstring injury to WWE's favorite to win the tournament "Dr. Death" Steve Williams and Brakkus, who had to retire in 1999 due to knee and shoulder injuries sustained in the tournament.
The winner, Bart Gunn, boxed professional fighter Eric "Butterbean" Esch at WrestleMania XV, where he was brutally knocked out in 35 seconds in a display that showed the gap in fighting ability between trained wrestlers and trained fighters.
The competition was the subject of the most recent episode of Vice's wrestling documentary series Dark Side Of The Ring. Vice spoke to multiple competitors and backstage personnel involved in the tournament. One of those competitors, "The Godfather" Charles Wright, said Butterbean knew he was going to beat Gunn going into their fight at WrestleMania.
"Me, Butterbean and Gilberg, we were chilling, I think me and Gil were smoking," Wright said. "Butterbean wasn't smoking, and we were talking about (his fight with Gunn). Butterbean, he told me he said, 'Listen, I've already told Vince (McMahon).' He goes, 'You guys are tough guys, I'll give you that okay, but you're not professional fighters. I will beat that kid in seconds. It's two different sports, he has no chance against me.'"
Butterbean said even McMahon knew Gunn had no shot against the world-traveled fighter.
"You know Vince kind of smiled at me when I went to the ring, he knew that it was over for Bart," Butterbean said. "He knew that I was going to knock him out and he wanted me to knock him out."
The fight was quick and brutal. Butterbean landed a combination to Gunn that sent him to the floor. When Gunn stood up, he was clearly dazed. One right hand later and Gunn is out cold. Gunn could barley put up a fight.
Esch said Gunn's problem was he tried to box the professional boxer instead of brawling like he did throughout the tournament.
"When Bart tried to box I said, 'This is it, I got him now,'" Butterbean said. "So I just went in and charged him, just give him a couple good shots, put him to the mat. Then when I went to the corner I'm like, 'Man I hope he don't get up because it's going to be bad if he does because he's wobbling.'
"When Vinny let the fight go on I'm going, 'Oh Vinny you don't want me to do that, he's out of it.' So I just give him one last good right hand. His head actually turned around backwards. Yeah, you know I got home and my kids come home from school and they were a little upset. They go, 'Dad, my friends told me you killed a guy on TV. You killed Bart Gunn.' I said, 'He's not dead, he just looked like it.'
"I'll be honest, he would've had a 50-50 chance if he would have went out and brawled like he did with the other guys, but with me he actually tried to box, which was stupid."
The fight stunted Gunn's progress in WWE. He had trouble watching the fight in the years after because of the memories they would invoke. While he wasn't seen as an important piece of the puzzle to WWE management, he felt he let a prime opportunity to propel himself into the spotlight slip away due to his own mistakes and always wanted another chance to prove himself.
Gunn said he nearly got that chance when he left to compete in MMA in Japan, but the circumstances for the fight weren't right.
"I just never watched it," Gunn said. "I was mad at myself that I made some mistakes, but it always stuck in the back of my mind, and then I saw, when I was in Japan, Butterbean. I saw he was over there, he's doing MMA. I thought, 'Wow, this is interesting.' I always wanted to get a second chance, and then I said, 'You know, I want to do MMA,' and got a fight with Wesley 'Cabbage' (Correira), and Butterbean fought him. Butterbean beat him, in like the second or third round. I went over there, in my very first MMA fight and stopped it in the first round. So I said, 'I beat this guy quicker than Butterbean beat him.' One night, I fought Tuesday night, they said, 'Hey we can get you a match with Butterbean.' I said, "Oh really, great!' They said, 'Yeah, we want you to come fight Friday.' That was like in four days. I said, 'No, no, no, no, no,' because I learned from my mistakes. I said, 'If you're going to set up a match between me and Butterbean, I need 12 weeks to train for it.' So that didn't happen. It could have turned out the same thing, he could have beat me again, but I would have got to do it a little bit better my way.
"It may sound crazy to a lot of people, but that's just kind of the way I'm driven. Then kind of time passed, and then some things happened in my life and after that I was kind of done with the whole fighting thing and I didn't do anymore. I miss being at the curtain, and going through the curtain and out and performing. You know you got the excitement, the crowd, the adrenaline rush. Me going to work everyday, there's not an adrenaline rush there anymore, but I enjoy sleeping in my bed every night, sitting home with my dinner at the house. You get tired of eating out all your meals, seven days a week."
Dark Side Of The Ring airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. eastern on Vice TV.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Dark Side Of The Ring with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.