When the WWE organized a real tournament and the winner got to box a real boxer

In 1998, professional wrestling organization WWE (formerly known as the WWF) briefly decided to have actual boxing bouts in the ring. At the time, the organization was competing with WCW for ratings. WWE introduced the ‘Brawl For All’ tournament that would pit some of the company’s stars against one another in real, unscripted matches.

The regulations were varied. Kicks and submissions were prohibited, but punches and takedowns were permitted. Each match would consist of three one-minute rounds. The winner would receive five points for each successful punch, five for a takedown, and ten for a knockout. A match would come to an end via KO.

The 16-man “Brawl For All” tournament was a complete disaster from start to finish. Jim Cornette was one of the officials at the time. He later labeled it as “The stupidest thing that the WWF has ever done.”

The tournament consisted of wrestlers who had volunteered to compete for a $100,000 prize but lacked the necessary skills. Consequently, the combatants in the matches appeared unskilled and extremely sloppy.

Not only did the “Brawl For All” look unimpressive, but it also led to several participants suffering severe injuries that prevented them from returning to the ring for months. WWE fans were accustomed to meticulously choreographed routines and captivating storylines and therefore, detested the tournament.

Most matches in the tournament ended in decisions. But it was Bart Gunn standing at 6 feet 4 inches and weighing 265 pounds, who emerged as the unexpected winner. Gunn achieved a series of impressive stoppage victories against renowned wrestlers like ‘Dr. Death,’ ‘The Godfather,’ and Bradshaw.

Even though the finals showcased the best performers of the tournament, it was a disappointment.

Despite the overall failure of the ‘Brawl For All’ tournament, the WWF astoundingly announced another match under the same rules. This time, Bart Gunn was set to face off against professional boxer Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch at Wrestlemania 15 in 1999. WWF officials genuinely believed that Gunn had the talent to defeat Esch, prompting them to send him to a boxing gym for months of preparation.

The referee for the bout was Vinnie Paz, while the judges were Gorilla Monsoon, Chuck Wepner, and Kevin Rooney.

During the match, Bean threw a right and then followed it up with a left hook. Gunn responded by whirling a complete 360 degrees and turned his back.

Bean deftly dodges two hits while launching three shots at the body. He then lands a shot to the head that stumbles Gunn out and then follows it up with another one that sends him to the ground.

Vinnie Paz is a fantastic boxer, but maybe not so good as a referee. He permits Gunn to go on, and Bean sets up and throws a straight that lands. In about 35 seconds, the match is over.

For the WWF, the debacle was very humiliating. The ‘Brawl For All’ series was promptly cancelled. Since then, there hasn’t been a real scrap  in the squared circle.

Soon after, Gunn was fired from the organization. A few years later, he made a short return to the MMA scene by TKOing Wesley Correira. Other wrestlers who had participated in the event also saw their careers end abruptly.

The WWF never employed Eric Esch again, but he went on to have a remarkable combat sports career. Competing from 1994 to 2013, he had a record of 77-10-4 in professional boxing, 3-4 in kickboxing, and 17-10-1 in MMA.