The hit documentary series Dark Side of the Ring recently took a delve into the strange events surrounding the Brawl for All tournament of 1998. To say the least, the shoot-style tournament was an unmitigated disaster, with several participants leaving with legitimate injuries and ultimately fell apart at the seams when the originally planned winner was knocked out of the competition early on. The experimental tournament led to absolutely nothing, nobody, including the winner Bart Gunn, was put over in this process and Vince McMahon quickly brushed the events under the carpet.
Despite the controversies, Vinny Mac occasionally returned to the idea of a sequel to the Brawl for All tournament. First in 2010, when the game-show style NXT needed a slight re-vamp. The premise of the tournament was for the 16 wrestlers to compete in very-real fights, allowing for those with boxing, shoot-style and MMA backgrounds to look like total badass’ in a WWF ring. JBL speculated that this was the prelude to the popular Hardcore division, an idea generated by one Vince Russo during a time of great adaptation.
With the Brawl for All tournament now being thrown back into the spotlight via VICE’s latest episode, we can only imagine that there might be a few heads being turned in favour of a BFA tournament in today’s era. With the current roster having so much depth, and a lot of talent that could excel in a more shoot-style environment, we suspect that the sequel might be slightly less catastrophic than the original in 1998.
I personally believe that wrestlers should be kept far away from these sort of fights. After all, the Brawl for All is considered controversial part of wrestling history for a reason. But regardless, Vince McMahon is never one to shy away from past mistakes, just look at the revived XFL, and with certain superstars fitting the bill perfectly, I wouldn’t put it past him to have another crack at it as part of a Network special.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the ten likely combatants for a modern take on the Brawl for All tournament, bringing together the hardest-hitters from NXT and the main roster for a series of brutal shoot-fights. Make sure you drop your own roster of BFA fighters in the comments section below, who would come out on top and challenge Butterbean to become the toughest fighter of our time?
With so many former MMA stars, shoot-style wrestlers and legitimate fighters being signed to WWE in the current era, there’s no shortage of potential fighters for a modern-day Brawl for All. One of the most decorated combat-sports athletes would naturally headline the affair, of course I’m talking about ‘The Beast Incarnate’ Brock Lesnar. Brock has made a name for himself for being an absolute brute in the ring, not only in a squared circle but also an octagon. Lesnar has occasionally pushed the boundaries of his wrestling matches to bring in elements of shoot fights, see his bloody battles with Randy Orton, John Cena and Roman Reigns. Not only would Brock be a blockbuster attraction, but he’d beckon genuine intrigue from the audience who would want to see just how far Lesnar would go when the rule-book is thrown out of the window.
Another key superstar involved would have to be NXT’s Matt Riddle, a former UFC fighter with a penchant for bringing his MMA-style into his current wrestling matches. Riddle is currently involved in the NXT Tag Title scene alongside his bro-in-arms Pete Dunne, but is a viable contender for the NXT Championship when competing in the main event scene. A big performance as part of the Brawl for All tournament would do him huge favours going forward, and would also give the fans the opportunity to witness a huge blow-off between ‘The Bro’ and ‘The Beast’. Riddle and Lesnar have exchanged plenty of jabs at one another, both behind the curtain and on social media. If they were to ever meet in a one-on-one contest, then you’d think it would have to be when they can go all-out on one another.
Another superstar with previous MMA experience is ‘The All Mighty’ Bobby Lashley. Lashley might not have had the best chances of showing this since making his WWE comeback, but nobody will ever take away his performances in Bellator during his hiatus from the wrestling ring. Lashley could easily tangle with the two aforementioned UFC fighters, and provide wrestling fans with the shoot-style fights that some have been craving to see from them since they first debuted. Lashley and Lesnar has been a widely-requested dream match that could easily headline a tournament like this, while giving Bobby a huge rub in the process.
King Corbin arrived on the scene with a background in boxing, something that commentators draw upon quite often when describing his previous accomplishments. The former Golden Gloves winner would naturally fit in amongst other hard-hitters in WWE. Corbin’s reputation might be a little shot since taking on the royalty gimmick, but showing him to be the legitimate fighter that he is could suddenly turn a lot of his haters into loyal subjects. I almost get Bart Gunn vibes from ‘The King’, someone that might be a little unassuming but could genuinely knock out every single guy in the tournament.
A man currently sat on the sidelines, waiting for his chance at a big run in WWE, Samoa Joe is a bigger badass than any on the main roster. Joe came from a background of taking wrestling fans out of their comfort zones and pushing the typical conventions of a match by mixing in a MMA style. Joe has taken the likes of Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and other fighters to the absolute limit, often cited as one of the hardest hitters in the business by his previous opponents. Joe could easily start batting away opponents in a BFA tournament, maybe living up to the hopes WWE had for Dr. Death Steve Williams in the original tournament.
Looking outside of the main roster for a second and towards the ranks of NXT, two superstars in particular stand out as potential show-stealers in the Brawl for All tournament. The Undisputed Era’s Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly have forged a reputation for being two of the most well-rounded strikers in the business today, often reducing their matches down to exciting grapple-fests reminiscent of a UFC Fight Night event. Both UE members could easily make a name for themselves respectively as part of this tournament, showing up a handful of the main roster’s most talented big men by knocking them down for a ten count. Out of the two former ReDragon teammates, I see O’Reilly having a brighter future as a singles star, so if either man from the black and gold brand should press on into the big leagues, then it should be him, with the BFA being his breakout moment.
Perhaps ‘The King of Strong Style’ could return to his roots slightly as part of this shoot-inspired ruckus? Shinsuke Nakamura came into his own when he unleashed a barrage of furious strikes on his opponents as part of NJPW and when he first debuted in NXT. Throughout his WWE career, he’s toned his legitimate style down significantly. Nakamura could still hang with the toughest dudes, a BFA tournament would be a fantastic way of showing that and giving fans of Shinsuke a little taste of his former self.
Another member of the Artist Collective who could hang with the best fighters in the business, ‘The Swiss Cyborg’ Cesaro has developed a reputation of being a mean dude in the squared circle. Cesaro could easily start swinging those uppercuts and wearing down his opponents in a shoot-style battle. When given the opportunity, Cesaro can easily show off his skill-set of being a heavy-hitter, most notably when teaming with Sheamus as part of The Bar.
Speaking of Sheamus, what better candidate to compete in the BFA than the ‘Celtic Warrior’ himself? Another built bruiser who could duke with the very best. Sheamus has often found himself giving out his fair share of broken noses, now with his renewed gimmick, Sheamus could definitely be in his element as part of a second Brawl for All.
With those ten men duking it out for the right to be named the toughest dude in the WWE, you could be guaranteed spilt blood, broken noses and jaws and plenty of trips to the hospital for the chosen fighters. Again, I personally don’t think another Brawl for All tournament is the right course of action for these superstars, they can shine on their own looking like the badasses they already are.
Pro wrestling should remain as it is: structured and safe. If you’re looking for a fight, then you should consider tuning into UFC a little more than you do WWE.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures may contain affiliate links, which may provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.