With wrestling programming declining these days, and shows being postponed or cancelled, fans are looking at other shows to get their wrestling fix. One of the most interesting series out there is Viceland’s “Dark Side of the Ring”. SLAM! Wrestling caught up with a couple of the Ontario-based wrestlers that will star in this week’s new episode about WWE’s infamous Brawl for All tournament.
For those of you who don’t remember, the BFA took place in the summer of 1998, partially in response to the increasing popularity of Toughman contests and mixed martial arts / UFC, and partially to utilize a number of stars that weren’t being otherwise featured in prominent storylines. The matches were “shootfights” in that they were real fights and endings were not predetermined. The combatants wore boxing gloves, and could win a match through knockouts, or by scoring points for takedowns or punches landed.
It is generally considered to be a colossal flop for several reasons. First, it turned off the fans based on the reactions from the live crowds. Second, many of the participants were legitimately injured. And third, the tournament ultimately backfired in terms of booking strategy. The company had hoped to use the tournament as a way to showcase the toughness of “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. Instead, he got injured and knocked out by the uncharismatic Bart Gunn in a huge upset. Gunn would go on to win the tournament, but instead of capitalizing on it, WWE put him up against professional boxer Butterbean, who simply destroyed Gunn at WrestleMania XV, thereby wiping out Gunn’s tough guy mystique. In short, everyone lost. To their credit, WWE has never tried to repeat the failed experiment, but that’s the only positive thing to come out of it.
While the tournament may not be as controversial or significant as some of the other topics of the series (for example, the Chris Benoit murder-suicide incident was covered earlier this season, and the murder of Bruiser Brody was covered last season), it should still be a fun watch.
More fun for Canadian fans is seeing some of their local independent stars appearing on the episodes in the dramatic re-creations of the events. In the BFA episode, Ontario’s own “Bonecrusher” Steve Brown and “The Adventurer” Stone Rockwell, will be appearing as Butterbean and Steve Williams, respectively.
“It was the first time I had ever did anything like this,” said Brown, about the experience. “It was fun, particularly hanging with the other guys, and swapping stories. I’m very excited to see the final product.”
Rockwell shared those sentiments, noting that the time he spent on-set allowed him to catch up with a number of his friends from the independent scene.
“The shooting took place this past fall. (When not filming) I enjoyed catching up and hanging out with people like JT Playa, who I hadn’t seen in a long time.”
As a fan of the series, he also wouldn’t rule out appearing in future episodes as well. As to who he would want to portray, he’s up for anything.
“You have to have the similar body type or features to play a role,” he pointed out. “(Earlier they had asked me) to play Dino Bravo, and they asked if I would shave my beard. (In the end), I ended up being called for the Dr. Death role.”
Whether or not they star in any future episodes, both of them do enjoy the series, and are looking forward to seeing the rest of this season which airs on Crave TV in Canada.
“I think it’s really entertaining,” said Brown. “I think an episode on Brian Pillman would be a good one.”
“I’ve enjoyed some of the stories (though) some are a bit sad and/or depressing,” said Rockwell. “It’s kind of like the ‘National Enquirer’ of wrestling television. I do think they’ve done a great job, and (am looking forward) to some of the other (topics in) other episodes that are coming up.”
They are both anxious for the day when they can return to in-ring action. Though neither one of them has stopped performing in other areas in the meantime.
“I’ve been doing commercials and parts like this for years. More to come,” said Rockwell, succinctly.
“I filmed a short horror movie called Little Lamb which is currently on YouTube, and have plans with some of my wrestling friends to do more stuff,” said Brown, about this downtime. “I host my own podcast, When Geeks Collide, and I am on (fellow Ontario-based wrestler) Hacker Scotty O’Shea’s Wrestling With Myself podcast almost every episode. But I can’t wait to get back in the ring, and to start promoting again (Brown is the promoter of New School Wrestling). I’m looking forward to that.”