Promising the inside story on “wrestling’s worst idea ever,” this week’s Dark Side of the Ring ended up sidetracking the story of WWF’s Brawl for All to contest another round of the infamous Vince Russo and Jim Cornette feud, creating what may end up being the season’s most disappointing episode.
Starting out with the story of Vince Russo getting promoted to a writing position for the then-WWF and presenting Jim Cornette as his counterbalance and contemporary on the booking team, the Brawl for All story basically gets little more than a recap throughout the documentary.
Some interesting tidbits are sprinkled in, like Russo claiming the tournament started because of his hatred of John Bradshaw Layfield’s talk behind the curtain of how “if this was real, I could beat everyone’s a**.” From there, a recap of the tournament focuses on how “Dr. Death” Steve Williams was picked to win the thing in order to be elevated to a feud with the WWF Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. It turns out to be disastrous viewing, from injuries and constant rule changes, all culminating in Bart Gunn knocking out Williams en route to winning the tournament.
Gunn’s story is one of the major storylines in the episode that should not have had to share a spotlight. Gunn talks of a tournament that was built for Williams, right down to Bruce Prichard announcing a bracket change to him because of his confidence in Dr. Death. When Gunn wins out, he basically wins a punishment in the form of Butterbean brutally knocking him out at WrestleMania XV and creative having nothing for him.
The stories of injuries and backstage politics are something to really dig into for a documentary series like this, but they were mostly sandwiched into competing soundbites between Cornette and Russo about their general worldviews of wrestling and how it ties into their view of Brawl for All.
The background interviews were a similiarly mixed bag for this episode. Darren “Droz” Drozdov’s perspective on the tournament and his epilogue on the in-ring injury that left him paralyzed brought a sobering perspective to the show, while “The Godfather” Charles Wright mostly regaled viewers with stories about smoking weed before the fights played to his persona more than adding anything color to the story.
This will end up being one of the worst episodes of the season for trying to trade a legitimately interesting story for turning up the volume on tales that have been told one too many times. Gunn’s story of being ruined by succeeding in a disaster of a situation isn’t one that we will get a platform like this too often, while Cornette and Russo have podcasts and online followings where they can (and do) rehash their differences until they turn blue in the face.
This edition of Dark Side of the Ring ends up playing out as messily as the Brawl for All tournament itself and ended up with two cornermen stealing the story from the fighters themselves.