It’s the First Day of #BullyRayWeek, a celebration of all things Dudley and the fifth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. As always we’ll start by making Bubba a Wrestler You (Should) Probably Know Better. Tomorrow, we give you the finer points of the Mark LoMonaco oeuvre with some Essential Viewing then march through Wednesday with a GIF Parade. After Hump Day we’ll make our Amazon.com-on-steroids dreams come true with “Juice Make Sugar Recommends…” before finishing everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a 3D!-fueled civil war.)
Growing up, ECW was wrestling’s version of porn. Well, at least in the sense that getting to see it was almost impossible because we didn’t have streaming video sites. My dad’s friends were wrestling fans and had seen it, told me what it was like, but it wasn’t quite the same as actually experiencing it myself. So, when I saw Buh Buh Ray Dudley — accompanied by with Joel Gertner in his Chippendale outfit and D-Von, wearing a (Tar) Heels hat that matched Buh Buh’s, in case the fans were wondering who the bad guys were — claim a fan in the stands had taught her teenaged daughter “how to suck a dick,” it was a pretty big dose of sensory overload.
At the time, it was mostly the cursing and bombast that had me so enrapture, but looking back, it was because Buh Buh knew exactly what to say to the crowd, and exactly how to say it to generate not just the maximum amount of heat, but much more importantly, the right kind. There was a surprisingly quiet confidence to him amidst the vulgarity. He didn’t come off as a bully who picked on people because he was broken inside, but because he was at his heart a bully and that’s what bullies do.
He wanted to make people feel bad about themselves, because he wanted them to hate him and he didn’t care if they didn’t think it was a show and he definitely didn’t care if he offended anybody. The same genuine vivaciousness that seems to invigor John Cena when he’s generating any kind of massive reaction from the fans informed Buh Buh’s work in that little room in Dayton, and me as a young wrestling fan.
That the show ended with Little Spike Dudley and Balls Mahoney managing to beat the Dudley Boyz AND get put through flaming tables by them had me hooked on Buh Buh and D’Von for life.
So, when Buh Buh changed his name to Bubba and moved with D’Von from the metropolitan areas of Dudleyville to the greener pastures of the WWE, I was more than a little excited. By that time, I had seen pretty much all that I thought I could see from the pair: causing riots, destroying tables, jobbing cleanly and looking good while doing all of it. But, I was wrong.
After building themselves up by powerbombing every attractive woman in the company through a table, they found themselves in one of the most important feuds in modern wrestling. Their three-way dances with the Hardyz and Edge & Christian, which took full use of each of their respective gimmicks (E&C’s con-chair-tos, the Hardyz love of ladders and obviously, the Dudleyz penchant for table destruction) would usher in new era of violence and propel many of the members of the feud into main event single spots.
Except for the Dudleyz. Although they would split up, neither Bubba or D’Von would ever really achieve success on their own in the WWE. There are any number of reasons why, but many of them start and stop with the looks that both had. While they were by no means slobs — it’s hard to say either of them were even Mick Foley-level out of shape — they certainly didn’t live up to Vince’s platonic ideal of what a wrestler (and especially a champion) should look like.
Because of this, and in spite of great promos (one of which we will get to tomorrow) that made it clear that for all that they lacked in look, their mic work — and especially Bubba’s — put them on par with anyone in the company, their split never really gelled and they were put back together to help Spike Dudley hold on to the Cruiserweight title. After only a year or so apart, they were put back together before being sent down to OVW for retooling, only to be set out to pasture (and stripped of their brand) after their contracts expired.
Which is how they landed in TNA, where they have been treated as even bigger stars than they had been in WWE or even ECW for nearly the entirety of their tenure. They played roles in major storylines like the Joe-Angle feud, helped to promote the X-Division despite being a pair of overweight power wrestlers and even started a blood feud with each other.
That feud that allowed Buh Buh/Bubba to become a Bully. As though he was sent in a time machine back to that small arena in Dayton, causing riots with the power of his words and the ruthlessness of his actions, Bully Ray emerged a fully formed character, angered by years of disappointment and pent-up frustration, trying to figure out why his TLC contemporaries had found the success they had — despite being half as good on the mic or a millionth-as-good at keeping themselves out of rehab — but only being able to articulate the resentment.
Even when he turned face, fighting off Aces and Eights, we all knew it was just a matter of time before he’d turn again. We waited for him to be screwed out of a title opportunity, for his ruse to be foiled before it had a chance to come to fruition, and it never happened. The sheer force of will that he displayed in that little arena in Ohio had been turned up to eleven and shown on national TV, and for the first time in his life, everyone watching understood what those who watched him in bingo halls had known for the first time they’d seen him.
He’s been put on this earth to make us angry and to make us wonder how he can get away with what he says and what he does, but above all else, he’s here to be a bully, and do what bullies do.