It’s the Day Four of #BullyRayWeek, a celebration of all things Dudley and the fifth installment in our patent-pending Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. We started with A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better, gave you the finer points of the Mongo Vyle oeuvre with some Essential Viewing, then marched through Hump Day with a GIF parade. Today, we make our “Amazon.com on steroids” dreams come true with Juice Make Sugar Recommends… before finishing everything off tomorrow with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a 3D!-fueled civil war.)
Death Magnetic, Metallica
Both have had successful multi-decade careers, a vast army of black t-shirt wearing fans, and portray a signature intensity that oozes rebellion and violence to the dismay of the Helen Lovejoys of the world. Both acts, however, famously lost their way around the same time.
In 2002, as Metallica were recording the “some people liked this, just not Metallica fans” album St. Anger, the Dudley Boyz split up, did some dismal midcard gimmicks, and ultimately wound up returning as a drenchingly-watered-down version of themselves before jumping to TNA and portraying, well, a sickeningly-fattened-up version of themselves. Both got their balls back, however; Metallica with their 2008 album Death Magnetic, and Ray with his 2010 heel turn. A return to the hardcore style that defined them in their peak spawned a very-profitable late-career run for both.
A Clockwork Orange
Bully Ray and Stanley Kubrick are both brutal in the best and worst senses of the word. Malcolm McDowell’s incredible performance as the famously ultraviolent (NO CZW STUFF, I PROMISE!) Alex provides the audience with a joyous, enthusiastic romp into the darkest impulses of men. Throughout his career, Bully/Buh Buh/Bubba/Brother Ray has masterfully portrayed the same kind of social degenerate sicko who smiles a broad grin as he perpetrates violence against women and straight up brutality against men. Of course, both Kubrick and LoMonaco suffer from the same artistic weakness: the inability to stand right on the line without going over it. Just as A Clockwork Orange’s legendary “Singin’ in the Rain” scene causes a twinge of discomfort in even the biggest fan of the movie, Bully Ray can take being a heel to the point where it just doesn’t seem okay anymore.
Any Dexter fans reading this (or any of the five people left on the internet unaware of the series’ finale) might want to look away – this is a pretty fresh wound. Dexter had a long, critically-acclaimed run, and at its height had a fan following so fierce that it helped redefine how premium cable shows are marketed. Similarly, Brother Ray becoming Bully Ray felt like a paradigm shift in the landscape of twenty-first century wrestling. Ray was a new-old heel in the sense that he was what bad guys had always been prior to national expansion in the mid-80s: a big, mean bully who could get the crowd foaming at the mouth.
However, just as Dexter petered out in its final season when it was time to deliver their most compelling television, Bully Ray’s run lost all of his steam just as TNA began to build toward Bound For Glory. Dexter and Ray were both game-changing characters, but unfortunately, because of bad writing, they couldn’t bring it back home and deliver the final payoff that fans wanted and deserved. The only thing left is for Ray to become a Canadian lumberjack. He wouldn’t even need to buy new clothes.
Colon and Ray both burst onto the big league scene around the turn of the century and instantly wowed crowds with their impressive big-man athleticism and tremendous big-game performances. Colon’s incredible 1998 ALCS start against the then-unbeatable juggernaut Yankees made people see him as a man to watch for years to come. Ray also blew fans away in his first World Series at-bats, sharing Match of the Year honors for the historic TLC matches at Wrestlemanias 2000 and X-Seven. Nearly fifteen years later, both men are still going strong as major contributors to their respective teams.
Big Bartolo (What a great wrestling name!) and Bully Ray (What a terrible wrestling name!) also share the dubious honor of raising a great deal of speculation as to how they keep their much-larger-than-the-average-athlete bodies in fighting form in what should be the down slope of their careers. Colon’s last five years have been a seemingly endless chain of steroid suspensions and allegations of double-secret surgery performed by doctors whose only other clients are Bond villains and Canadian transsexuals (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Ray has also transformed his body to the point of being almost unrecognizable as the Ray everyone saw on TV from 2002 to 2010. Then again, he did work for WWE during the “Stacker 2: The World’s Strongest Fat Burner” era, so maybe it’s all harmless stuff from GNC…
James Gandolfini rose from third-rate gangster movie heavy to first-rate gangster TV show star in less than a decade. His larger-than-life personality mirrored his larger-than-sustainable physicality, and his performances oozed likability even when they shouldn’t have. He rose to the level of leading star right around his fortieth birthday, much like Bully Ray. Both performers seemed to delight in playing the bad guy on their best day, but also displayed a weakness for wanting the audience to like them on their worst day. Whether it was Gandolfini emoting inner turmoil or Ray emoting that kind of coolness that makes your mother tuck herself in extra tight, there was something at times half-hearted about both portrayals of “the most dangerous guy you’ve ever met.”
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
Faulkner simultaneously mourned the death of the Old South and lamented that he yearned to have known such an flawed time and place. The Sound and the Fury was his magnum opus, a book that explored what’s really important in life. The answer: probably nothing. The book is narrated — in different parts — by a developmentally disabled man-child, a selfish, grasping bigot, and a ‘20s emo kid. Faulkner’s novel features disjointed history and emotions with a resolution that makes you want to read the book again in hopes that it will end differently the second time.
There is much of Faulkner’s Jason in Bully Ray’s character — a cruel egomaniac willing to sell out his family and friends to get ahead. More importantly, however, Bully Ray makes us ask the same questions about wrestling that Faulkner makes us ask about America: How long can this last? Is it already in decline? Can we ever go back to the way things used to be? Are any of these questions even worth asking?