Posted by Sean Prem
Marc Lamonica, known in the wrestling world as Bully Ray formerly as Bubbah Ray Dudley, is a multiple tag team champion.
He has been part of the most successful tag team in professional wrestling; period. Whether as part of the Dudley Boyz or Team 3D, they were able to reach the top of the division and establish themselves as tag team champions. Breaking out as a team to watch out for in ecw, the Dudley Boyz were innovative in their wrestling approach. Being one of the driving forces of the cult like brand, ecw, they provided moments to remember with their extreme wrestling style such as performing power bombs through a table lit on fire.
Their appeal earnt them a contract with one of the mainstream organisations; wwe… making an instant impression on their debut, bringing the “extreme” from ecw. This helped to push the tag team division to new heights, competing against tag teams such as The Hardy Boyz. Creating new match concepts for the wwe with the table matches and the infamous tlc matches. Arguably one of the most treasurable moments of wwe, includes the Dudley Boyz doing a ’3-D’ through the table. Against perhaps the most competitive period in tag team wrestling in the history of the business, throughout their stint in wwe, the Dudley Boyz were able to be crowned as tag team champions multiple times. Not only did they win the wwe tag team titles, but were able to be crowned as wcw tag team championship during the alliance storyline, which later on became the world tag team championships which they also won.
Due to an unusual change of direction in wwe, opting to move away from tag team wrestling, The Dudley Boyz eventually found themselves heading to TNA in September 2005. Embracing wrestling fundamentals, TNA wanted to utilise tag team wrestling as part of their brand. For legal purposes, a rejuvenated duo now known as Team 3D hit the impact zone with a purpose, to earn the final major tag team belt, of the NWA; the TNA tag team belts. Facing contrasting storylines, from being admired by teams such as America’s Most Wanted to giving respect to teams including The Steiner Brothers. This provided a good range of matches, consequently prolonging their tag team career. During their strive they were diverted with rivalries such as with the James Gang, formerly known as The New Age Outlaws, Team 3D would eventually win the NWA tag team championships at Lockdown in 2007. The title was renamed as the TNA Tag Team championships due to a disassociation between NWA and TNA making Team 3D the last NWA tag team champions. During their stint with TNA, Team 3D were able to compete in Japan’s wrestling companies, enabling them to win the IWGP tag team championships twice in New Japan in 2008 then to reclaim it in Bound For Glory 2009. The titles returned to Japan eventually, after Team 3D had lost the titles in the pay per view Wrestle Kingdom IV in the Tokyo Dome on 4th January 2010. Team 3D would at one point hold both tag team belts of the two companies, and despite the surprising but limited number of times they had reached the top at TNA, a total of 23 tag team division belts wherever they’ve been, propels their legacy as the most dominant tag team in history.
THE END, Oh wait…. They also had single careers ? It’s quite easy to forget that in comparison to their Tag Team Careers… MY BAD! Keep reading…
Not considering the independent circuit, Bubbah Ray Dudley didn’t get off to the best of starts in the singles career when drafted to wwe raw with D-Von going to wwe smackdown. The transition to the roles left backstage management puzzled as to how to utilise him effectively, making Bubbah an evident mid carder, who would compete for and acquire the wwe hardcore championship several times. Although he would earn himself a title shot against hhh (anyone with any interest in backstage politics would know paul levesque’s ego and greed is as large as his pinocchio nose, thus making the title shot worthless which marc did argue in a storyline leading to a match), the Dudley boyz would be reunited due to popular demand. Not a criticism but just that they are metaphoric for the good ol’ saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
The second attempt of disbanding the most successful team would occur in TNA. Knowing how the transition did not work the last time; the management had to be cautious. In addition, Ray’s physique was a concern of appearing to be overweight as seen in the first picture that I took at a TNA show (in Wembley Stadium 30.01.10 in London, England), this had to be dealt with in a business that physique plays an important role (except maybe Samoa Joe who used his physique as part of his character to be a deceptively fast & dangerous wrestler). To more or less declare their independence from each other, Ray attacked D-Von at the next TNA Impact following their retirement ceremony. Leading to a rivalry between the two and the birth of Bully Ray, who abused his nephews; D-Von’s sons. A character who had a mean streak and seemed intent to replicate the past success he had in the tag team division in to singles competition.
The intense feud Bully had with D-Von seemed to catapult him in to a serious player in singles competition. Bully was characteristically ‘hardcore’ with no limits…this attracted the fans. Despite his overweight physique, he would embrace the criticism of fans chanting about his size, even challenging criticism by showing his calf muscles… or by just showing his chain as a metaphor of his viciousness. He was able to develop intriguing grudges with many established singles competitors such as the phenomenal AJ Styles. In the new concept (Bound For Glories series), he was one of the many surprised packages… finishing in the top 4 in this new era of TNA. This gave the roster a better chance to main event in the biggest pay per view rather than the usual ex wwe superstar. In some entertaining matches at No Surrender 2011, at the end of the series Bully Ray fell short at the finals by losing to Bobby Roode after defeating James Storm in the semi finals earlier that night. If anything, this announced to the wrestling world, that Bully Ray; is a singles competitor indeed.
Feeling aggrieved, by the supposed injustice of not having the opportunity of being the star, believing his highly decorated career deserved greater recognition, it seemed to enhance his character even more; giving him an edge. He was no longer going to “take it” from other stars, including Mr Anderson, leading to their bout at Bound For Glory 2011. This helped nurture the Bully Ray we witness in Impact. His character resembles arguably the biggest wrestler of all time, stone cold steve austin. Maybe a tactic done by Hogan in his relentless pursuit of trying to persuade stone cold to wrestle him (in the biggest dream match of the 2 biggest stars of all time; not a gimmick quote used for advertisement like many matches use.. rock vs cena part 2.. yawwwn). Nevertheless, he’s a rebel who steps up to the plate and is ready to brawl anyone, whenever, being able to backup his openly opinionated views. Despite a relatively poor storyline with Joseph Park (who’s a terrible character); Bully Ray’s stock has continued to rise. 2012 was a strenuous year for TNA , in establishing new names, with Bully Ray developing into a main eventer. There was the birth of Aces & 8s, who had dismantled everyone, leading to many including Hogan to suspect that Bully Ray was a member; leading to a fractious relationship. But still, he once again defied the odds, and reached the top 4 of the Bound For Glory 2012 Series. In an epic semi final at No Surrender 2012, Bully Ray fought the betting odds favourite, James Storm, with Bully Ray once again prevailing.
However, the finals of the Bound For Glory 2012 series had more drama. A confrontation with Hogan left Bully puzzled (who had a grasp of winning the series due to Jeff Hardy’s medically advised forfeit), he was set to attain his dream, only to be denied by the injured Jeff Hardy who beat Bully earning his shot (unfortunate how TNA sucked up to him, which I mentioned in my previous article regarding Jeff Hardy http://www.tnanews.com/jeff-hardy-the-solution-or-the-problem/).
The outcome of No Surrender 2012, was the final straw, (in Bully embracing his steve austin facade), of feeling hard done by, he was often used as the third wheel in the storyline heading to the main event of Bound For Glory 2012. He was even the first competitor to officially end Austin Aries’ unbeaten run (something Austin must have wanted to limit the TNA skyrocket push and suck up to Jeff Hardy as discussed before). With this elevation of being such a commodity, Bully had experienced trouble with Aces & 8s adding to the mix Hogan lack of trust, Bully wanted to prove his innocence and gain Hogan’s confidence. This added a whole other dimension for him, starting with a turn from heel to face, without compromising his spiteful demeanour. Fate would end up with Hogan resorting to select Bully to team up with Sting against Aces & 8s. Against expectations, Bully was loyal to the TNA cause, also giving a strong performance. It was in fact another Dudley who had betrayed the Impact Zone, helping Aces & 8s to win, before his mask was removed. The animosity towards D-Von helped many to trust Bully, including Hogan’s good friend Sting, while sustaining their common goal against the bandits. With this ongoing shaky relationship with Hogan and their war with Aces & 8s, suspicions started to build up regarding Bully and Hulk’s precious daughter Brooke Hogan. Eventually Austin Aries revealed that Bully Ray was indeed in a relationship with Brooke, adding fuel and rage to the already disgruntled father Hulk Hogan.
This was opening up another dimension to Bully, (reminiscent of past storylines involving test (RIP) and hhh) in their relationship with the daughter of a big name in the wrestling industry. A relationship mirrored like the previous storylines, with the wrestler intent on earning the right to be with the daughter. As cliché it may seem with soap operas, the stephanie mcmahon fiasco with test, then hhh was one of the most intriguing storylines in wwe history which helped hhh propel his career to the fans (along with backstage favouritism). This has certainly helped Bully, being in such a personal dilemma with perhaps the biggest icon in wrestling history. Bully once again, proved he is trustworthy with his extra incentive of attempting to avenge Brooke’s honour against Austin Aries and only lost for her safety. This didn’t save Bully from Hogan’s wrath who abused his powers by suspending Bully. TNA in a risk of embracing their enemy’s slogan ‘sports entertainment’ rather than wrestling, took the risk of continuing this intriguing storyline with Bully proposing to Brooke declaring she was as important as his 20 years career. Gosh did I say that right? 20? These Hogans truly do look beyond the age of the companion and settle for anyone, Nick you’re the odd one out! Nevertheless, the buzz for this wedding was huge, my sister with little wrestling interest was willing to watch the ceremony. Even, tommy dreamer, aiming to promote hardcore justice was able to appear in wwe then TNA within 2 weeks, a new record in modern wrestling history! Bully’s quest to earn the trust of Hogan and TNA Impact continued with Sting siding on his bandwagon for Hogan to trust him and to walk his daughter down the aisle. The wedding didn’t disappoint, with Hogan eventually walking Brooke down to Bully. Only to be rudely interrupted by the deceiving Tazz, with Aces & 8s orchestrating an attack to participants of the wedding ceremony (actually unlucky tommy dreamer, attacked by the 2 new factions in wrestling; the shield then Aces & 8s in 2 weeks). Notable was the melodramatic display of affection Bully felt for a helpless Hogan laying wounded on the wedding stage at the hands of Aces & 8s. The affection displayed by Bully appeared to dilute the intensity of what had happened; leaving the viewer awkward. Even my sister (a non wrestling fan) came into the room and was baffled by the intense love they shared considering the animosity they had towards each other moments earlier.
After being constantly overlooked throughout his career, resorting in him acting aggressively to hunt his goals, he is finally opening himself up to the Impact Zone revealing all sorts of emotions other than anger. Hence why I’ve reviewed his entire career as it has cultivated to what he is today from being a tag team wrestler in ecw to wwe, then powerbombing divas through tables ; to someone who has fallen for a female in the wrestling business. He wants to prove he’s the man capable of eradicating the bandits to justify his self belief against his critics. Throughout his career, Hogan symbolises the critics in this reliance feud. In addition, Bully’s physique keeps on improving and even in the recent Impacts, he seems to be physically in shape and not the overweight performer he has been criticised of being. Bully is in the identical situation to hhh when he was in the position to be given special treatment by the man in power, vince mcmahon (as well in backstage politics). In the UK tour, Bully has been wrongfully gifted a title opportunity by a man who had changed his heart about his son in law. In an effort to try to win over the fans, to justify his credentials, he is openly criticising how his opportunity came. This can be interpreted as having a swipe at the parasitic hhh in an identical dilemma but also to give the wrestling fans who have followed his illustrious career, that reminder of one of his rare title opportunities that came with him slating the preferential treatment hhh gained (as mentioned above).
Bully is questionably personified by a mix of steve austin, hhh and most recently Hogan. We can all agree he’s opening up with this whole Brooke Hogan saga. The bully in him makes you wonder if he will do a HHH and betray Hulk; with Brooke doing a Stephanie. In spite of him having many opportunities he has remained loyal. This has built the trust with the 2 icons Sting and then Hogan, by fighting side by side against Aces & 8s. This puts the Impact zone in a dilemma of excitement of being unaware of what could happen, leaving the audience suspense. An added spice to the main event is if he is waiting to get the title and bring it to Aces & 8s (which Tazz mentioned being overlooked for). Is it co-incidental that Brooke always seems to be caught by Aces & 8s resulting in the wrestlers in the ring getting hurt? Or how did Tazz manage to get to the wedding unnoticed as a heel? Hulk has a history of building and executing thrilling storylines, but it’s harder for him to sustain it once done, that’s why it’s good the Aces & 8s are still around. I have a sneaky suspicion that come Lockdown 2012, Bully will pull off something similar to what hhh had done in wrestlemania 15 and 16 with the assistance of the mcmahon’s. Bully will look to deceive the world with Brooke betraying everyone including her father like stephanie did when hhh fought her father, gaining the title that has eluded him his entire career while Brooke could argue she can finally shackle off the burden of the Hogan name and embrace herself in a new limelight.
The Bully saga has been a good thoughtful storyline; Hulk Hogan with Eric Bischoff and the other story writers deserve some praise to it’s developments. However, in the long run, this justifies Brett Hart’s critique of the backstage duo Hogan and Bischoff. Bully in wrestling terms is close to his expiration date, being over 41 years old, he hasn’t got a lot of years to offer to the wrestling world. I am not suggesting he isn’t worthy of being a champion; as he does…( with one of the most precious moments of recent history was christian and mark henry winning the world championship in wwe, decorating their long careers just like Bully deserves). His career summed up in this blog shows he is worthy of recognition. But this is not wwe, where they can handout success to other stars in their ‘b show’ (although smackdown has the better wrestling matches compared to raw) TNA needs to consider the long term and this was the reasoning of Bobby Roode and Austin Aries being fresh faces for the title picture.
These wrestlers are not only in the right age, but are better athletes. This was recognisable in the latest Impact, with the altercation between Austin Aries and Bully Ray. The manner of Bully’s “Austin Aries praise” (highlighting him as being a great athlete who covets the TNA championship) and then acknowledging his current tag team championship while reflecting on his own tag team career, summed up that the roles should be reversed. A younger guy who would be able to benefit himself and the company for a longer period would be far more effective. Not to be controversial, but it is strange that they’ve chosen to match Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan considering their enormous age difference (of over 17 years). Bully is old enough to be her father, and with the media surrounding Hulk and his ex wife’s partner in their own huge age gap relationships, adds further fuel to their atypical status. Bully has been constructed into the “knight of TNA” regardless of his concluding allegiance at the end of the Aces & 8s storyline but for the long run, he perhaps is a poison chalice as he can’t perform at the top for long. I guess Brett Hart was right, the younger bright stars, are once again ignored by Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, but hey guys, let’s sit back and enjoy while it lasts.
By Sean Ali Prem
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