Inducted by 205 Clive
When one thinks of Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley, more affectionately known as the Dudley Boyz, images immediately spring to mind of the chaos at play during the commercial peak of the WWF’s Attitude Era. Although such bedlam was par for the course around that time, this tag team became infamous, more notably, for popularising the use of tables within the company’s more hardcore periods. Wrestlers in the past had indeed found themselves thrown through the furniture more commonly used for announce teams or production equipment. Nevertheless, this particular trope became synonymous with the Dudleyz, as they laid waste to anyone who dared cross them, and even those who tried, in vain, to stay well away.
Their preferred weapon of choice came along at just the right time, too. Following the success of their peers in Edge & Christian and the Hardy Boyz’ redefining ladder match towards the end of 1999, tables seemed to be the missing piece of puzzle that would be assembled over the next twelve months. The Dudleyz’ breakout performance came against The Hardyz in an Elimination Tables match at Royal Rumble 2000, the violence of which was lapped up hungrily by the Madison Square Garden crowd. Matches at this PPV, outwith the Royal Rumble itself, have become the stuff of legend, thanks in no small part to the contribution of these four men on this particular night. Along with the Dudleyz, as the year 2000 progressed, Edge & Christian and The Hardyz’ adoption of chairs and ladders respectively set the stage for a new level of risk not yet seen in the WWF. The series of “Tables, Ladders, & Chairs” bouts that followed is still remembered fondly, lauded by many as the best of its genre still to this day. So much so, in fact, that the success of these “TLC” epics were, in hindsight, the embryonic stages of what would eventually become a gimmick that merited a themed annual PPV of the same name.
That is not to say, however, that this match classification is the only reason The Dudley Boyz are still reminisced about almost two decades removed from their WWF debut. Not only did they almost instantly become at home in a tag-team division already boasting such fan favourites at the time as The New Age Outlaws, Too Cool, The Acolytes, and their aforementioned frequent sparring partners, but the Dudleyz’ penchant for destruction was also felt across the many singles divisions, so in demand was their act. They gained notoriety early on in their WWF careers, especially, by homing in on the women, young and old, of the company. Even in an Era known for its over the top violence, Bubba Ray and D-Von still managed to stand apart from the rest. This rise to prominence, too, was helped along by their trademark signature offense, distinguishable camouflage attire, and popular catchphrases that the audience looked forward to contributing to in every match or segment the Dudleyz were in.
The tag-team became such a hit with the fans, their own canon as that of a dysfunctional family was further enforced with the arrival of the runt of the pack, Spike Dudley. Spike’s contribution to his half-brothers’ continuous success by way of ringside assistance, through various forms of comic yet fearless violence, was not lost on the audience, who immediately took Spike to their hearts. Standing at 5’8” and weighing a mere 150lbs, meagre even in today’s smaller wrestling landscape, Spike was still able to fill the ring with his larger than life presence. His input towards the TV product would not go unnoticed by management, who saw fit to reward him with singles runs of his own throughout his years as an on-screen character.
Although successful within the WWE machine in their own right, Spike and his brothers were not a Vince McMahon creation, for Bubba Ray and D-Von had already become wildly popular figures in the hardcore wrestling hotbed that was Extreme Championship Wrestling. Paul Heyman’s ECW was a promotion that made cult figures out of many who would eventually become household names under the WWE umbrella. While most of those names were known mostly for their singles work, the Dudley Boyz were the ones to carve out a legacy in the tag-team part of this ultra violent world. In the early days of the densely populated Dudley Family (whose full list of members is too numerable to name here), alliances were fractious enough that Bubba Ray and D-Von were not yet a fully realised duo. It wasn’t until a year after the group’s inception that the two brothers would kick the majority of their siblings to the kerb and make a claim to be considered the family’s leaders.
From thereon in, the Dudley Boyz would remain a tight pairing who competed for – and, more importantly, defended – the ECW World Tag Team Titles. Over the next two years, before their move to the WWF, the duo went on to feud with a who’s who of ECW’s greatest, including the hugely popular tandem of Rob Van Dam & Sabu. All the while, as the promotion’s edict would suggest, the team ran a campaign of, at the time, innovative violence that afforded the company a notorious reputation that they, Paul Heyman, et al can be proud to say they were a part of. Make no mistake, The Dudley Boyz were among the most revered of ECW’s cast of legendary misfits.
This assertion is given weight when one considers the team’s feature in the main event of 2005’s “ECW: One Night Stand” reunion of the brand. In the years immediately leading up to that momentous occasion, however, the pair struggled to maintain the appeal they once had when WWE’s “Ruthless Aggression” Era kicked into full gear. Whether separated by brand to pursue separate paths on either Raw or Smackdown, or reunited to be Heyman’s henchmen on the blue brand in a series of ill received angles, the writing was on the wall for a team whose star power was nowhere near as bright as it once was.
Upon leaving WWE, however, the Dudleyz would not rest on their laurels in any way. With Total Nonstop Action came a rejuvenated pairing. Under the new name of Team 3D, Bubba Ray and D-Von would tear up TNA’s tag division over several years, both in their trademark apparel and in motorcycle gear as part of their time together in another of the company’s success stories, Aces and Eights. By this time, towards the turn of a new decade, the Dudleyz would have accrued a staggering twenty three tag-team titles throughout their incredibly successful careers. Throughout all this, the pair were featured heavily in some of the more important chapters in TNA’s on-going fiction, such as a program with and against Kurt Angle’s “Main Event Mafia” stable, among many others.
With the opportunity for promotions outwith WWE to form and maintain relationships with each other, the Dudleyz were able to cement their legacy even further. From TNA to Ring of Honour, through association with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and an impressive list of independent promotions around the globe, the Dudley Boyz can not only call themselves one of the most decorated tag-team outfits of all time, but also make a claim to be named the most credible, tenured, and celebrated. To put it simply, the Dudley Boyz epitomise tag team wrestling in the modern era.
Over the last few years, before and after a nostalgic but short return to WWE TV, the team have travelled divergent paths. While Bubba has reinvented himself in the form of “Bully Ray”, an old-school heel who keeps “kayfabe” very much alive with his controversial social media persona, D-Von has decided to work behind the camera as a producer for WWE. Both men are still relevant to the business, in some form, after so long, and that is not by accident. The Dudley Boyz have worked harder than most to reach such a stage where they still have something to offer in the twilight of their careers. Thanks to longevity, relevance, success in several leading promotions, and as many tag-team title reigns as years active, The Dudley Boyz’ induction into this year’s LOP Hall of Fame is more than deserved. Congratulations, men, and thank you for the memories.