Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels did it. Scott Steiner and Booker T as well.
Transitioning from tag team success to singles action poses quite the challenge
Can an established tag team wrestler, conquering the tag team world for 14 years, become a success on the singles scene?
Bully Ray is answering that question by making a statement with TNA Impact Wrestling.
Bully Ray, formerly Bubba Ray Dudley of Dudley Boys fame, is the TNA Wrestling champion, and he will main event (as a singles’ champion) the company’s biggest pay-per-view of the year, Bound for Glory, on Sunday, Oct. 20 from the Viejas Arena in San Diego.
Bully Ray battles AJ Styles for the belt to conclude a fun-filled, action-packed Bound for Glory Weekend.
“I’m going to Bound for Glory to retain my world heavyweight championship, tear the house down and give the people one of the most hard hitting, exciting matches ever,” Bully said during a TNA conference call.
“Every time I go into that ring, whether I’m talking or fighting or wrestling, I always go out there to steal the show, and if you’re going steal the show, AJ Styles is a [heck] of a guy to have in there to fight. He’s a [heck] of a competitor. He’s a great athlete. He’s a great wrestler. He can stand there and go toe-to-toe with you.
“It’s going to be a great match. It’s going to be entertaining. It’s going to be hard hitting, and I’m going to retain my world title.”
• TNA handed the ball to Kurt Angle, Sting, Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam and Styles to name a few, and now the ball is in Bully Ray’s hands.
The emotions when the company decided to do that?
“I was in shock,” Bully said. “I go out there, and I know what I’m capable of doing. We did it in ECW. We did it in WWE. We did it in TNA. We did it in Japan. We’ve done it all over the world. The only difference now was I was going to do it on my own.
“When I broke away from D-Von and invented Bully Ray, I knew that I could be successful. I knew that there wasn’t anything to hold me back. I knew what worked in the past for me, and I said to myself, ‘If I stick to the plan, if I reinvent myself, if I get into great shape, and I offer up a persona that is so disgusting and hated and gets under so many people’s skin -- and the tone of my voice and the venom that I spit -- if I just do me, it’s gonna work,’ and it has.
“TNA, obviously, took notice, and they gave me an opportunity to go out there and shine.”
• Successful throughout the world, The Dudley Boys (Bubba Ray and D-Von) won tag team gold in WWE, WWF, WCW, TNA, ECW, the NWA and Japan’s IWGP. They are recognized as 23-time World tag team champions, making them the most decorated tag team in history. They will take it to the extreme in (and out of) the ring, famously known for using tables in their matches, occasionally to drive their opponent through one with their finishing move, aptly title the Dudley Death Drop.
After proving themselves in ECW and conquering WWE, they signed with TNA, becoming Team 3D.
With 14 years of tag team achievements behind them, they split, focusing on singles wrestling.
“I was a part of the most successful tag team in wrestling for almost 15 years, and when that ran its course, when there was no other team nor territory left to conquer, me and D-Von went our separate ways, and in just under three years, I was able to become the [TNA] champion, and I am going to main event Bound for Glory.
“I think I’ve maximized every single opportunity that has been thrown my way and scored a touchdown every time an opportunity has come my way.”
Devon (name spelling change) won the TNA television title. Bubba, now known as Bully Ray, had other ideas.
Bully Ray worked an angle with Hulk Hogan where Bully married Hogan’s lovely daughter, Brooke, only to later dupe them. At TNA’s Lockdown pay-per-view in March, Bully Ray turned heel by defeating Jeff Hardy for the TNA title, using a hammer provided by none other than Devon, who was a member of the new heel faction Aces & Eights, an outlaw, renegade group who did what they want, when they wanted. Gang style sneak attacks the mantra.
Surprise. Surprise. Bully Ray then revealed himself to be the President of Aces & Eights, and his individual character really took off.
“I’ve enjoyed the transition [into singles wrestling],” Bully said. “It’s not something that I ever thought I was going to do. It’s not something I ever really wanted to do. I got into pro wrestling to be a successful tag team wrestler.
“The biggest challenge was getting into the shape I got myself into. I’ve never been in phenomenal shape, not that I’m in phenomenal shape, but I’m in the best shape in my life. That was a challenge, and the other real challenge is being in the ring without a partner. When you wrestle all over the world for 15 years, and you’re used to having somebody by your side, it’s a little different when you turn around and look at that corner, and nobody’s there. As far as challenges are concerned, I’m pretty happy with how everything’s gone so far.”
Bully Ray is impressing with his work on the mic and became more comfortable working singles matches.
“I’m just out there as me being me, doing what I do,” he said. “I’m extremely comfortable when I’m out there. Whether it’s pro wrestling or hitting a baseball or throwing a football or shooting a hockey puck, you have to be comfortable with what you’re doing to be a successful performer.
“I know how to go out there, and I know how to draw emotion from people. I know how to strike a chord with them. I know how to get under their skin. I know how to get a reaction, and I’m proud to say that there’s probably nobody in the wrestling business who can do it quite like I do.”
• Advice to aspiring professional wrestlers?
“Relax. Go out there. Speak from the heart, get your message across and get to the point,” he said. “People in this day and age don’t have a huge attention span. Get in it. Get on. Get off. Get out.
“Say what you got to say. Get the emotional effect that you want from the fans, and that’s it, and that’s what I do. I’m proud of my ability to be able to go out there and do that at a very high level every week.”
Devon retired, and Aces & Eights is downsizing (for now), but Bully Ray keeps going, even adding an athletic and beautiful TNA Knockout by his side, Brooke Tessmacher.
So Bully Ray’s got the gold, got the girl, got the talent. Just how far will that take him? To be continued.
• Twitter @RealBully5150.
• In May 2007, Bubba Ray and Devon opened the Team 3D Academy of Professional Wrestling and Sports Entertainment at the X-Cel Fitness Gym in Kissimmee, Fla. In TNA Wrestling, the Dudley Boys were known as Team 3D. Some talented wrestlers are from the Team 3D Academy including Leva Bates, Rosie Lottalove and Jesse Neal.
Bully said: “I’m fully invested in my wrestling school, and I’m there as much as I possibly can, helping train the stars of tomorrow. I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing.”
Visit http://team3dacademy.com/index2.html. Call 407-390-9005.
• Will the Dudley Boys reform?
Bully said: “There is not one thing left for me and Devon to do as a tag team. I don’t know why we would, why we should. We can’t top what we’ve done, and I’m having a blast doing what I’m doing right now. It’s new. It’s enjoyable. It’s like having a brand new girlfriend. Everything is cool.
“I’m definitely not retiring either. I’ve got too much left in me.
“You can’t stop rock-n-roll, and you can’t stop me.”
• TNA Impact Wrestling review
“As a student of pro wrestling and watching everything that’s going on, when I look at the TNA locker-room, I can honestly say it’s the best cross-section of pro wrestlers and entertainers and athletes that are out there,” Bully said.
“You’ve got icons like [Hulk] Hogan and Sting. You’ve got guys who have been doing it at a top level for a long time like myself and Kurt [Angle] and Jeff Hardy, and then you have the most important level, the work horses of the company, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, [Cowboy James] Storm, Kaz, [Christopher] Daniels, [Austin] Aries. You have great X Division wrestlers. You got some of the hottest girls out there. Everything you can possibly want in pro wrestling company, you can find in TNA.”
• Bully Ray and TNA Wrestling will be in full force during Bound for Glory Weekend in San Diego, culminating with TNA’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Oct. 20 from the Viejas Arena.
The pay-per-view is headlined by AJ Styles challenging Bully Ray (with Brooke Tessmacher) for the TNA championship.
Ultimate X for TNA X Division title: Austin Aries vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Manik vs. Samoa Joe vs. Chris Sabin (with Velvet Sky).
TNA Knockouts champ ODB vs. Gail Kim vs. Brooke Tessmacher.
Kurt Angle vs. EGO’s Bobby Roode.
Sting vs. Magnus.
Plus, referees Earl Hebner, Brian Hebner, Brian Stiffler and more.
A gauntlet tag team match with EGO’s Bad Influence (Christopher Daniels and Kazarian), Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Hernandez, Joseph Park and Eric Young, and The BroMans during the Bound for Glory preshow on Spike TV. The winners get a title shot against TNA tag champs Cowboy James Storm and Gunner later on the pay-per-view.
Spike TV’s Countdown to Bound for Glory special is 7 p.m. EST before the pay-per-view gets underway.
The Bound For Glory Weekend also includes the popular Fan Interaction and the induction of Kurt Angle into the TNA Hall of Fame.
For full details on the spectacular, visit www.tnabfg.com.