Table for One: The Legacy of Bubba Ray Dudley

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Last Friday, September 22nd, at Ring of Honor‘s Death Before Dishonor XV PPV, WWE Legend Bubba Ray Dudley – who competes for ROH under his former TNA moniker of Bully Ray – suffered a concussion during his 6-man tag team match up with the Briscoe Brothers versus Bullet Club (The Young Bucks & Hangman Page). Following the end of the match, Jay Briscoe turned on Bully Ray, throwing a table at the ECW Original. The table connected with Bully Ray’s head and following the incident, he was taken to a nearby hospital.

Fellow ECW alumni Tommy Dreamer went with Bully Ray to the hospital and updated fans on Twitter.

Bully Ray himself would console fans later in the day on Saturday. “Was a long night and a rough day so far,” he said on his Twitter. “Wish I could say I was doing better.” While it sounded ominous, it was his follow-up comments on Monday that has many concerned for the future of his wrestling career (as well as his long term health). Appearing on the SirusXM radio show Busted Open Radio (which he frequently co-hosts), Bully Ray mentioned not remembering much of the match and that he was still a bit off from the weekend. He mentioned that doctors told him to not get too excited or be around loud noises and when pressed if he was worried about his health, he responded “so much so that I’m not even sure if my career should continue.”

If Bully Ray is indeed forced to retire due to concussions, he’d join a list of other big name performers who have had to do the same this year, including NJPW’s Katsuyori Shibata and CZW’s Danny Havoc, not to mention the retirement last year of former WWE World Champion Daniel Bryan. While there’s been little follow up since, many are hoping that it’s an angle that could see Tommy Dreamer (who replaced Bully Ray the following night at the ROH television tapings) and Bully Ray team up against the Briscoes. But with the concussion problem becoming bigger and bigger, it seems unlikely ROH would use something so tragically sensitive as CTE issues to advance a storyline in today’s wrestling climate. But if he is indeed ready to call it a career, Bully Ray can do so with his head high. He’s accomplished a Hall of Fame worthy career over his 26 years in the ring and will go down in history as arguably one of the greatest tag team specialists in the industry.

Photo: PWI

Trained in 1991 by WWE Hall of Famer Johnny Rodz and Sonny Blaze, New York native Mark LaMonaco soon debuted on the local indies as Mongo Vyle. In 1995, he had a tryout with ECW, still named Mongo, where he debuted as Bill Afonso‘s bodyguard. It was short and brief and he was soon signed and repackaged as Buh Buh Ray Dudley, the stuttering hillbilly member of ECW’s original eclectic family of Dudley brothers, all of whom shared a mother, but had different fathers. When D-Von Dudley arrived in ECW a year later to clean up his “brothers” act (he felt they were being too goofy and disrespecting the Dudley name), Bubba Ray teamed with D-Von to create one of wrestling’s most iconic tag teams, The Dudley Boyz. Their three year run in ECW from 1996 through 1999 saw them capture a whopping eight (8) ECW World Tag Team titles, cementing their hardcore legacy as dominating champs.

Photo: WWE

They jumped to the WWE in 1999, in the height of the Attitude Era, and immediately became an even bigger sensation. Alongside Edge & Christian and The Hardy Boyz, The Dudleyz revolutionized tag team wrestling by the turn of the century, something that had languished in the WWF since the 1980’s. Their legendary feuds with the two set bars that tag teams continue to strive for and remain WWE legends. Their first run with the WWE last six years, from 1999 to 2005, when contract negotiations fell apart and the Dudleyz left the company. But they left with another 10 World Tag Team titles during that time, including nine runs with WWE tag team titles and one as WCW World Tag Team Champions during the WCW/ECW Invasion angle, becoming the first team to capture World Tag Team gold in the WWF, WCW and ECW.

Photo: Impact Wrestling

It didn’t take long for the Dudleyz to find work, signing with TNA later that year. Due to copyrights, they became Brother Ray and Brother Devon – Team 3-D – but the characters were undeniably the Dudley Boyz, adding three more World Tag Team titles to their collection, including one NWA and two TNA World Tag Team titles. In 2009, as part of a brief alliance with NJPW and TNA, they competed for NJPW and captured two IWGP Tag Team Championships, including their first one at WrestleKingdom III over Togi Makabe and Toru Yano. This coup would make the Dudleys an historical icon – they now own World Tag Team titles in the WWE, WCW, ECW, NWA, TNA and NJPW. And while they’re best remembered for their ECW and WCW runs, their decade long run in TNA is their longest tenure with any one company.

Photo: Impact Wrestling

In 2010, the team announced they were going to retire, but at the retirement ceremony, Bubba Ray turned on his partner D-Von and began a singles career, now dubbed Bully Ray. For five years, Bully Ray terrorized the Impact Zone, finally reaching the pinnacle of his wrestling career and winning a World Championship as a singles wrestler, beating Jeff Hardy for the TNA World Heavyweight title in 2013. He wore the strap for 130 days before losing it to Chris Sabin, but regained it under a month later. By the time Bully Ray departed TNA in 2015, he was dripping in confidence as a singles wrestler. He would shock the world weeks later when he appeared at the 2015 WWE Royal Rumble – once again as Bubba Ray Dudley – when he was a surprise entrant in the actual Rumble match.

He returned that summer to the WWE, this time with D-Von in tow, and The Dudley Boyz returned with a vengeance. In a show of respect, WWE announcers – including Michael Cole – referenced the Dudley Boyz as being 23x Tag Team Champions, acknowledging their title wins in TNA and IWGP. But after a year, their push diminished and the Dudleyz once again left the WWE. Devon Dudley quietly retired and took a position with the WWE as a road agent/producer, but Bully Ray returned to the indie circuit, eventually finding a home with Ring of Honor earlier this year at Manhattan Mayhem VI in March, assisting the Briscoe Brothers. He’s remained their ally for the entire year, collecting more hardware as the ROH 6-Man Tag Team Champions, up until Jay Briscoe’s heel turn last Friday.

Photo: ROH

It’s a cruel irony that a man whose legacy has been defined by table spots on others may ultimately be retired because of one. But Mark LaMonaco – the man behind Bubba Ray and Bully Ray – will retire one of the most popular wrestling personalities of the past 30 years.

Photo: WWE