The Dudley Boyz announced their retirement on Monday Night Raw. At least, it seemed that was their intention.
For all we know, Bubba Ray and D’Von could have decided against re-signing with WWE for different reasons. Perhaps they want to take some time off and focus on Team 3D Academy, or maybe make a return to TNA Wrestling.
But, for the sake of this column, let’s say they are keeping their word. If so, so ends one of the greatest tag teams in professional wrestling history.
The Dudleyz won 23 world tag team championships in WWE, ECW, NJPW and TNA. They were the embodiment of mid-90s ECW, key players during the Attitude Era of WWE and provided a spark to TNA’s roster before signings got out of hand.
Bubba Ray and D’Von dominated the tag team landscape of every promotion they worked for during the majority of their 20-year run. Their legacy was etched long before they made their WWE return last August.
There are certain superstars whose legacies are so parallel with aspects of pro wrestling. When you think of corner chops, you think of Ric Flair. When you think of Hell in a Cell, you think of Mick Foley. And when you think of tables, you think of the Dudley Boyz.
That will never change. The Dudleyz will always be synonymous with wrestlers putting their opponents through tables long past their retirement.
They can also take one-third credit for one of the most exciting tag team feuds in WWE history, which produced the Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. Bubba Ray and D’Von in all of the first four TLC matches, but their most memorable were the first two against the Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian.
What made the matches special was how hungry each of the three teams were. Edge, Christian and the Hardys were still up-and-comers while the Dudleyz were still in their first year with WWE. Each time had something to prove, which is why the matches were magic.
The first actual TLC match took place at SummerSlam 2000, but it was the teams’ ladder match at WrestleMania 2000 that started the series. The opening match stole the show on an otherwise weak WrestleMania card. The two TLC matches also exceeded expectations and proved why all six competitors were vital to WWE’s success.
In the feud, the Dudleyz were the modern day version of the Road Warriors by comparison to their more agile opponents. Bubba Ray and D’Von worked stiff as a no nonsense badass duo. That’s why the comparison works beyond the two groups’ championships.
The Road Warriors were the team of the the ’80s and early ’90s, the Dudleyz picked up where they left off. Bubba Ray and D’Von even managed to have a lengthy run in TNA, with both tasting tag team success and re-inventing their characters as singles wrestlers.
Arguably, TNA brought Bubba his most successful run as Bully Ray, who eventually became the company’s top heel. D’Von emerged as the Sergent at Arms of Aces and Eights. The two reunited as leaders of the group, which led to Bully Ray’s first run as TNA World Champion.
While that run was long and memorable, the duo needed to make one last run in WWE before calling it a career. The Dudleyz’s work this past year may not have been what many wanted to see.
The majority of it was spent putting over younger talent, even their exit promo ended with them going through tables at the hands of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. But that was the Dudleyz giving back to the business. Bubba Ray and D’Von etched their legacies when The Usos’ father was their colleague. They already had 10-plus championship wins before any members of New Day had even started wrestling school.
Bubba Ray and D’Von gave new teams the rub just by being in the ring and not being too proud to do business. They didn’t let their egos outshine their competition.
That’s why, even if their in-ring careers are over, they’ll have a place in wrestling as long as they want to. Who cares if they didn’t get another title run in the last 12 months, they already have twice the amount any team can hope for.
The Dudleyz are not only one of the greatest tag teams in pro wrestling history, but pioneers with respect for the business that made them stars. That’s something to celebrate when looking back on one of the most decorate tag teams of all-time.