Pro wrestling interviews often start the same way. Such and such has “seen it all and done it all” in the business. But Impact Wrestling star Bully Ray can actually lay claim to that lofty boast. One half of the Dudley Boyz/Team 3D, the 18-time tag team champions across multiple companies. Along with Brother Devon, or D-Von as he was known in WWE, Bully Ray redefined tag team wrestling.
As a singles star, Bully Ray is a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion and former President of the iconic Aces & Eights faction. Not to mention, Bully was a vital part of the original ECW, a trailblazing promotion whose influence is still felt to this day. You want to talk about wrestlers who have done it all? Then you have to talk about Bully Ray.
You first joined Impact Wrestling back when it was known in TNA in 2005. Yourself and Brother Devon were at the peak of your powers when you joined the company. It felt huge at the time, perhaps the biggest tag team in the world arriving in TNA. How did it feel for you walking into a new environment after six years in WWE?
I don't think it was a big deal to me and Devon. We started out in ECW, a smaller company and helped it to grow. We got called by the WWE, they obviously wanted us on the biggest stage of them all. You know, Raw, Smackdown, WrestleMania. Had an amazing run in the WWE becoming the nine time WWE Tag Team Champions. At that time, the most decorated tag team in the history of the WWE.
But me and Devon ran into a situation there, where as a tag team, we had done everything that you can possibly do. We didn't have any other teams that were on our level that we could work with anymore. So when it came time for a new contract, we couldn't agree on a new deal. So we left.
A lot of people think that there is not life after the WWE and me and Devon never felt that. We knew that we could go to Japan. We knew we could go to any promotion on the planet that wasn't the WWE and make a great living for ourselves. We got a call from TNA. TNA wanted us, we went there. They gave us the wiggle room to work with All Japan and New Japan and HUSTLE. Any other company that we wanted. The first day in that Impact Zone was great. I believe me and Devon debuted the same night that Kevin Nash debuted. We worked with TNA Wrestling for ten years. It was always a good working relationship.
Aces & Eights are an iconic faction in the history of Impact Wrestling. What are your highlights and memories of your time with that group?
I think the Aces & Eights story is the greatest story ever told in Impact Wrestling history. Not because I was a part of it. But because of the way the story was told. If somebody else would have been the President of the Aces & Eights, I still would have had this opinion. Because that was one year of storytelling. That was when clear and concise characters came together with really strong storytelling. This was the idea of Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey, obviously based on the TV show Sons of Anarchy that was very hot at the time.
It turned into episodic television where you absolutely positively had to watch as the layers unfolded. To see who was the next member, who was in charge of this. When is the swerve coming? Where is the swerve coming? It kept people guessing. I think it's a very underrated story. I think there's hatred out there amongst wrestling fans for stuff that they may not love. So all of a sudden they decide to hate it. But I enjoyed the Aces & Eights storyline very much.
I'll never forget the day that Eric came to me and asked me, “How would you feel about being the leader of a motorcycle gang?”. In the back of my mind I was like, “Oh, this is the worst idea I've ever had.” But I trusted Eric and I knew that if he was coming to me with something that he had big plans for it. My exact words were, “If you think that that's the best utilisation of the Bully Ray character, I'm on board. Then the reveal happened and the rest was history.
Aces and Eights marked your transition from largely a tag team wrestler to a main event, world championship level guy. What adjustments did you have to make to embody your new role?
The only way my approach changed as a single wrestler was I started to think in terms of two wrestlers as opposed to four. I had always been a fan of tag team wrestling, and the very first time I watched wrestling on TV was a tag team match. The more tag team wrestling that I watched, I was like “Four guys are a lot more exciting than two.” I always wanted to be a tag guy. I never ever, ever wanted to be a singles wrestler.
I grew up on the Samoans and (Tony) Garea and (Rick) Martel, the Moondogs, the Strongbows, Fuji and Saito and every other great tag team that existed in the WWE. It was just a question of finding the right partner. At the beginning of my career, I was a singles guy. Then when they brought Devon into ECW, me and Devon feuded for about six to eight months. We had incredible chemistry together out there. I went to (ECW owner) Paul Heyman one day and I said, Listen, this babyface thing that you got me doing has run its course. Probably a year to a year and a half of Bubba being this lovable babyface. I said, deep down inside I'm really a heel just waiting to bust out. I think if you put me and Devon together, you'll have something with us. And it's worked our entire career, we've either been the most hated or the most loved.
I was able to carry that into my singles career. Because as the leader and the President of the Aces & Eights, pulling the wool over everybody's eyes and screwing over Sting and Brooke and Hulk Hogan, I was the most hated. But after the storyline ended and I transitioned into the Dixie Carter storyline, I was the most loved.
You’ve touched upon working with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Their tenure in charge of the company was divisive, with some talent speaking highly of them and others less so. Where do you stand on their legacy?
I was a producer in Impact, long before I was ever Bully Ray. Long before me and Devon went our separate ways character wise. I got to sit in on the meetings at TNA and I witnessed the way Hulk and Eric went about things when it came to all the talent and how they felt about all talent. I can tell you definitively if I had a stack of Bibles, I’d swear on them. Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff had all of the right intentions when it came to Impact Wrestling.
Never once did I see them bury anybody. They were on board, Hulk was constantly pitching ideas for guys. Sometimes Eric would like it, and sometimes Eric wouldn't like it. As a booker that's your job. You’ve got to filter everything out. Do I think that they made a poor decision in trying to convince Dixie Carter to go live on Monday nights? Absolutely. It was a bad decision. But the greatest coaches in the history of pro sports make bad decisions on any given Sunday. So I can tell you, and this has nothing to do with the opportunities that Eric gave me, I felt that their hearts were in the right place. They gave everybody the opportunities that those guys and gals earned on their own.
You made your return to Impact at Bound for Glory in the Call Your Shot Battle Royal. The standout moment of that match for a lot of people was when yourself, Rhino, Tommy Dreamer and Johnny Swinger squared off. What was it like to honour a legacy with those guys?
It was fun. It was cool, but it wasn't anything more than that. It's not like that moment happens and you're like, “Oh my god!”. Returning at the 2015 Royal Rumble and getting hit with that wall of sound from that Philly audience, that's an overwhelming rush. Being in the ring with Dreamer and Rhino, that's like just playing the hits for me. I can do it with my eyes closed. Anything that has to do with ECW is a guaranteed response. You know the people are going to love it, you know the people are going to be into it, you know they're gonna chant ECW. I think my favourite part of the whole thing is when Swinger put his hand in the middle, like he was some kind of ECW original, and then we just chucked him over the top rope.
Did you ever think back in Philadelphia in the 90s, that yourself and Tommy Dreamer would still be doing battle in 2023?
You never really think about those things then. But sitting here now I'm not shocked. Everybody needs that one guy who is their arch enemy for life in wrestling. Me and Dreamer have been the best of friends and the worst of enemies. What people see on TV right now they're like, “Oh, well, how can Bully and Dreamer coexist on Busted Open (Radio)? But they don't like each other on Impact Wrestling. It's two different worlds.
On Busted Open we're contractually obligated by Sirius XM to get along. What we do on Impact can't bleed over to Busted Open. What a lot of people don't realise about being Tommy is we have a long history together. I think it's finally bubbled up where me and Tommy just don't like each other anymore. Period. I don't like him. I know for a fact he doesn't like me. What you see on television is mirroring reality more than most fans even realise. Probably more than you realise. Me and Tommy don't talk anymore. There is no such thing as friendship anymore. Everything that our relationship was built on, has been destroyed and torn down. I tried to be Tommy's friend forever. But I became a much bigger star in this business as part of the Dudleyz, Team 3D And Bully Ray than Tommy Dreamer has ever been as Tommy Dreamer.
How many Hall of Fame's is Tommy Dreamer in? The answer is zero. What I'm getting at is this - my success has always bothered Tommy. It continues to bother Tommy. So Tommy thinks by having a Busted Open match or having this Hardcore War at Rebellion that somehow he's going to get Retribution on me. Somehow he's gonna get one up on me. How are you getting one up on me Tommy? My resume and my career crushes yours. That is your downfall. Because you allow it to crush you mentally.
You’ll be captaining opposing teams in the ten wrestler Hardcore War at Rebellion. What can fans expect from this match?
Well, it's called Hardcore War and everybody can bring a weapon to the ring. So what do you think it's gonna be like? If you want blood, you got it just like the AC/DC song says. I gotta tell you, I only need one person by my side for this match. If they told me I could only pick one partner for this match to take on Tommy's team of five you know who it would be? Masha Slamovich. That's a bad mother trucker. She can go. I'd be more worried about Masha than Bully. Although if I'm the Killer Kelly girl, I'm extremely worried. I'll probably wind up piledriving her on her head on the concrete just because she decided to get involved. I can’t understand why some of these other guys get involved. Like what's his name? The boopie guy? Bhupinder.. This young guy. He's so happy to be on Tommy's side. He doesn't realise that when you follow the sheep you head to the slaughter and they're all following Tommy. Tommy ain’t no sheep. He’s more like a water buffalo.
Addendum: As the interview was wrapping up, Bully began putting questions to me. Here is the only-slightly terrifying few moments in which I was interviewed by hardcore wrestling legend Bully Ray.
Where do you live?
The UK. Manchester, England.
Are you City or United?
Did you see me when I performed in Manchester in my Liverpool Jersey?
I did. I must admit I did boo you slightly. Please don’t piledrive me on concrete.
Why only slightly? It takes a lot of balls to wear a Liverpool jersey in Manchester!
It really does!
(Adopts English accent) It takes a big set of bollocks mate!
Well we’re gonna finish above you this season, we’re having a decent season to be fair.
I don’t even like Liverpool, I just wore the jersey to piss people like you off!
You can watch Impact Wrestling Rebellion at 1am UK time this coming Monday on Fite.tv
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change