It was a very close call, but the WWE Universe nearly got to see the character, Bully Ray. But the WWE return of the wrestler known in real life as Mark LoMonaco took an eleventh-hour turn when creative officials decided to play it safe and reintroduce him under his familiar WWE and ECW guise of Bubba Ray Dudley.
Speaking to Sports Illustrated wrestling writer Justin Barrasso, Bully Ray admitted that the original plan for The Dudley Boyz’ return to the WWE in 2015 was for him to re-debut using that gimmick. This was, after all, the gimmick he used for most of his decade-long Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA) run, and the gimmick where he enjoyed his greatest successes as a singles wrestler. At the relatively old age of 41, Ray had won his first World Heavyweight Championship in March 2013 on Impact’s Lockdown pay-per-view, and while he would lose the title to Chris Sabin later that year, he won it back on the Hardcore Justice pay-per-view in August.
“We came one day away in August (2015) from debuting Bully Ray in WWE. At the last second, the decision was made to not go forward with it. Bully Ray was ready to go, but that’s all I can tell you. We were one day away, and they had to pull the plug on it.”
Instead of that, fans got D-Von and Bubba Ray Dudley making their WWE return in August 2015, reprising their tried-and-tested gimmick of two kayfabe half-brothers who enjoyed putting their opponents through tables and cutting loud-mouthed promos on their rivals. They initially feuded with then-WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day, playing a babyface role, but after losing this rivalry, they became villainous jobbers to the stars, never getting to add to the 18 tag team championships they won in ECW and WWE combined.
Nearly one year to the date of D-Von and Bubba/Bully Ray’s WWE return, The Dudley Boyz announced their storyline retirement on the August 22, 2016 Monday Night RAW, as they chose not to re-sign with WWE. And while D-Von legitimately retired and went on to work backstage for WWE, his storyline brother chose to remain a free agent.
All that had changed last Saturday when Bully Ray appeared at Ring of Honor’s Manhattan Mayhem event, chokeslamming ROH World Champion Adam Cole through a table. Several outlets, including the Inquisitr, reported that Ray had just signed a deal with the company, and it was also noted that he had come close to signing a big-money deal with Impact Wrestling.
Bully Ray confirmed this to Sports Illustrated, saying he did get a “significant offer,” but he chose not to sign with Impact because he had accomplished all he had set out to accomplish while working for the company from 2005 to 2015.
“If I can’t go back some place and top what I did before, then it’s kind of pointless. I’m not blowing smoke up my own a** here, Bully Ray was the top heel in TNA. I generated ratings—me and Jeff Hardy drew TNA’s biggest house of all time at Lockdown, and I had my run with Hulk (Hogan) and with Sting. If you take a look at the landscape of TNA and their locker room, I don’t have anybody to top what I did before.”
Still the talk of the wrestling biz. Now thats how you make a DELIGHTFUL impact. pic.twitter.com/zOeMIPdclY
— Bubba Ray Dudley (@bullyray5150) March 5, 2017
Unfortunately for those who want to see him return to a major promotion, Bully Ray won’t be making a WWE or Impact return anytime soon, as Sports Illustrated noted he’s signed to Ring of Honor for the next six months. And as he explains it, he’s happy to be a part of the company as the passion of its wrestlers and fans reminds him of the old ECW scene in the 1990s. He added that he’s also excited with the possible rivalries he can enter into now that he’s working for ROH, including potential feuds against the likes of Adam Cole and Jay Lethal.
“There are so many possibilities. I look forward to working with all of those guys and helping them raise their game. That has nothing to do with me putting myself over, it’s about working up to a different level. That’s when fans get a better product.”
Bully Ray will be making his ROH debut at the promotion’s 15th Anniversary pay-per-view later on tonight as he and Mark and Jay Briscoe team up against War Machine and Davey Boy Smith Jr.
[Featured Image by Impact Wrestling]