A year ago the WWE Universe erupted when The Dudley Boyz made a triumphant return on the Raw after SummerSlam. Fans were excited that one of the most popular tag teams of the Attitude Era had returned and would be mixing it with the best teams WWE now had to offer.
Fast forward a year, and instead of being able to reminisce about newly established rivalries, great matches and a tenth Tag Team title run, we’re talking about Bubba Ray and D-Von leaving the WWE.
The circumstances around their departure aren’t 100 percent clear, with some saying they only had a one year deal and that negotiations for an extension had broken down. Conversely, the WWE seemed to be gearing towards a split between the pair. There’s nothing to say that The Dudleyz didn’t fancy this option and consequently decided against putting pen to paper on a new deal. However one thing’s for sure, the pair were badly misused during their most recent run in WWE.
When The Dudley Boyz first made their return, fans were ecstatic, and rightly so. The same people probably thought we’d see the veteran pair give a significant rub to WWE’s current crop of tag team talent. Moreover, they perhaps were also expecting Bubba Ray and D-Von to bring the tag team division back to the glory days and for multiple tables to be smashed in the process.
It all started so well, The Dudleyz were inserted into a feud with The New Day – who were still heels at the time. The latter were really beginning to gain traction with crowds, so what better way to further legitimise them than to have them face off against the most decorated team in WWE history?
The rivalry had some memorable moments, like when The Dudleyz and Edge and Christian traded insults with The New Day in a hilarious backstage segment. Similarly, it was entertaining to see members of The New Day being put through tables. However the matches didn’t set the world on fire. In the end the whole thing felt a bit flat.
By the time Survivor Series came around, WWE’s most successful tag team found themselves on the Pre-Show, something that would become a frustratingly familiar sight. This would also be the last time the pair would be victorious at a pay-per-view (PPV).
An underwhelming feud with The Wyatt Family followed. The matches lacked excitement and it culminated in a loss at WWE TLC in December 2015 – The Dudleyz competed as part of the ECW Originals alongside Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno (an angle that has been done to death both inWWE and TNA).
The WWE missed a trick here by not bringing back Spike Dudley. It might not have been enough to make the rivalry a classic, but it would have added to the nostalgia factor at the very least. Nevertheless, that wasn’t the biggest missed opportunity at this PPV.
There was the chance to insert Bubba Ray and D-Von into a TLC match featuring The New Day, The Usos and The Lucha Dragons. Why wouldn’t you include a tag team that was in the first ever TLC match? Especially one whose speciality is putting their opponents through tables.
As the months passed the team’s stock started to plummet. They were accumulating losses which diminished their status as a legitimate threat in the tag team division. Bubba Ray and D-Von then turned heel in February 2016 for the first time since 2004. Unfortunately this did little to change their fortunes. Their PPV record highlights this:
• Night of Champions – won by DQ against The New Day.
• Hell in a Cell – lost to The New Day.
• Survivor Series – won a 5v5 Survivor Series Elimination tag match (Pre-Show).
• Tables, Ladders and Chairs – lost to The Wyatt Family.
• Royal Rumble – lost a Fatal 4-Way tag match (Pre-Show).
• Fastlane – not on the card
• WrestleMania 32 – lost to The Usos (Pre-Show).
• Payback – not on the card.
• Extreme Rules – not on the card.
• Money in the Bank – lost to The Lucha Dragons (Pre-Show).
• Battleground 2016 – not on the card.
• SummerSlam – lost to Sami Zayn and Neville (Pre-Show).
Now by no means should WWE have been building their tag team division around two veterans, but they could have been used much more wisely. By diluting their worth, the potential rub other teams could have received from The Dudleyz was already disappearing.
When Enzo Amore and Big Cass debuted the night after WrestleMania 32, it seemed like a rivalry with The Dudley Boyz was just what the doctor ordered – a couple of young smack talkers against a pair of veterans demanding respect. Instead of an intense rivalry we got a fleeting one, where Enzo and Big Cass convincingly defeated The Dudleyz on Raw on two separate occasions. In fact, in the 18 meetings between the teams (live events included), Bubba Ray and D-Von didn’t manage to win a single match.
For Enzo and Big Cass to get any benefit from this feud, there has to be some worth in defeating The Dudleyz, but by this point there wasn’t.
More recently the pair has succumbed to a near jobber-like status, losing to makeshift pairings like Neville and Sin Cara. Furthermore, the fact they were drafted to Raw is a mystery in itself.
SmackDown Live now have their own Tag Team Championships and it’s hard to look past American Alpha as most likely title holders.
Who do they have for competition? Teams like The Ascension and The Vaudevillains have been a mere afterthought since joining the main roster from NXT. Then there’s lower rung teams like The Hype Bros and Breezango, who are extremely unlikely to be carrying tag team gold. The only real option is The Usos, which would require WWE to turn them heel, something they may be reluctant to do.
In essence, there is a Dudley shaped hole on SmackDown Live. Bubba Ray and D-Von would’ve been the perfect starter feud for American Alpha, even after being mismanaged for a year. Have the veterans win the first bout and then allow the NXT graduates to be victorious in the following two, ensuring they win the feud. It’s simple, but effective booking.
What’s next for The Dudley Boyz? Whether they return again or the next stop is a place in the WWE Hall of Fame, it’s just a damn shame they went out with a whimper rather than a roar.