To the delight of many people who still remember the Attitude Era, one of the most prominent teams of that era, The Dudley Boyz (yes, with a “z”) returned on Monday Night Raw last week. The Brooklyn crowd went nuts, seeing two old favourites make a return to WWE after being gone for over 10 years. But ten years is actually a really long time. John Cena’s career basically rose, peaked, and turned him into the most polarizing figure in history in the entire span of time that The Dudley Boyz have been gone from WWE (Cena actually debuted in 2002, but his first WWE Title win was in 2005, the same year The Dudleyz left). A large portion of the fan base probably only vaguely remembers them, if at all. Don’t misunderstand, they’ll still have lots of fans, but for those who weren’t into wrestling when the Attitude Era was a thing, first of all, thanks for making the rest of us feel really old. But also, here’s a quick recap about why you should be excited to see The Dudley Boyz back in WWE.
The Origin Story
The Dudley Boyz gimmick traces its roots back to a simple comedy stable in Extreme Championship Wrestling, a small independent promotion based in Philadelphia (owned and operated by some guy named Paul Heyman, whom you might recognize) that was incredibly influential on both WWE and WCW. Much of what would become the Attitude Era owes a great deal to the hardcore style that was pioneered in ECW. At any rate, the story of the Dudleyz is that they were all the illegitimate children of a travelling salesman who had found each other and become wrestlers. At some point, D’von joined the family, bringing with him a harder edge that turned them from jokes into the most hated men in the company.
After ECW began to collapse under the the looming threat of bankruptcy, WWE signed Bubba Ray and D’von, who brought their act straight into WWE. It was not an instant success. Many of the incredible heel promos that The Dudleyz delivered in ECW were considered far too obscene for a televised wrestling promotion, even during the Attitude Era. Instead, Bubba adopted the stuttering gimmick that he’d used as part of the original comedy gimmick, which may have been humorous, but it was not something that legitimate, top-tier teams are made of. Even their tie-dyed wrestling gear looked decidedly minor-league, seemingly dooming them to afterthoughts in WWE.