Saturday, 18 June 2016

Straight Outta Dudleyville - The Legacy Of The Dudley Boyz

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 430 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: April 11 2016

Straight Outta Dudleyville (a clear take-off from the recent movie Straight Outta Compton) focuses on the careers of Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley, and mostly their time tag teaming together as The Dudley Boyz. It includes a documentary of around 75 minutes, as well as a selection of matches from their illustrious and decorated careers. (Depending where you order this DVD, you could also get special packaging which converts into a mini-table, which is awesome!) Can you believe that it has been just over 20 years now since we were first introduced to The Dudleyz?

After a brief look at the childhoods of the real-life Mark Lomonica and Devon Hughes, the two men discuss their entries into the wrestling business, and their arrivals at ECW in 1995 and 1996 respectively. The original Dudley gimmick was a bit weird to say the least, and it would take too much space to describe it here, but let's just say that the Dudley family (which had nine members at its peak) went in a very different direction once D-Von arrived, and specifically, after some initial battles between the then-Buh Buh Ray and D-Von, once they began teaming in early 1997. The comedy aspect of old was dropped in favour of a violent, offensive and frighteningly insulting style that made them truly loathed heels. Although it isn't shown here, on The Rise & Fall Of ECW DVD this included Buh Buh inciting near-riots and one extremely unnerving incident at ECW Heat Wave 1999, following some offensive remarks that would never make the air today, even in ECW if it were still around. It's easy to forget that during their ECW run, many die-hard fans of the promotion couldn't stand them, either because of how offensive they were or because their matches didn't deliver the action that those involving other acts in the promotion could or would.

During this time, both men picked up plenty of ECW Tag Team Titles, and they honed their in-ring act to the point where, despite their reliance on violence, they could put together a pretty good doubles match. So much so that, in August 1999, they were signed by the WWF, then at its peak during the Attitude Era. Both men provide a fascinating insight on how they were initially welcomed due to the bad taste left behind by previous ECW alumni Public Enemy, but after taking everything that The Acolytes (Faarooq and Bradshaw) had to offer, they earned the respect of the locker room. After an uneventful first few months, their respect levels amongst the fans and their peers shot up when they began feuding with The Hardy Boyz, which brought in Edge and Christian and led to a year-plus saga involving all three teams that remains the greatest tag team feud in WWF/WWE history. Unsurprisingly, and justifiably, this rivalry gets plenty of coverage on the documentary.

We'll go back to the matches that embodied this feud later, but after this rivalry ran its course, the decision was made by the WWF to split up Bubba and D-Von in the initial 2002 Draft. This was a gamble which ultimately did not pay off: Bubba did okay in singles action on Raw, but not well enough to justify being solo, and D-Von in his new Reverend character was simply dull. Both men acknowledged their mixed fortunes when they were apart, and both were relieved when the call was made to reunite The Dudleyz at Survivor Series 2002 to a big pop at Madison Square Garden. But whilst they were better together than on their own, the year 2003 was still not as exciting as their early WWF years were, and 2004 was even worse. The Dudleyz act had gone so stale by late 2004 that they were taken off television, and despite main eventing ECW One Night Stand in June 2005, they were soon released as part of a mass talent cull.

Bubba and D-Von discuss how life in WWE was becoming a struggle in the mid-2000s and that their exit was the right decision for all. That being said, at the time both men were said to be furious over their departure, especially when WWE wouldn't let them (or Spike) use the "Dudley" name on the independent circuit and wherever else they chose to go, since they owned the trademark. Regardless of whether or not WWE was justified in doing so (and I can't blame the three Dudleyz for not being happy about this), this was the source of genuine heat between the two camps at the time, so the fact that this is essentially covered up in the documentary is a bit annoying.

That being said, we do get a surprisingly decent amount of time discussing both men's runs in TNA and Japan, especially what would become Bully Ray and his main event tenure in TNA in the early 2010s. After some discussion about their training academy (The Team 3D Academy Of Professional Wrestling), we come to Bubba's initial surprise return at Royal Rumble 2015, and ultimately their proper WWE comeback on Raw the night after SummerSlam of that year. This is built up throughout the DVD, as we open with both men arriving at the Barclays Center, preparing to go out into the ring in between DVD chapters, and making their return at the end of the documentary. By the way, it was a very well-kept secret that they were returning, meaning that their re-appearance was a major surprise and was one of the top WWE moments of 2015 (and received a suitably loud reaction).

The documentary includes a variety of talking heads, from family members, friends and even school teachers to their colleagues within the industry, some of whom haven't been on a WWE release for a long time. The contributors include Mick Foley, Spike Dudley, Raven, Joey Styles, Rob Van Dam, Edge, Christian, Rhyno, Tommy Dreamer and Tazz, amongst others. Their insights are definitely worthwhile, and besides the alternative take on their WWE exit in 2005, Bubba and D-Von are pretty honest throughout and provide some nuggets of trivia for their longtime fans.

I really enjoyed this documentary; it's the first proper profile that we've had on The Dudleyz, and while it's a little on the short side, it does cover almost every significant aspect of their careers, a wealth of relevant archive footage, and a good amount of worthy comments by many recognisable names, not least the two subjects of the DVD themselves, Bubba and D-Von. But that's not all: as well as the documentary, there are some bonus stories (including some humorous tales about the fearless octogenarian Mae Young, the preparation for TLC II at WrestleMania X-Seven and the Axxess fan fest before WrestleMania X8), and over a dozen matches spanning nearly two decades.

A doubles match against The Pitbulls from 1996 is preceded by some apparently filthy interplay (I say "apparently" because the "key words", if you want to call them that, are bleeped out), and whilst the crowd is really into the action, something is missing to prevent it being a display of, well, reckless and unnecessary violence. Buh Buh vs. D-Von from ECW November To Remember 1996 is alright, but it does feature some brutal chairshots which newer fans will cringe at watching in this era where the true effects of concussions are known. I'm not sure why it took so long for people to realise that full-on steel chairshots to the skull really hurt and can cause permanent damage, but that's wrestling for you. Both Dudleyz reflect on this bout afterwards, as they do for some other matches on the release.

Strangely, whilst it is briefly shown in the documentary, we don't get proper footage of the moment when Buh Buh and D-Von officially formed their proper, regular tag team in ECW, so we jump to a short D-Von vs. Tommy Dreamer match from the night ECW invaded Raw in 1997. The opening match from Barely Legal, ECW's first Pay-Per-View, sees the incredibly-over Eliminators have an amazing amount of control over The Dudleyz (it's almost all-Eliminators in terms of offence), before a brutal but enjoyable six-man match from Heat Wave 1998 as Buh Buh, D-Von and Big Dick (yes, that was his ring name) battle The Sandman, Dreamer and Spike.

We then see The Dudleyz' farewell match in ECW, the details of which I won't spoil here because it includes a surprise outcome, and exclusive footage of what happened afterwards off-air as Buh Buh and D-Von address the crowd and their peers in an extended farewell (which, admittedly, lasts too long and borders on self-indulgent at times). Their WWF PPV debut against The Acolytes from Unforgiven 1999 is watchable but has no heat, which cannot be said for their first WWF Tag Team Title win over The New Age Outlaws at No Way Out 2000 which, in hindsight, marked the passing of the torch.

Before that, we get a superb Tag Team Tables bout between The Dudleyz and The Hardyz from Royal Rumble 2000. This officially marked the arrival of both teams in the company, and from there the three-way tag feud is well-documented and, from a match standpoint, this section is the undoubted highlight of the DVD. Besides the Rumble Tables match, we see the original TLC match - a classic - from SummerSlam 2000 between The Dudleyz, The Hardyz and E&C; this has to be seen to be believed, and retains the power that it had the night it took place. We also see The Dudleyz battle Edge and Christian in a regular doubles bout from Royal Rumble 2001, which is very good in itself, before the incredible TLC II rematch at WrestleMania X-Seven. Is it the best match of that incredible Mania as Bubba implies? That's debatable, but if it wasn't better than Steve Austin vs. The Rock at X7, it was definitely a very close second, because this is phenomenal. The spots are awe-inspiring as they take everything from TLC I to new heights.

It's understandable from a health standpoint that this essentially marked the end of this amazing era of tag team wrestling/violence; there's a real chance that someone might have been killed had the stunts been taken any higher. We don't get the hastily-announced TLC III (nor do we get the Triangle Ladder match from WM 2000, which would have completed the set), but we do see The Dudleyz dethrone The Hardyz for the WCW Tag Team Titles and then unify the WWF and WCW straps in a Cage opposite Matt and Jeff at Survivor Series 2001, which more or less concluded the last remaining traces of the original three-team saga (at least until Edge stole Matt Hardy's girlfriend Lita in real life).

Sandwiched between those Dudleyz/Hardyz/E&C bouts are selected television matches as The Duds meet The Rock on two occasions, with The Undertaker as his partner in one match (a Tables bout, shock horror!) and Kurt Angle on Rock's side in the other. The focus then turns to their solo runs, with brief matches pitting D-Von against Triple H (this marked the on-screen debut of Batista with that awful "Deacon" persona) and Bubba facing Brock Lesnar and HHH himself. Then, we get a relevant but annoying discussion between The Dudleyz about facing HHH. Here's why it is annoying: did they discuss facing The Rock, or The Undertaker, or facing anyone else outside of discussing a major occasion or stipulation. No. So why do so for Triple H? Need I provide the answer? I thought this had ended in the early 2010s once HHH began scaling down his in-ring career, but apparently not; though I may be wrong, this felt like yet another attempt to make Triple H seem like the biggest and greatest wrestling star around. The short chatter about HHH is interesting enough, but presented as it is, it is the most frustrating part of the entire DVD for me.

With the duo reunited, we get their one and only relevant match from their ailing 2004 run on SmackDown, a fun bout against Rey Mysterio and Rob Van Dam from Judgment Day 2004. After that is the spectacle that was the main event from ECW One Night Stand 2005 as they face Dreamer and Sandman in a violent, at times bizarre, but ultimately entertaining match, which packs in almost everything that fans loved about ECW into one big package and ends with a true "OMG!" moment. Bubba notes afterwards how he enjoyed bobbing his head along to Sandman's theme tune Enter Sandman during his entrance, which is ironic because his Metallica theme is edited off this DVD. The compilation ends with the Dudleyz facing The New Day from last year's Night Of Champions (the contrast between the last two matches on this DVD couldn't be greater, unless it was say a Hulk Hogan match from the 1980s following the ECW near-massacre). The Blu-ray includes a few more matches as well as their 2015 return segment, with the best match probably being the amazingly good eight-man Extreme Rules bout pitting The Dudleyz, Dreamer and Rhyno against The Wyatt Family from Raw the night after TLC 2015.

This is a hard DVD for me to give a rating to. It's definitely good, there's no doubt about that. The documentary is insightful and the action is compelling. But the main feature still feels like there's something missing to make it essential, even if it had discussed their WWE exit with more honesty. And whilst the round-up of matches includes some absolute classics, they are nevertheless bouts which you will find on many other DVDs. The bouts which are more exclusive to this release are mostly worth watching, but had the Dudleyz' bouts with The Hardyz and E&C not been here, it would be hard to recommend this release on the matches alone.

Still, judging the complete package as it is and assuming that you don't currently own the TLC matches (or that you don't mind getting them again), this is a really entertaining compilation. It goes through various eras and tracks the evolution of The Dudleyz, from their days as aggressive and disrespectful young punks to more well-rounded and much-loved tag masters to highly experienced and very well-respected veterans. Whilst it is hard to say if they are the best tag team ever as Joey Styles states (no ECW bias there, I'm sure), they're definitely in the top five combos ever, if not the top three, as the evidence here shows. They can work any style imaginable, and this release certainly has a wide variety of match types. And it's arguable that they were the most important of the three teams in that legendary tag rivalry from 2000-2001. Sure, E&C and The Hardyz had already put on a classic Ladder match at No Mercy 1999, but their stars hadn't really risen that much in spite of their showstealing performance on that PPV. Only when The Dudleyz entered the fray and tables started getting involved did all three teams truly become stars in the WWF.

So, this isn't the best DVD of the year, but it's definitely one of the stronger releases that you will watch in 2016. If you're a Dudleyz fan, you'll love this DVD, and if you're not a fan of Bubba Ray and D-Von, this release might just convert you into an honorary Dudley. Just don't get too excited the next time that it's approaching dinner time and your relative kindly asks you to "get the table".

Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good

No comments:

Post a comment