Class is in session.
These days, Ray and Devon are known as “Team 3-D” as they practice their table-smashing craft in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling on Spike TV.
So what’s the story with the new name? Well, it goes like this: Their former employer, Vince McMahon — the kingpin of World Wrestling Entertainment — told the boys they couldn’t use “Dudley Boyz” outside WWE, claiming it was his trademarked property. The Boyz disagree, and are fighting to get it back.
“WWE claims that it has the right to the Dudley name,” Devon said in a recent phone interview. “We know we have the rights. So they can sit there and say that all they want. Are we going to fight them? You’re damn right we are. They’re trying to keep something that’s not theirs. They didn’t make us. We were making money way before we even got to them (in Extreme Championship Wrestling). In my opinion, they’re just trying to be bullies. They say it’s business. It ain’t business. They’re trying to stop someone from making a living.”
Brother Ray wouldn’t say much about the name game, but had lots to say about Vincent K. himself — especially how he treats people who come to WWE with a gimmick of their own.
“In the Bible, it says ‘God created man in his image,’ Ray said. “And if Vince McMahon doesn’t create you in his image, you’ll only get so far in WWE.”
Which is not to say the former Dudleys didn’t go far in Vince’s promotion. Quite to the contrary. They held major belts and were pay-per-view mainstays. But near the end of their WWE run last fall, Ray contends the Stamford gang just didn’t respect what the Boyz had to offer.
“My last two years there were not fun at all,” Ray said. “They didn’t know what to do with us. Me and Devon still have so much more to give. And that’s why we’re happy TNA is around because TNA knows how important tag team wrestling is. They invest time in tag team wrestling. People like tag team wrestling. It’s very entertaining, and when done the right way, can be more entertaining than singles wrestling.”
“(TNA is) giving me what I’ve been longing for the past year,” Devon agreed. “And that is wrestling on a wrestling show. WWE wants to make their wrestlers into actors — but we’re wrestlers. TNA gives us non-stop action. They don’t put on a whole bunch of talk, and that’s one thing that I like about TNA.”
Team 3D also likes the fact that TNA is getting a new time slot on April 13: Thursday nights at 9 p.m. Right now, the TNA “Impact” show is on Saturday night at 11 p.m. So it’s a huge step in the right direction for a young promotion. While some argued a Monday night slot might be better (to go head-to-head with “Raw”), Ray says baby steps are better.
“There’s no reason to feed Vince McMahon’s ego so he can squash another company,” he said. “If you go head-to-head with Vince right now, he’s going to go gunning for TNA in every way, shape and form. Why pick a fight with the big, bad dog right now?
“He probably has enough money to raid the entire the locker room. So why wake the sleeping giant? He has Monday night (“Raw”), he has Friday night (Smackdown!”). He has a huge piece of the pie. Let us do what we do on Thursday nights. Let us create the competition in the wrestling industry. Let people see that there’s someplace else to go. Let the fans who have been sitting around being force-fed WWE’s product for the past four years without competition — let them have something else.
“It is in Vince McMahon’s best interest for TNA do well. People are tired of seeing just one product.”
As for the TNA alternative, “Impact!” will continue to be an hour-long show on its new night, but Ray feels TNA could immediately fill up to two prime-time hours.
“The one thing TNA lacks right now is character development,” he said. “Other than A.J. (Styles), Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe — you really don’t know who a lot of the X-Division guys are.”
Styles, he says, is a great wrestler, but could use more time on the microphone to get fans to care more about his persona — a tried and true formula for growing an audience. Right now in TNA, more mic time is given to established stars in the heavyweight division (Christian, Jeff Jarrett, Rhino, Sting) — with the high-flying X-Division taking a bit of a back seat. It’s a situation that’s fixable, and more important, Ray says his opinion won’t fall on deaf ears.
“In TNA you are allowed to voice your opinion, and come up with ideas. Come up with ways to make things better,” he said. “And that’s why TNA should succeed, because they have the input of the wrestlers.”
Brother Devon agrees, saying a little respect from the front office — and the writing team — goes a long way: “You have the opportunity to come in there, give your input, and not be pushed aside (as in WWE) and told, ‘Yes, we’re going to use it, but you have to give it to someone else.’ We have that opportunity, and I think it’s phenomenal.
And for the record, Devon says you shouldn’t let that name change throw you off. A Dudley is a Dudley is a Dudley.
“You can call us Joe Schmo,” he said. “But the minute that camera comes on us, people know who we are. It’s only a matter of time before we’re actually calling ourselves the Dudleys again. We’re just being us.”
NEXT WEEK: More from Ray and Devon, in Part Two of our chat with Team 3D! Now scram! Class dismissed!
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