Former WWE Superstar Bully Ray on His Surprising Ring of Honor Arrival
Bully Ray shocked the pro wrestling world when he appeared at Ring of Honor Wrestling’s Manhattan Mayhem VI last Saturday. Now the 45-year-old wrestling veteran gears up to team with the Briscoe Brothers against War Machine and Davey Boy Smith Jr. at the company’s 15th Anniversary show on Pay-Per-View this Friday. It’s another chapter in a storied career.
“I’ve been a fan of Ring of Honor since they started,” Ray said. “The number one reason I liked the company is because it reminded me of ECW. Wrestlers in the company always had a passion to put on the best possible matches and product they could. The fans are also extremely passionate, as well. Ring of Honor is known for having a great energy and great vibe attached to it. I knew at some point in my career I wanted to be a part of it. This was a perfect opportunity for me. I’ve had a lot of offers come my way in the past couple of months. Nothing was a perfect fit. Then I started speaking with Ring of Honor, and it went really good.”
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Negotiations between the former WWE superstar-turned-free agent and the company went on for four to six weeks. Once he agreed to appear at ROH, he told management he was all in for at least a year. When Ray showed up to the Hammerstein Ballroom for his debut, only three or four people knew. In the age of social media and spoilers, the company managed to pull off the unexpected.
“We gave them something to talk about,” Ray said. “In the past couple of years, I think I am one of the only people to pull off some of the biggest surprises. Nobody knew I would be in the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia. That was a huge surprise. Me and Devon coming back to Monday Night Raw, that was a surprise. Then me showing up at the Hammerstein Ballroom for Ring of Honor. That was a huge surprise.
“On the way to the show I started experiencing this nervous energy. I thought, ‘Wow, I haven’t felt this in a long time.’ It was those good butterflies where you are looking forward to doing what you are about to do because it’s new, it’s different, it’s fresh and people will be talking about it. There was definitely this anticipation backstage to the time I went out there.”
It was a special moment for the native New Yorker, who was welcomed with open arms by a packed crowd. Ray felt what he described as a legitimate uncontrollable energy.
“Me and Devon performed just the year before in front of 101,000 people. I can remember us looking at each other thinking, ‘Let’s go out there and have fun.’ The level of anxiousness wasn’t even close to this,” he said. “That Hammerstein Ballroom means so much to me because we did ECW One Night Stand there. I know what it can feel like and be like. It was just a different of level of energy that goes through your body. The kind where you just can’t wait to do what you do.”
Ray, who is celebrating 10 years training pro wrestlers with Devon at the Team 3D Academy, looks forward to working with the unique crop of talent ROH possesses. As one of the most decorated champions in history, the performer is excited to add his name and credibility to their in-ring product.
“I want to tell some great stories with some of the guys there,” he said. “Ring of Honor has some of the best wrestlers in the world. Those guys, when it comes to their athleticism and the moves they do, are the best. The one thing I think Ring of Honor can use help with is their storytelling. Guys who can take a microphone and bring a story forward. I don’t think anyone wants to see Bully Ray wrestle ever single night. I know I don’t want to see Bully Ray wrestle every single night. What I want to see Bully Ray do is the one thing he does just as well, if not better than anyone in the wrestling business: Tell stories that lead to fights that actually mean something.”
Less than a week after his emergence, the Bully isn’t wasting any time getting in the mix at one of ROH’s biggest shows. When COO Joe Koff asked if he wanted a warm-up match, he declined. He wanted a challenge right away and team with the Briscoe Brothers, who have created their own tag team dynasty in the promotion over the years.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Ray said. “I’m going to be in there with probably the best Ring of Honor tag team of all-time. Growing up, the Briscoes were huge fans of the Dudley Boys. We were some of their biggest inspirations. I took pictures with them when they were kids. I think they even have those pictures. So on a personal level, on a professional level, it’s going to be great for the three of us to stand on the same side of the ring.”
After decades of collecting titles with Devon in the tag team ranks, the grappler reinvented himself with the Bully Ray character in TNA. He says fans can expect a different Bully Ray in ROH since it’s a new environment and audience.
“I think Ring of Honor fans are more passionate, so we might be able to take the Bully Ray character to the next level,” he said. “It’ s kind of a situation where it's let’s get in there for a couple of weeks and see what goes on and see what direction we can take Bully Ray in. I think we can agree people can get behind Bully Ray and appreciate Bully Ray, but the real money is in hating Bully Ray.”
There aren’t many who can incite a crowd quite like Ray. The possibilities are endless for someone who has virtually done it all in the industry. He is ready to play in uncharted waters with fresh faces he hasn’t put through a table yet, like Adam Cole.
“I legitimately want to work with the entire company in the ring and behind the scenes,” Ray said. “I would love to get in there with guys like Jay Lethal, Briscoes, and have some really great matches and tell some strong stories fans can invest in, which I think would be new and exciting for Ring of Honor. Outside of the ring, I want to help guys with character development. One thing that I have learned through the years from Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon is that it’s all about characters and storytelling and emotional investment.
“If we can get these guys from Ring of Honor to bring their characters forward a bit more and have them tell better stories, their matches are going to be more. I kind of equate right now to what Terry Funk did for ECW in 1995. By no means am I comparing myself to Terry Funk, the legend and far greater than had I hoped to be. However, in 1995, he lent ECW his name and helped move the company forward and take steps to be viewed by more fans. That’s what I want to try to do.”
Ring of Honor’s 15th Anniversary show airs Friday, March 10, 9/8c, Pay-Per-View