D-Von Dudley. All who disregarded D-Von’s commandment that “Thou shalt not f**k with the Dudleys” atoned for this sin in brutal ways. Their punishment rituals helped make them one of the most popular tag teams in wrestling. But D-Von brought more to the table than just the tables.
Devon Hughes spent his early years in a rough district of Brooklyn, New York. He was moved to New Jersey by his grandmother as she feared he would become another statistic as crack cocaine use became rampant in his town. D-Von Dudley first watched professional wrestling when he was seven. He saw Bob Backlund defeat John Studd. From that moment, wrestling became his obsession. His family encouraged him to focus on his studies.
They wanted him to get good qualifications so he could get a good career and lift himself out of Brooklyn. His hard work earned him a football scholarship. But Devon didn’t want to go to college. Instead, he wanted to be a wrestler.
“Devon lived and breathed wrestling back in high school. He spoke about it constantly.”
– Laura Newman, one of Devon’s teachers.
His family were firmly against Devon throwing away his future to chase a fantasy. The only person who supported him was his grandfather. He loaned Devon the money to get training from the nearest wrestling school. Devon trained at Gleson’s Gym under the African-American trailblazer Johnny Rodz. He worked his first match in 1992 and soon adopted the ring name “A-Train.”
He also took up various jobs to help his family pay bills while he earned almost nothing from training and working various indie promotions across the Northeast. His only notable matches were against recurring rival Latin Lover. After five years of struggle, he got a phone call from Rodz.
As A-Train, he teamed with El Puerto Ricano (Pablo Marquez) in his ECW try-out against The Eliminators. Saturn was known for having the best physical conditioning on the roster at the time. He gave his approval to Heyman after experiencing Devon’s stamina firsthand. Heyman was pleased to hear that Devon’s favorite movie character was Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) from Rocky III.
He advised D-Von Dudley to watch Pulp Fiction and especially study Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules Winnfield. His vision for Devon’s character was going to be a combination of Winnfield and Lang.
D’Von Dudley made his first appearance at Massacre on Queen’s Blvd. His attitude made him stand out from the other Dudleys more than his skin color did. The humorless Devon hated his half-brothers’ antics and berated fans and opponents with his own interpretation of Bible verses. He cost his brothers their match by attacking their opponents and the referee with a steel chair.
His big moment was ruined by his own voice giving out as he cut a promo on the crowd and forgetting to say his own name. He was given a chance to re-introduce himself on the next episode of Hardcore TV. In the segment, Bubba Ray Dudley raised an objection to D’Von joining the group before D’Von addressed the viewers.
His first official match was a few weeks later. He teamed with Bubba to fight the Pitbulls. Production errors ruined the match. First, the crew cut to a segment with Joey Styles (who was calling the match in progress), and Heyman advised Styles he would be live in thirty seconds. They then cut back to Styles again, who informed the viewers that the Pitbulls (who were in the match in progress) had been found unconscious backstage and were being taken to hospital.
It didn’t take long for the self-righteous D’Von to get on the wrong side of his brothers. He engaged in a long feud against them, mainly focusing on the Dudley he bullied the most, Bubba. Their first match ended with Bubba hoisting D’Von into the air and catching him with an Ace crusher as he fell. They had numerous battles that spilled out into the over-excited crowds.
In one match, D’Von felt a “fan” jump unto his back. D-Von Dudley promptly threw the fan unto the concrete floor as hard as he could. It was only when he saw that the fan was dressed like him that he realized he had just met Little Spike Dudley for the first time. The duo thought each other multiple times over the year, but their rivalry was running out of steam.
Their rivalry ended suddenly when Bubba attacked D’Von’s opponent with a steal chair. According to Bubba, he told Heyman that the best way for them to continue making money was to be put together in a team. They solidified their union by debuting a double-team finisher at Crossing The Line in 1997. Based on the move that ended their first head-to-head encounter, D’Von lifted the opponent with a flapjack, and Bubba caught him with an Ace crusher as they descended.
Bubba freely admits that he botched the move when he first performed it. Fans didn’t seem to notice. The “Dudley Death Drop” (or “3D”) became one of the most popular double-team moves of all time. The Dudleys did use and innovate other double-team moves, but none matched the same level of popularity. The Dudleys could even use the 3D to drive opponents through tables.
Years later, any time a tag team uses a move that involves lifting the opponent first, fans would chant “3D” at them. It would become a protected move, with only Masato Tanaka kicking out of a pin attempt after taking it.
“If you can complement each other in the ring, on the mic, and everywhere – it’s a really good package.”
– Sign Guy Dudley on D-Von and Bubba Ray’s chemistry.
The Dudley Brothers remained intact, but D-Von Dudley and Bubba would be “The Dudley Boyz.” They co-led the stable, which had become more sinister. The entire contingent would do and say anything for heel heat. Their comments incited fans into mini-riots and genuine brawls outside. Their co-workers insist these stories are not exaggerated, and Heyman has court letters and receipts from paying fines to prove it.
They quickly became the main heels in ECW. They were such a threat that singles stars would put aside their own rivalries to deal with them. The Dudley Boyz competed in a takeover episode of WWF Raw and in the first-ever ECW pay-per-view match. They would hold the ECW World Tag Team Championships a record eight times. Like with so many other top stars, they got into a pay dispute in mid-1999.
They found out through a mutual friend that Vince Russo was interested in bringing them into the WWF. But it seemed like they signed the contracts at the wrong time.
Public Enemy were a similar tag team that had recently left ECW for WWF. They alienated management with their uncooperative behavior. Their final straw was when they refused to let an opponent put them through a table as they saw it as their gimmick. The Acolytes were instructed to ensure the planned finish happened. The Acolytes performed one of the stiffest matches to ever air on network television.
P.E. were quickly released. Everyone knew that the Dudleys would go into WWF with P.E.’s heat. Devon’s mother even asked him not to go there for his own safety. But the D-Von decided it would be better to ride out the storm than to crawl back to Heyman. One of their first angles was to receive a stiff beatdown from the Acolytes without fighting back. Once the cameras stopped rolling, they no-sold the attack and checked that things were good.This action helped them quench the heat they had. The Dudleys and Acolytes became genuine friends and agreed to be more aggressive with each other in their matches. The newfound respect went far. People from Devon’s hometown were now seeing him on television and told their mother how proud they were. He never expected his mother to say she proud too. Her son was making good money in a job that he loved.
Both Dudleys were last minute additions to the ‘WWF SmackDown!’ video game, replacing Goldust and Jeff Jarrett. They were added so late that they had mismatched moves and used the ‘Jacknife Powerbomb’ as their finishers. Urban myth insisted that their 3D move was also in the game. The demand pressured the developers into making sure double-team moves were included in the sequel.
They had an unpleasant encounter with Vince McMahon that they didn’t realize signaled bigger things for them. An irritated McMahon ordered them to get new ring gear. Bubba was dead against ditching the iconic look he had for years in ECW. But D-Von came up with the idea of wearing camo-print clothing. McMahon loved their new look. Seeing that the Dudleys were willing to play ball, McMahon decided to push the Dudleys.
The first step was a “Tables” match at the Royal Rumble PPV in January 2000. This was also the first step in D-Von setting a record for most matches at Rumble PPVs without being in an actual Rumble. A month later, they won the first of a record eight World Tag Team Championships. Then after that, they defended the titles in a ladder match at WrestleMania 2000.
All six participants were at their first WM and were determined to steal the show. This one match inspired the creation of “TLC” matches. They are regular ladder matches, but the use of steel chairs and tables was encouraged. The Dudleys became popular, so McMahon made them babyfaces. Bubba actually told McMahon that they wouldn’t do it, but McMahon and D-Von persuaded them that he should.
“Every great Dudley idea has come out of that head.”
– Bubba Ray Dudley on D-Von‘s influence on their success.
The Dudleys were among the very few who knew in advance with shows they would be on after the first Brand Division. McMahon explained that he was splitting the team to create a shock. Bubba Ray had a singles run on Raw, sometimes aligning with Spike. D-Von was completely repackaged as “Reverend D-Von” on SmackDown. Unlike Heyman, McMahon knew that D-Von’s parents were both church leaders when he came up with the character.
Reverend D-Von was a hypocritical church minister who served as a spiritual advisor to McMahon, whom he deemed to be a prophet. Reverend D-Von would verbally berate opponents and fans and beat down those who sinned against him. The character is often considered to be a flop because very little was done with it. It is best remembered for launching the career of his bodyguard, Deacon Bautista (Dave “Batista” Bautista).But D-Von loved the character due to the connection to his own background. He also scored one of the biggest singles wins of his career by pinning Triple H. McMahon eventually accepted that the Dudleys didn’t work as singles stars as it meant they could no longer do their team gimmicks, like the 3D. He even tried pairing Devon with Ron Simmons (formerly Faarooq of the Acolytes). After several months, the Reverend reverted back to D-Von Dudley and re-joined Bubba and Spike on Raw.
“The Dudleys are a tag team. I will always think of them as a tag team. So if they wrestle in single matches, I will always feel like they’re only apart for a limited amount of time, and they’ll be back together again.”
– Rob Van Dam on The Dudley Boyz as a tag team.
The Dudley’s main duty was to make other teams look credible. It was an uphill struggle due to other teams not lasting long. They either split due to injury, one member being traded to SmackDown, or released. The Dudleys outlasted them all. Then they, too, were traded to SmackDown, where they went through a long series of poor storylines. One unsung highlight saw D-Von pin WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero in a non-title match.
They were eventually released in 2005. They got to do a final farewell at WWE’S ‘ECW One Night Stand’ event. The Dudley’s wore clothes that were similar to their ECW attires and defeated Tommy Dreamer and Sandman in the main event.
The duo thought they left WWE on great terms. Bubba had even sent McMahon a thank you email. D-Von Dudley was especially grateful to spend more time with his children. But then they received a “cease and desist” letter warning them to stop using all Dudley-related trademarks. Nobody informed them that the WWE had acquired the trademarks when they took control of ECW’s assets. Devon created new names for the teams.They were now “Brother Devon Deadly” and “Brother Ray Deadly,” aka “The Deadly Boys.” Their finisher was still the 3D, but it stood for “Deadly Death Drop.” They routinely appeared on shows featuring or booked by other former ECW stars and cut promos on McMahon.
The duo soon debuted in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling as “Team 3D”. “Deadly” was removed from their various names. They almost instantly became the promotion’s top tag team. They won the titles just as the NWA ended their working relationship with the company, and they were given TNA’s first tag championships. While working for TNA, they also competed regularly for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
They became the only tag team to win WWE, ECW, NWA, TNA, IWGP, and WCW* World Tag Team Championships. The duo feuded with every tag team in TNA, often taking time to put over younger talent. They alternated between those who defended younger stars from greedy veterans and those who felt compelled to beat respect into them. They also represented the original ECW in multiple storylines referring to the brand.
*The WCW title was owned by WWE at the time and is therefore often considered as a WWE championship.
Early into their TNA runs, they chose to go into business together by creating their own wrestling school. The ‘Team 3D Academy of Professional Wrestling and Sports Entertainment’ was based in Florida. It sought to teach students tough lessons early on so that they could be prepared for them during their careers.
Between them, they felt they had experienced the benefits of doing things the right way and the consequences of doing them the wrong way. This gave them significant wisdom to instill in their students. They sometimes offered free tuition to those who had served in the U.S. army in conflict, including Jesse Neal and Chris Melendez.
They were forced to re-evaluate their futures in 2010. The Dudley’s were not faring well in the early part of TNA’s “Hogan-Bischoff Era.” They were being encouraged to split so that management could do more with them creatively. Neither of them wanted to admit it, but it now seemed like the right thing to do. Devon loved working in TNA because it allowed him to spend so much time with his six children.He was now focused on helping his sons Terrell and Terrence begin their careers. Ray had no interest in starting a family. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep wrestling and wanted to see how far he could go before he had to stop. After thirteen years and twenty-three world tag team championships, maybe there was nothing left for them to do as a team. Just before they split, they put over the Motor City Machine Guns. They let Sabin be the second person ever to kick out of their 3D finisher.
Their separation was different from the Brand Division. They did not separate on good terms. This time, it was Ray turning heel with the new character. He became “Bully Ray,” an updated version of the biker character he had used prior to joining ECW. Devon simply removed his surname and continued his present character. Devon and Bully Ray feuded over the coming months, with Devon’s sons getting involved.
“In a singles match [my dream opponent] would be Hogan, It would have to be Hogan. I was such a huge fan of his & I idolized the man and he’s the reason why I got into this business & I remember him cutting a promo saying, ‘You know something, Hulkamaniacs, one day you little Hulksters are going to wind up getting big saying your prayers and taking your vitamins and you’re going to have to get in the ring with me and I’m going to take you out, brother!’ I remember seeing that and telling my grandmother at the time, ‘I’m gonna be that kid!’”
– D-Von Dudley on some of his early influences.
Bully Ray impressed management and slowly moved to the top of the roster. Meanwhile, Devon seemed content to work with younger talents on the mid-card. He particularly enjoyed working with fellow African-American Pope Dinero and Jay Lethal. He then surprised fans by winning the TNA Television Championship. As the stipulations required, he defended it on TNA Impact every week until his contract expired.
His reign continued for a few days after his genuine departure, giving him the longest official reign with the title. He soon returned when he was the first member of Aces’ N’ Eights to be unmasked. D-Von became the de facto leader until the real one was revealed. He also regained the TV title. Bully Ray would eventually be positioned as the leader. While it seemed like Team 3D were back together, it wouldn’t happen yet.D-Von Dudley was released once again after losing a stipulation match. His hiatus was short-lived when he came back to support Bully Ray in his feud against TNA President Dixie Carter. The pair announced that they were to be the first tag team inducted into TNA’s Hall of Fame and main-evented Bound For Glory X in Japan. This would be the final TNA match for both men.
D-Von Dudley would make sporadic appearances across the country in various indie promotions, occasionally teaming with Ray or other past colleagues from WWE and ECW. Team 3D won the 2CW Tag Team Championship in Squared Circle Wrestling. He was also Reality of Wrestling’s final Heavyweight Champion.
The Dudley Boyz made a surprising return to WWE in 2015. Their critics consider this to be a mistake as they lost frequently, and never captured any titles. This criticism overlooks their two reasons for returning to the WWE. They wanted to work with several of the tag teams that were now on the roster, and they wanted to help elevate them. They did exactly what they wanted to do.
The Dudley’s had only signed one-year contracts. The WWE did offer them another deal. Ray had developed a taste for singles competition, but the WWE only wanted them as a tag team. The WWE then offered them roles as Producers, and only Devon was interested. He loves being back in the company and working with younger talents. His commitments essentially meant closing down their wrestling school. The pair reunited one more time to be inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Sometimes I get a text from the boys, and they say ‘D-Von is my producer. Lol.’ “
– Bubba Ray Dudley on D’Von’s new role during their WWE HoF Induction.
At the time of writing, D-Von Dudley recently admitted that doctors have told him that he will never wrestle again. He had undergone spinal surgery, which still allows him to be active. However, his surgery required more work than they had anticipated. Taking bumps would necessitate more surgeries in the future. He continues to support his sons as they try to launch their own careers.