BULLY FOR YOU! Interview with Bully Ray (FSM 106; May 2014)
Although he may appeared to have changed attitude at Lockdown, Bully Ray remains razor-sharp with his opinions. Philip Hamilton sat down with the former TNA champion to discuss Impact and the wrestling world at large.
FSM: The story on everyone’s lips remains the death of The Ultimate Warrior. What’s been your reaction to that sad news?
Bully Ray: Well, unfortunately I never got the opportunity to meet The Ultimate Warrior – our paths never crossed.
It’s incredibly sad news for the wrestling world, especially in light of the fact Warrior and the WWE had been able to put their differences aside, and they were able to induct him into the Hall of Fame and basically kiss and make up. Whenever you see that kind of bad blood in the wrestling industry, for them to be able to bury the hatchet is a great feel-good moment for everybody. Then something tragic like that happened, and just took the wind out of everybody’s sails. It’s very unfortunate.
What do you think his legacy will be in the wrestling business?
I think he’s going to have a great legacy. Listen, whether you like somebody personally or not, you can’t take away from the fact that Warrior was an incredible performer. People will always remember him for all of his time with WWE and all of his great performances, especially his big one at WrestleMania VI with Hulk Hogan.
Do you think some of the criticism levelled at him as an in-ring performer has been unfair?
I don’t know what criticism has been laid at him. The guy is an entertainer, a performer, and he was really, really good at that. So what, he wasn’t the best at doing armdrags and side headlocks – who cares? He sold out 20,000 seat arenas – that’s what makes a difference.
In a very different way, of course, people were also shocked by The Undertaker losing at WrestleMania. Did you ever think that would happen?
Anything can happen. ’Taker losing, I guess, is not as big a deal to me as it was to most people – he was beaten by a big man in his prime. Brock is a hell of a competitor, and is aligned with a guy like Paul Heyman. ’Taker lost at WrestleMania – is it really that huge of a deal?
A lot of fans didn’t want the streak to ever end, and for The Undertaker to retire undefeated at WrestleMania.
Well, a lot of people would like to see their sports teams go undefeated every single year, but it’s just unrealistic and it’s not going to happen.
You mentioned Paul Heyman just now. He seems to be having a huge effect on WWE.
Yes he is.
Are you still in contact with him?
Yes I am.
Are you not able to say much about your relationship?
Excuse me? I can talk about whatever I want to talk about. If you’d like to ask a question, go ahead.
Okay – do you ask Paul for advice on your career?
Do me and Paul ask each other for advice? No. Me and Paul talk about life in general, we talk about the individual things that we’re doing in the wrestling business, we always reminisce about ECW, we’re always talking about different ways and new ideas on how we can make the wrestling business better, or ways we can help younger wrestlers improve. That’s what the majority of our conversations are about.
Speaking of ideas to improve the wrestling industry, how do you stay motivated?
There are two things that motivate me in wrestling, and they are the same two things that have motivated me from day one: money and having fun. As long as I’m making money and as long as I’m having fun, I will continue to be a pro wrestler.
Is your ultimate goal for this year to become TNA World heavyweight champion again?
Everybody’s goal should be to be the top guy in the company. I don’t believe that I need to be the World heavyweight champion to be looked at as the top guy; I am at the forefront of TNA and have been since I got here, whether that’s been as part of a tag team in Team 3D, or whether it’s been Bully Ray on his own. I’ve always been in the upper tier of TNA, and I continue to want to be there, to be involved in ace storylines and the things that people enjoy watching the most. I don’t necessarily need a belt for that.
Are there people you haven’t wrestled yet who you would like to compete with?
The only guy out there that would interest me at this moment is CM Punk. Firstly, I think me and CM Punk on the microphone would be pure magic, and in the ring I think we’d get the job done.
With his current situation as it is, should TNA be doing everything possible to try and get him?
I have no idea if TNA are thinking of making a play for him or not. It would be great to have a guy like CM Punk on the TNA roster, in the locker-room, and in the ring. It would be awesome.
There have been a lot of changes in TNA management in the last few months, with Bruce Prichard, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan moving on. What effect have their departures had on the locker-room?
Well, for a person like me who has been around for a long time, you get used to seeing people come and go. It doesn’t effect me at all. I try to work the best I can with the people that I have to work with; I worked very well with Eric and I worked very well with Bruce, but they’re not here anymore and I’m working very well with the new people that are here.
This is a business, and in business you must adapt and grow to your surroundings, and the people that are in your surroundings. That’s exactly what I do.
Do you think their departures have had a positive effect on the television show?
In which way?
The show seems a lot fresher at the moment. With certain storylines, it seemed Eric was trying to recreate things that had happened nearly 20 years ago.
Well, different people have different perspectives on things – it depends on what’s entertaining and what’s not entertaining. I don’t know what he was trying to recreate from 20 years ago; can you give me a better example?
It seemed to me that Aces & Eights was an attempt at an nWo-style storyline.
No, I don’t think the Aces & Eights was an nWo-style storyline at all. Aces & Eights was something new and fresh and different, more like Sons Of Anarchy. So I think your assessment is totally off-base.
How have you enjoyed working with John Gaburick since he joined the creative team?
I worked with John when he was in the production end of things with WWE, and working with him now, I think he’s bringing his vision to TNA – his style of production and his TV knowledge. I think he’s still brand new, and I think it remains to be seen how his vision for the product works.
Does he work in a very different way to Eric?
Yes, I believe they definitely have their own styles on how they like to conduct things. Both have positives, both have negatives.
Several new wrestlers have also come into TNA – one of them being MVP, who has had a major role. What effect do you think he has had?
MVP is a really great talent, he’s a great personality, and I think he brings a lot of charisma to the show. Some of the younger guys, like The Wolves... (pauses) You know, TNA is always looking to freshen up their product, always looking to put some younger generation stars on the map. People have to remember TNA has only been around for about 12 years, and they are growing in leaps and bounds, always trying new things. It’s not going to happen overnight; it takes a long time in the wrestling industry to find that right mix of the correct timing, the correct guys and the correct television spot. Everybody wants the next ECW, and expect it to happen overnight. It’s just not going to happen.
As one of the senior members of the roster, do you get asked your opinions on the product and on storylines?
Yes, they do frequently ask me my opinion on storylines and the product.
Do you then feel a sense of responsibility to some of the new guys to help them settle and succeed?
I only feel a sense of responsibility to the younger guys who seek out help and advice. If they come to me and they ask me to help them with their matches or with their promos or anything in the business, then yes, I do feel a sense of responsibility. But if they don’t, then I don’t feel that sense of responsibility.
I’m very old-school in the business. I believe you have five minutes to get over or get out. If you cannot go into that ring and get an emotional response from the people – if you cannot get cheered or booed, if you cannot make them laugh or cry – then you do not belong in this business. I don’t care how good you think you are, I don’t care how many chances you think you deserve, that’s it – five minutes or get out.
So it’s a case that you’ve got to get yourself over, and get yourself over first before anyone else?
That’s what the wrestling business is all about, going out there and having the people emotionally invest in you. I never waited around for somebody to tell me how to go on front of a crowd and get an emotional response out of them. I went out there and did it.