Pro wrestler Bully Ray sits in a private room at Manhattan gentlemen’s club Rick’s Cabaret fielding a scribe’s questions while watching a pair of entertainers -- 4 feet away -- model T-shirts that, combined, might contain enough fabric to produce an extra-large onesie.
“I can listen with one ear and look with these eyes,” the Long Island-raised grappler reassures the questioner, occasionally interrupting his answers to offer play-by-play that would summon even guy-friendly Spike TV’s standards and practices suits.
On this recent night, at 41, he’s proving that he can still navigate the pro wrestling landscape as well as anyone. The next night Bully Ray was set to “marry” Hulk Hogan’s daughter, Brooke, on Spike’s “Impact Wrestling” -- a staged wedding that, like most squared circle nuptials, ended in fisticuffs instead of fidelity.
But Bully Ray, seeing a publicity opportunity, partnered with Rick’s Cabaret for a “bachelor party” independent of his employer. The event brought friends like old ECW compadre Tommy Dreamer and an eclectic media contingent -- from legendary pro wrestling photographer George Napolitano to the salty-tongued questioners from TMZ.
After several photographs, Bully Ray and Dreamer headed outside with some of the dancers to answer questions for TMZ’s cameras. Dreamer noted that his friend was finally repaying him for Dreamer’s 2002 bachelor party in Las Vegas -- set to follow an episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw -- that effectively was moved from a strip club to a local hospital when Bully Ray suffered a bad concussion in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match.
From all appearances Bully Ray was doing everything he could to make up for lost bachelor party time, even using one of the ladies as a barbell and lifting her over his head. Talking to a wrestling reporter just can’t compare, but the former one-half of The Dudley Boys/Team 3D managed to take a few minutes away from the frivolity for Newsday.
There’s are several websites that say you were raised in Massapequa. Can you clear that up?
How was growing up there?
Growing up on Long Island was great. I really don’t have anything super-spectacular to say, but when you grow up in a nice community -- originally from Queens by way of Hells Kitchen, and then out to Huntington. So growing up there was a lot of fun.
Is that one of the biggest pitfalls of being a pro wrestler, real hometowns being confused because of where people are “billed” from?
I mean, I think Hell’s Kitchen sounds a lot better than Huntington [when being announced to the ring]. And I spent some time in Hell’s Kitchen so it’s legit.
What’s it like being in the business for so long and still being a draw, to where people want you at events like this?
“After 21 years of doing this, this stuff never never gets old,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun. That’s why I’m still a pro wrestler. I always said as long as I’m having fun, as long as I’m making money, I would keep doing it. It’s awesome.”
For so many guys their careers are winding down down at this point, but you’ve gone in the other direction as far as your fitness and finding a spot as a singles competitor. Talk about that.
At 39 years old, I had a career resurgence. After 15 years of being one-half of the most successful tag team that ever existed in this planet, I knew if I was going to go out on my own, I would have to do something different,” he said. “And the first thing I did was get myself in the best shape I’ve ever been in my career. I gave myself a name that was pretty much synonymous with my personality. You know, people always say, “Are you a good guy?” “Are you a bad guy?” I’m just me. I’m not a good a good guy or a bad guy. I’m Bully Ray. What you see is what you get. I don’t play a character. I’ve been very fortunate to have such a great career. I’m enjoying this new chapter of my career, and I’m going to go as far as I can with it.
It’s often been said that the best characters in wrestling aren’t really characters, but guys who are themselves and just turn it up a notch.
I’m a bad [son of a gun] from New York City. That’s it, and that’s what you see on TV. My personality in real life is very similar to my personality in pro wrestling. I’m not so much -- I mean, I don’t walk around in real life bullying people, but, listen, I have a very strong personality, and if you back down from my strong personality, so be it … Listen, maybe you’re just weak. Maybe people are just weak. Maybe they need to stand up for themselves a little more.