The Dudleys gimmick is often credited to Paul Heyman, since he was the mastermind behind ECW. It was Raven, however, who created the Dudleys gimmick. This is the full story of how it all happened.
Date: May 6, 1995
Location: Expo Park in Tampa, FL
Source: Raven Effect Podcast: How Raven Created the Dudleys
After bouncing around Portland, Global Wrestling, WCW, and the WWF, Scott Levy really felt at home in ECW in the mid 90s with the Raven character he created. The character was a big hit, and since Levy had spent time in WWF corporate headquarters as an employee, he used his booking acumen to help Paul Heyman develop characters and storylines from time to time.
It was in the Spring of 1995 when Raven came up with the idea for one of ECW’s most iconic gimmicks, one that carried over to WWE to this day: the Dudleys.
ECW would run Florida frequently, as it was one of the few markets outside of the Northeast where they had television on the Sunshine Network. They even shot TV there sometimes, and it gave the television a different look outside the usual ECW Arena. On a show in Tampa on May 6, Raven was hanging out backstage and sitting next to Dean Malenko.
Malenko asked Raven, “Hey, what are you doing?”
Raven jokingly replied, “Puttin’ on the foil? Every game! You want some?”
This was a reference to a famous line in the movie “Slap Shot,” which came out in 1977 when Raven was a teenager. In that scene, the twisted goofball Hanson brothers (not to be confused with the Hanson brothers boy band that was famous decades later) were putting foil on their fists in preparation for a hockey game. The foil helped them physically assault members of the opposing hockey team, which was part of the storyline.
After Raven and Malenko had that brief exchange, it dawned on Raven that a Hanson brothers type gimmick would be perfect for pro wrestling. A group of inbred, mentally and physically challenged goofball hicks whose father would impregnate numerous women around the country.
The Dudleys gimmick was thus born, a takeoff on the Hansons.
Since ECW was so understaffed, many of the top stars wore numerous hats and performed other backstage duties. Taz, for example, helped design the outfits and t-shirts with his artistic talents. The idea was to go with jeans, but since Raven and Stevie Richards already wore jean shorts, they went with jean overalls for the Dudleys. They later added the tye-dye shirts that became a staple of the early Dudley promos and vignettes.
The three original Dudleys were Dudley Dudley, Big Dick Dudley, and Snot Dudley. Dick was a New York indie guy who had been recruited into the business after other wrestlers saw him get into so many fights as a bouncer. He was a huge powerhouse, and one time he lifted a car off a cement block that Joel Gertner had accidentally driven over. Big Dick has since passed away, though he stayed with the Dudleys in ECW for a very long time.
Dudley Dudley was the best worker of the group, though he didn’t last long because he moved to Florida and ECW couldn’t afford to keep flying him in. Similarly, Snot Dudley was from California and they couldn’t afford to keep flying him in either (he was also injured in an out-of-the-ring accident).
The idea was to bring in a diverse group, to show how their father had married so many different wives. Dances with Dudley was supposedly Native American, but didn’t last long due to a fight with New Jack. This was unfortunate because New Jack was to blame for the fight, and when put in a position to fire one or the other, Heyman kept New Jack because he was a bigger draw.
Chubby Dudley was another brother, and since he didn’t get over as well as the others, they stopped using him. Next was Sign Guy Dudley, who wasn’t a wrestler but instead would stand at ringside and hold up various signs (more on him later). Bubba Ray was next, as the stuttering hillbilly who would clown around and act goofy until Big Dick would slap him, and then he’d cut a serious promo.
D-Von Dudley was brought in as the African American Dudley, followed by indie wrestler Matt Hyson as Spike Dudley. Spike, who was short and under 150 pounds, was considered the “runt” of the group and got over for his amazing ability to take bumps and get tossed around like a rag doll.
Bubba and D-Von obviously became the stars of the group, turning into a solid tag team who became major stars and millionaires during the Attitude Era of the WWF. Spike Dudley also made it to the WWF, though his size limited his push. He still lasted longer than most expected. All three men had additional runs in TNA at various points in their careers. The Dudleys made a big return to WWE in 2016, and D-Von still works there as an agent, while Bubba made his way to ROH.
Raven also had them wear glasses with tape, but no lens. He felt the lens would cause injuries in the ring, and also felt it looked so ridiculous that it would help them get over as goofballs.
Sign Guy Dudley vs ECW Sign Guy
The Sign Guy Dudley character was created in an interesting fashion. The original ‘sign guy’ in ECW was a regular ringside fan at the ECW Arena who always sat in the same seat, and since he was visible on camera, would always hold up funny, creative signs. He was friends with ‘straw hat guy’ (John Bailey, whom I once met and had lunch with prior to an ECW show in which he admitted he liked Hulk Hogan’s new heelish gimmick and black colors in late ’95), and they always sat together at every ECW Arena show.
ECW Sign Guy began to gain a cult following for his creative signs, and it went to his head. He started out as really overweight, and then as he got famous, started going to the gym and smoking to look cool. I recall once seeing him in late 1995 at an ECW Arena show, and he looked fit, acted cool, and seemed to think he was a mini celebrity (and to this crowd, he was). Still, as popular as these super-fans were to the ECW locals, the wrestlers in the back largely didn’t like performing in front of them. They were smart to the business, hard to please, and very vocal when they didn’t like what was being presented to them.
Once incident in particular really pissed Raven off. Stevie Richards, who was Raven’s on-air flunky, was at the gym and ran into ECW Sign Guy. Stevie went to go say Hi to him, and while most fans in this situation would be thrilled and friendly, ECW Sign Guy said told Richards something to the effect of, “Kayfabe… I’m a babyface and you’re a heel.” And then he walked away.
Richards relayed this story to Raven, and it really pissed him off because he considered ECW Sign Guy just a fan and not part of the show. He vowed to do something that would force ECW Sign Guy to never bring another sign to ringside again.
Raven then recruited Lou D’Angeli, a ringside photographer, to play the role of Sign Guy Dudley. D’Angeli had long hair and wore glasses, so Raven thought he’d be a good fit for the Dudleys. I once sat in D’Angeli’s car as we drove back to the hotel after a show, sitting next to Francine as she vocally complained how Raven had stiffed her in one of the show’s angles. D’Angeli, like any super-fan, was thrilled and jumped at the offer to be part of the show.
Raven told D’Angeli to make a sign that read “Sign Guy Dudley” to piss off ECW Sign Guy. It worked. At the next show, ECW Sign Guy held up a sign that read “Original Sign Guy.” Then Sign Guy Dudley brought out a sign that read “Original Original Sign Guy.” At the next show, ECW Sign Guy wrote “Original Original Original Sign Guy.” Throughout all this, Sign Guy Dudley would bring bigger and bigger signs, to dwarf the other signs.
After that, Raven spray painted a giant bed sheet that read, “Original Original Original Original Original (and it kept going) Sign Guy.” Sign Guy Dudley and Dances with Dudley unveiled the sheet at a show, and after that, ECW Sign Guy gave up and let it be. Raven claimed he never brought another sign to the ECW Arena after that (not true), but at least it ended the silly sign guy feud.
D’Angeli now works in Public Relations for Cirque du Soleil. He’s totally sold out and cut hair and cleaned up his look, and he’s done a few soundbites on various ECW specials that have aired on the WWE Network.