EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- The 6-foot-7, 375-pound dancing machine known as Brodus Clay sits down across from me, Beats by Dre headphones wrapped around his neck, when he starts recounting his wild ride to “somebody call my momma” fame.
“I was a jack of all trades,” says Clay. “I was an associate teacher during the day, I ran clubs at night, and I body-guarded for Snoop [Dogg] part-time, which eventually became full-time. I left Snoop, went to wrestling, actually left wrestling and went back to Snoop for a while, and then came back here again.”
That’s right, Snoop Dogg, the rapper turned reggae artist, also known as Snoop Lion.
“He’s Snoop Lion now but he hasn’t changed his Twitter, so whenever he sends me a direct message, it’s still Snoop Dogg,” Clay said. “I’m interested to see how long he keeps the Lion. I get the Rastafarian thing, and the lion is the symbol of their high priest, so we’ll see if keeps Snoop Lion rolling or what. But whenever I see him, I just call him boss, so I don’t have to worry about it. He always responds to boss.”
This Sunday at WrestleMania 29, Clay and his tag team partner Sweet T. combine forces with the Funkadactyls to take on the foursome of Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, and The Bella Twins.
I have a feeling one of the heels will be calling Clay “boss” before the night is all over.
ESPN Playbook: What are your earliest memories of watching WrestleMania as a kid?
Brodus Clay: Watching WrestleMania growing up, it was like a neighborhood party. It was like the Super Bowl on my block, the only difference was, football was only around for 16 weeks while wrestling was every Saturday. Then as I got more exposed to it, then I got to see things like WCW and the NWA, but growing up on the West coast, it was mostly WWE for me. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and Haku were my two personal favorites.
Ever get advice from Haku or other former members of the Heenan family about the wrestling business?
Haku is in my ear quite a bit; I get a lot of phone calls. I remember when I first met him, it was actually at a funeral, and I forgot we were at a funeral for a second and I was all smiles shaking his hand, but he was all sad. We just kind of hit it off from there. I was tagging with his son in developmental, you know him as Camacho now, and we were the Colossal Connection Part 2.
In development, you were billed as this huge beast, but then when you debuted on Raw, you come out dancing and pretty much shocked the wrestling world. What did you think of the change in gimmick?
It was actually always in the cards. With the media today and the Internet, everybody always finds out everything before they happen, so now, you have to be really clever. I think it was pretty smooth how we did it, because the first reaction was genuine surprise. I remember being in gorilla being like, “I don’t know, man.” I remember right before we go through the curtain, they say, “Up next, Brodus Clay,” and they show the dressing room door and it had a disco ball on it. I got about five texts from my brother asking me why there was a disco ball underneath my name. [laughs] He was like, “What’s going on? Is everything OK?” I didn’t answer him, I just came out, and I remember the first reaction of the crowd was, “What!?”
There was actually this one guy, and I’ll never forget this guy because he was dressed up like monster heel Brodus, and he even took the time to do his hair. He had this black cut-off shirt on and he was staring at me with his mouth open. I caught him out of the corner of my eye and he was shaking, he was so mad. And then at one point I hit a clothesline, and the guy stood up and yelled at the top of his lungs, “You suck, Brodus Clay!” It was from true hurt, so I yelled back, “My bad!” Everybody started to laugh, and that was a good thing because it made the crowd more relaxed. Then we did the “Call my momma,” and we danced back and the kids instantly loved it, but the hardcore fans who like the monsters, they still pull me aside and are like, “Hey, do you think you can go back to the old Brodus?” And that’s the thing, at any time, I could always lose my cool and go back, but to me, it’s all about being different and being more interactive. If you look at the history of this business and other athletics, look at Shaquille O’Neal, he’s the biggest clown off the court, but get him on the court, and there was nothing silly about him at all. Muhammad Ali is the same way, and even fictitious characters like Apollo Creed. He wasn’t really known for beating anybody, he only won one fight, but he’s an icon because he had the cool, outlandish entrances.
The dancing definitely gets the kids excited.
And I think it was something that was missing. JYD used to do that, and even when Hulk Hogan came out, people would be dancing a little bit. Look at even The Ultimate Warrior, when that music hit, people would start shaking and doing their thing. We kind of got away from that and everybody just walked mad to the ring. We forgot that. I used to love JYD, and “Another One Bites the Dust” comes on or “Grab them Cakes” … wow. [laughs] But I know this stuff because I’m a historian. If you didn’t watch wrestling all the time, you might not remember every character, but you’d remember the dance. I think it’s important that we have that in WWE today, and I think it works.
Do you worry that Sweet T. might actually be a better dancer than you?
As a teacher, you can only hope that one day your student surpasses you, although I really don’t have anything to worry about right now. But his dedication is incredible. He’s embracing his new role, he’s laughing, and having fun. He probably won’t admit it, but he loves all the kids running up to him at the airport yelling, “Sweet T., Sweet T.”