Brodus Clay dancing to his own tune
JAN MURPHY - Kingston Whig-Standard
Long before he was cutting the proverbial rug inside a WWE ring as the lovable Brodus Clay -- and even before he was the bodyguard for legendary rapper Snoop Dogg -- George Murdoch was emulating his favourite superstars as a boy.
Yeah, he was a wrestling fan. A big one.
"Probably a lot more than I should have been," Murdoch said in a telephone interview this week. "Me and my younger brother were constantly punished for re-enactments and wanting to be like the superstars on TV. Every Saturday morning, (we) could not wait for Superstars of Wrestling."
While his little brother was likely delivering flying elbow drops and figure four leglocks, copying his heroes Ric Flair and Randy "Macho Man" Savage, little George was emulating the moves of his countless wrestling heroes.
"Dusty Rhodes was one of my favourites," Murdoch said. "I loved King Haku, I liked the Islanders, the British Bulldogs .... (a) big Mr. Wonderful fan, Roddy Piper, Cowboy Bob Orton ... Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd."
Precisely how big a fan he was of Dusty Rhodes became abundantly clear decades later, when he finally shared the same space with his boyhood hero.
"The most overwhelming moment was when I actually got to meet The American Dream Dusty Rhodes," Murdoch recounted. "That was probably one of those moments where I tried to be cool about it, but I was really, really nervous.
"I actually had a magazine that I had had since I was a little kid and I wanted him to sign it for me, but I never got a chance to ask him to sign it," he said, recounting the encounter.
"He went 'who's this?' And I was like 'ah, my name is Brodus,' and he was like 'OK.''Ah, all right, sir. Good to meet you, I was asked to be here,' Murdoch said, recalling the awkwardness of that moment.
"He was the Dream. He was busy doing some other stuff. It was kind of overwhelming," Murdoch admits, adding that the relationship is much less awkward nowadays and that he now considers Rhodes a big mentor.
Murdoch's rise to WWE superstardom was about as far from traditional as you will hear.
Before beating down WWE opponents, he was guarding over arguably the most famous rapper in history. That wasn't a job Murdoch applied for, but rather one that pursued him.
"They kind of find you," Murdoch said of how he ended up in Snoop Dogg's entourage.
"I had built a pretty good reputation in both the L.A. and Hollywood areas as being a pretty good bouncer/bodyguard," he said. "I'd worked for a lot of people off and on. I was working in a place called Saddle Ranch, in Universal Studios, in Los Angeles." Some of Snoop's people saw Murdoch in action and reached out to him. "I interviewed with the team. I liked the team, the team liked me and we just worked from there."
Snoop Dogg apparently liked him, too. When Murdoch eventually left Snoop's entourage for the WWE, he brought a small part of his previous career with him, paying homage to his former boss with his WWE name.
"His name is Calvin Broadus," Murdoch said of the legendary rapper.
When Murdoch informed his former employer of his plans to join WWE, Snoop seemed a little disappointed.
"He was always supportive," Murdoch added.
Murdoch's entrance to the realm of pro wrestling wasn't much different than his venture into the world of celebrity protection.
Former WWE superstar, and Whig-Standard columnist, Tommy Dreamer picked Murdoch out of a crowd after seeing him in action during an incident at the club at which he worked.
"He discovered me, 100%," Murdoch said of the meeting at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles. "Tommy was, I believe, the head of talent relations at the time, and he had taken a few of his people out to dinner and he brought them to Saddle Ranch Universal.
"I saw them coming up and there was no way I was going to have wrestlers waiting in line at the club. In my mind, those are the celebrities. I couldn't care less about whether you were a Grammy award winner or an Oscar (winner) or whatever. It didn't matter. I saw the wrestlers and said 'these guys aren't waiting,' so I took care of them."
With Dreamer and company present, a fight broke out. "I handled it the way I usually handle it and Mr. Dreamer saw it."
Dreamer told Brodus he should do that on TV.
"I was like 'yeah right, you guys ain't hiring.' "
A short discussion ensued, and a new chapter in Murdoch's life was underway.
Dreamer kept in touch and got Murdoch a tryout at Deep South Wrestling in Atlanta.
"None of this would have happened at all, if not for him."
Murdoch worked his way through Deep South Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling, before being released from his WWE contract in 2008, only to re-sign with the company in 2010.
Another stint in FCW followed, before he landed on NXT, which Murdoch credits as being hugely important for his career.
"I think the greatest thing about NXT is opportunity," Murdoch said. "So often a guy will get called up (to WWE) and they really won't have a situation for him. He'll just kind of be there. With NXT, you're given an opportunity.
"The big thing about me was, I got a chance to talk on NXT. I got a chance to think for myself, react, and I thought I took great advantage of that and showed that I was more than just a one-dimensional bodyguard guy. I don't think I would have got that opportunity had it not been for NXT."
Murdoch's eventual debut as Brodus Clay was teased for months before it actually happened. When he finally debuted, WWE fans were introduced to the Funkasaurus, who was a hit from the get-go. It's a moniker Murdoch himself came up with, out of necessity.
"Actually me and my weight trainer, Rob, came up with," he said. "We were lifting weights and trying to think of a name because some of the names that creative came up with
we were just going 'wow, no way. I am not going to be called Heavy B. I don't care.'
"What's the point of dieting and training hard if you're going to be called Heavy B? I wanted something fun, something funky, once I said I was from Planet Funk, we kind of went from there. If you're from Planet Funk, obviously you've gotta have funk in there somewhere. Funkasaurus I thought was just brilliant, and we laughed about it."
Murdoch counts his blessings that he's the Funkasaurus and not Heavy B.
"Honestly, if it wasn't for an overworked, stressed out, tired writer, we probably never would have heard of Funkasaurus," he admitted. "It was my debut, getting ready to go out -- I didn't think I was actually going to go out this time."
He approached the writer "and he was like 'what is it?' and I said, 'I really don't want to be called Heavy B.' And he's like 'well what've you got? I have a lot of things to deal with.' And I was like 'Funkasaurus,' and he was like 'fine, Funkasaurus.' I lucked out. Maybe if he was a little more rested, he would have been like 'what? No.'
"I'm very thankful for that."
For the neophytes, the Funkasarus is a talented wrestler, and dancer, whose trademark song, "Somebody Call My Momma," and signature dance moves are as much a part of his arsenal as his wrestling skills.
While he trained extremely hard to learn to wrestle, such was not the case with his dancing.
"Those moves apparently were hidden inside me," Murdoch said. "I never had much of a dancing bug. I was more the guy who just kind of bounced his head at the clubs. The more comfortable, and the more accepting and more embracing of something you are, you'd be amazed how when you let that guard down ...
"Dancing is a fun, great way to express yourself. And honestly, there really isn't a wrong dance move if you're having fun. I think that's the biggest thing that guys get caught up in. If you really think about it, it's just a form of celebration and expression. And the kids love it."
Brodus Clay is over in a big way with fans. It's a ride Murdoch is enjoying more all the time.
"Honestly, every other week or so, I get more amazed by it," he said. "I think it's so much more difficult in this day and age, with the Internet and the way fans are, to get people to cheer and care about you. I think it's a great challenge, a tough challenge and I actually enjoy it. I don't remember what it's like to be booed anymore. I actually enjoy the cheers and I try to bring enough energy to where I warrant and earn cheers."
So over, in fact, is Brodus Clay with fans, that his popularity is rubbing off on an unlikely partner these days. In recent weeks, the menacing Tensai has aligned himself with Clay, creating a very unlikely -- and large -- duo.
Fans have been treated to watching two huge, muscular, tattooed men wiping out opponents in matches, then cutting hilarious dance moves in post-match celebrations. Bear in mind that Clay is six-foot-seven, 375 pounds, while Tensai is 6'7'' and 360 pounds.
Brodus Clay at the WWE Fan Axxess at the Royal Rumble in January 2013. Photo by Andrea Kellaway
While WWE has put the naming of the new alliance in the hands of fans, Clay has already renamed his giant partner.
"Let's call him Sweet T.," he said, with a laugh. "Let's not call him Tensai anymore. You can be the first guy to break Sweet T. Let's call him Sweet T."
As Tensai turns down the heat, and turns up the Sweet, Murdoch sees a lot of similarities between the two.
"He reminds me a lot of me when I first came up with the idea of the Funkasaurus and embracing dance and stuff like that," Murdoch said. "That was pretty much me. I'd be all like 'what, no, I'm a killer, I'm a mobster,' this and that. Truth be known, he enjoys it and he's embracing it and I think the more the fans are having fun with him, he'll see how much fun it can be and honestly man, how much better a superstar it's going to make him."
As the new duo comes into its own, the timing could be perfect for a big payday. WrestleMania XXIX is just around the corner. An appearance at WrestleMania is every pro wrestler's dream. Brodus and Sweet T. are no exceptions.
"Every guy or woman who laces on some boots this time of year, that's all they want," Murdoch admitted. "Hopefully we're peaking at the right time. But it is cut-throat time. Everybody wants an opportunity to be at WrestleMania. You don't want to be left out."
What: WWEs Road to WrestleMania tour.
Where: K-Rock Centre, 1 The Tragically Hip Way.
When: Saturday, March 2, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $95, plus applicable service charges.
The card (subject to change)
John Cena, Sheamus, Ryback vs. The Shield
Kofi Kingston vs. CM Punk
The Miz vs. Antonio Cesaro (United States Championship match)
Sweet T. and Brodus Clay, with Naomi & Cameron vs. 3MB
Layla vs Tamina
Justin Gabriel vs David Otunga
Zack Ryder vs Michael McGillicutty
When the WWE's Road to WrestleMania tour touches down in Kingston next Saturday as part of the WWE's Road to WrestleMania tour, Murdoch, for one, will be pleased.
"Canada is traditional," he said. "When you talk about Canada, you talk about the Hart Foundation, you've got so many great legacies that come out of Canada, so anytime you're there, it's always a great opportunity. I actually am honoured just to be able to perform there. It's always a good time."
A good time is what Brodus Clay promises fans at the event will have. There is nothing, Murdoch says, like a live event.
"With TV, everything's quick, when a match is over you've gotta get out because another match is coming. At a live event, you've got time to reach out," he said. "One of the things that I always do after a match, win or lose, is go out and slap fives with everybody, and make sure I shake hands with as many kids as I can all the way up the ramp. I get a chance to interact and see some of the funny costumes -- little kids dressed up like Funkasauruses and Funkadactyls and all that stuff. It's really cool and it's an awesome opportunity."
Brodus Clay and Sweet T. will face 3MB, the rocker trio of Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal. If you ask Brodus, there's no contest, wrestling wise, or rhythm wise.
"Rhythm is in the eye of the beholder. I would say when I watch them, no," he said, asked if 3-Man Band could match the rhythm of the Funkasaurus and Sweet T. "But if you ask them, they have a completely different attitude. Let's be honest, has anyone ever actually seen them perform? I don't think they've ever actually sang a song. We're still waiting for this debut.
"Maybe I will mention that when we face each other (to see) if they will actually perform. Me and Sweet T., we're down to perform. They want to have a sing-off or whatever, we can make that happen."
Now that's something to look forward to.
Jan Murphy is the news editor at the Kingston Whig-Standard and has written about wrestling for 15 years. You can follow him on Twitter at Twitter: @Jan_Murphy.