Standing nearly seven feet tall, weighing nearly 400 pounds, covered in tattoos, and always smiling, former WWE superstar Brodus Clay seemed destined to be a major attraction for the company for years to come. Under the “Funkasaurus” gimmick in which Clay would gyrate and dance to the ring with a couple of attractive young females, he became one of WWE’s most recognizable entities.
However, in early 2014, Clay was released from the WWE for the second time. It was an unceremonious exit for the 42-year-old Clay as he seemed to be lost in the shuffle for over a year. Now, Clay has made his way to Total Nonstop Action (TNA) under the name Tyrus.
Alongside fellow WWE NXT Season 4 competitor and former TNA World Heavyweight champion Ethan Carter III (aka Derrick Bateman), both men have a platform to put their talents on display.
“I think it just goes to show that sometimes all opinion aren’t always right, you know?” said Tyrus. “Some people have pens in their hands, maybe they shouldn’t make decisions on career choices and make decisions on who should get opportunities and stuff. I think that stuff should be proven in the ring and on the mic, not necessarily in a meeting room, but I don’t make those decisions. But I got the opportunity to reinvent myself.”
Upon his debut for TNA in mid-September of 2014, Tyrus took on the role of EC3’s on-air bodyguard, something he’s all too familiar in real life from his days as Snoop Dogg’s bodyguard. But Tyrus has stepped away from that role and is the current No. 1 contender for the TNA World Heavyweight championship.
As TNA prepares for its switch over to POP TV – starting this upcoming Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST — Tyrus is excited with the prospect of potentially winning his first world title.
“For me, it would be complete redemption and there’s a lot of people that I would go out and buy a lot of crow for. It would mean that you’re the best at what you do and be seen as that; whether it’s TNA, WWE, ROH, New Japan [Pro Wrestling], Lucha Underground and all the other different bodies. All of those guys that have held the championship have been believed in and supported by the company. It would mean a lot to me.”
Tyrus said: “It’s what you put those boots on for, it’s what you ice for, it’s what you train for, all those hours of hard knocks, all those hours of watching film, all those bumps and bruises and all that time away from your family.”
As mentioned, TNA is set to debut on its new channel this coming Tuesday after a messy end to its relationship with Destination America. While there was panic among dirt sheets, fans, performers, and the company itself, Tyrus was never concerned with TNA not being on television anymore.
“I was never really concerned about it, I have faith in Dixie Carter,” said Tyrus. “Good, bad, or indifferent, they’ve always been able to keep us on television.”
Tyrus admits that he will almost certainly be done as an active in-ring competitor in about five years’ time. Being near his mid-40s, Tyrus says he wants to move on to a different chapter of his life. Whether it be fishing, acting — as he nearly landed the part of Suge Knight in the Straight Outta Compton film — Tyrus “doesn’t want to stay longer than you need to” in wrestling.
Before Tyrus retires, he is in a prime spot to be a main eventer for TNA. It would be a stark change from the latter part of his WWE career, where he referred to himself as a “Main Event Playa” in a satirical kind of way.
As Brodus Clay, he would call himself a “Main Event Playa” when in reality, he was struggling to receive consistent television time.
“If you look at the history of wrestling, what makes heels great is their ridiculous statements. Honky Tonk Man says he’s the greatest Intercontinental champion, would you say he was? Jimmy Hart involved in every finish, the guitar involved in every finish, DQ’ed every night and then he’d come out every night say ‘I’m the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time.’ Telling myself I’m the ‘Main Event Playa’ came from the boss, and you’re one decision away from being one. If you’re not shooting for the top, then what are you doing?”
At one point, it seemed like there were plans to rejuvenate the Brodus Clay character.
Just prior to his departure from WWE, Tyrus was down at WWE’s developmental brand, NXT. Not only did Clay defeated the likes of Xavier Woods, he also faced Neville — the NXT Heavyweight champion at the time — for the championship. Clay was unsuccessful in winning the gold.
Tyrus’ stint in NXT may have been a harbinger of better things to come, but he’ll never truly know.
“As far as I knew at the time, it was a complete overhaul to get me ready for something else, but obviously plans changed,” said Tyrus. “But as far as I know, the boss, Triple H, was a fan of our matches and feedback was solid. But I appreciated the chance to be a headliner, a ‘Main Event Playa’ so to speak.”
WWE is in Tyrus’ past now, and TNA is his present. With his status as the No. 1 contender to the company’s top prize, Tyrus has now experienced the lows of not being booked to becoming that “Main Event Playa” on a television show seen by millions.
That’s one thing Tyrus praises about his current stint in TNA is the freedom to be himself and not what he’s told to be.
“The fact that wrestlers are allowed to be themselves, they’re given a direction they’d like to go but it’s up to you to make it work, so it’s a little more pressure. But there’s less cooks in the kitchen so to speak.”
With that type of freedom, Tyrus believes that the company and Dixie Carter should be given a lot more credit than they’re given. Despite the myriad of rumors over the last decade, the company is still in business and is an alternative for fans and wrestlers alike.
Which is why Tyrus believes that several current WWE superstars could follow in his humongous footsteps and join TNA to establish their value to the industry. Tyrus lists guys like Heath Slater, Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, and Big E as guys who need more spotlight.
While the days of territories are gone, it would be beneficial if they weren’t so those guys had the means to expand their options and flex their creative muscles.
“A lot of these guys are sitting backstage with handcuffs on because there’s not enough TV time for everybody,” said Tyrus. “It sucks because the world needs to see Heath Slater every week, and the world needs to see Damien Sandow come out and see whatever he decides to do, and the Bo Dallas’ [of the world].
Tyrus said: “Same thing for TNA, you have Mr. PECtacular, Micah (aka Camacho in WWE), he’s another guy who has a million dollars written all over him if given the chance.”
Heading into 2016, Tyrus is set to be a major force for Impact Wrestling alongside the likes of EC3, Eric Young, Bobby Roode, and more. But while the wrestling industry is not thirsty for talent, it’s drying up in relating to the fans.
Tyrus feels that the current generation of fans feel like they’re equal to the guys in the ring, mostly because of how wrestlers are portrayed. From the announce team to the booking, it’s imperative to showcase the performers as the world class athletes they are and take it from there.
“I would say go back to what works and stop reading the internet. If you’re going to go to with something, go with it. If you don’t like it, you don’t like, but the thing about wrestling is there used to be things you hated, but you’d still watch. Build the brand, build the guys, don’t have one guy who beats everybody. Take the announce team and remind them that the guys they’re talking about are the greatest, toughest athletes in the world. I never imagined as a kid that anybody could beat up ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff because Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan convinced me he was the toughest guy, that Andre The Giant was bigger than life, that Hulk Hogan was amazing and dug down deep. All those things still work if the Jim Ross’ and Joey Styles’ of the world paint that picture. Not plug adds and put themselves over and make jokes to make somebody laugh instead of putting over the fact that the guys in the ring could whoop everybody in the building.”
For audio of this interview, you can listen to it here.
[Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images]