I recently spoke with former WWE Superstar Brodus Clay. In the first part of the two part interview, Brodus discussed getting his start with WWE, watching wrestling growing up, Tommy Dreamer's influence, his first WWE release and his return, NXT, his debut constantly being pushed back and more.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of the interview, where Brodus talks about his time in WWE, people moving down the ladder in WWE, John Cena saving his WrestleMania 28 appearance, pay-per-view payoffs, TNA and more.

Also, make sure to follow Brodus on Twitter @BrodusClay.

Wrestling INC: You've had several matches since your WWE release. Are these the first matches you've ever had while not under contract to the WWE?

Clay: Yes and I'm liking it as much as I did while with FCW, Deep South Wrestling, or the WWE Performance Center. With the smaller crowds, the fans are very excited with the entertainment, so there's not much of a difference.

Wrestling INC: How long were you a wrestling fan before receiving your first WWE contract?

Clay: I've pretty much been a wrestling fan my entire life. Wrestling, football, basketball, and baseball were the four things I was obsessed with as a kid. I enjoyed wrestling at night.

Wrestling INC: Who were some of your favorite wrestlers growing up?

Clay: There's so many, but I'd say Andre The Giant. I thought he was an awesome heel with Bobby Heenan. I was also a big fan of Paul Orndorff, "Cowboy" Bob Orton, King Kong Bundy, King Haku, British Bulldogs, Demolition, Powers of Pain, and Road Warriors. It'd be easier to tell you who I didn't like.

Wrestling INC: Fair enough, who did you not like?

Clay: I did not like The Missing Link—never liked how he pulled his hair. One of my guilty pleasures is George "The Animal" Steele. I didn't like him, but I couldn't stop watching him when he did the corner post thing. It was the most awkward thing I ever saw. I tried it at a house show once and it's not easy to do.

Wrestling INC: You've spoken about how you met Tommy Dreamer while working at the Saddle Ranch in Los Angeles. How much of an influence was Dreamer on your career and have you kept in contact?

Clay: We're both busy, but when we see each other it is best of love. I'm looking forward to working with him again. I was always a fan of his from ECW and how he conducted himself as a fan—he's always forthright which can be rare sometimes. He's one of the good guys and maybe eventually I can be in the ring with him.

Wrestling INC: After Dreamer signed you, you started with Deep South Wrestling. How would you describe the time there?

Clay: It was the best of times and the worst of times—but it was the best of times. I loved my time in Deep South Wrestling. We trained so hard and I got a crash course into the world of sports entertainment and pro wrestling. There were so many good guys to help like Dave Taylor, Bill DeMott, Dr. Tom Prichard, and Gangrel. Coach DeMott pushed me to want it. There was no free pass given or hazing of the big guy. They treated me like I deserved to be there and I will always be thankful for that. You got to earn your spot.

Wrestling INC: What led to your first release and did you see it coming?

Brodus Clay: I was extremely frustrated and there was no direction for me. It's one those situations where if we aren't going to use him, why keep him kind of deal. You can get lost in the shuffle when transferring to different schools with new trainers. It was bring me up [to the main roster] or let me go. It worked out. I don't know if the specifics of that first release were based off potential or not having anything creatively.

Wrestling INC: You didn't work any Indy shows after the first release. During that time off, did you think about getting back in the pro wrestling business?

Clay: I went right back to being a bodyguard. I did do house shows for the WWE, but never made it to the main roster. In my opinion, it was a sign that it might be time to move on to other things. The day after I was released, I got a call from Snoop Dogg's people seeing if I wanted to come back to work and that was an absolute yes. There was an opportunity to go to Japan, but unfortunately it messed with my travels for Snoop and I did Hulk Hogan's All Star Wrestling reality show. Those were the only chances I got—there were offers here and there, but nothing concrete. I had put wrestling behind me.

Wrestling INC: What led to your WWE return?

Clay: We were coming off the tour of Australia and Snoop got booked in Jacksonville [to be the host] for Monday Night RAW. I actually tried to switch shifts so I could go home and avoid that uncomfortableness of seeing the wrestlers in the back. It was about pride. I couldn't be switched out, so I had to go and it ended being for the best. I was there maybe five minutes and John Laurinaitis said they might have made a mistake and the door is still open. I thought about it with Snoop and you can always be a bodyguard, but you can't always wrestle. That's how I came up with the name Brodus Clay.

Wrestling INC: So you came up with the name Brodus Clay from Snoop Dogg's birth name?

Clay: Yep, his real name is Calvin Broadus.

Wrestling INC: You were on NXT and Ted DiBiase, Jr. and Maryse were originally your pros. DiBiase was dropped and Alberto Del Rio was brought in. What happened there?

Clay: I think creatively they were going in a different direction with Ted. I know there was some character stuff going on. Alberto was white-hot at the time and he needed a heater, which I fit the role. There weren't any mistakes made. You're given a hand and you need to work with it.

Wrestling INC: What led to the two of you splitting after Extreme Rules?

Clay: I think creatively they were going in a different direction. Personally, looking back at it, I think it was a little too soon. I would have liked to spend more time with el presidente Alberto, but hindsight is 20/20.

Wrestling INC: You were booked as a monster for a bit, but only on Superstars. When the vignettes began airing, did you know about The Funkasaurus character or did that happen while your debut kept getting pushed?

Clay: It happened during the pushed debut.

Wrestling INC: Did you feel the company was testing you when the debut kept getting pushed?

Clay: I think they were making the best decision for the company and me. One night they didn't want me to debut against The Muppets and another night was The Rock. You don't want to debut against The Rock. Looking at the land you had Mark Henry going pretty hard at the time, The Big Show, and Kane was getting ready for his return so being the fourth monster would have gotten me lost in the shuffle pretty quick. Luckily, The Funkasaurus character was given to me and I got with Dusty Rhodes, Road Dogg, Bill DeMott, and Naomi to put this together. Looking back, it was a great move.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of the interview, where Brodus talks about his time in WWE, people moving down the ladder in WWE, John Cena saving his WrestleMania 28 appearance, pay-per-view payoffs, TNA and more.

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