WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER: Todd Clever.... former US rugby captain turns to WWE (CNN.com)

Posted on 4/25/118 by Mike Informer

(CNN) Two years ago, while he was still captain of the USA
national team, rugby star Todd Clever was approached by
World Wrestling Entertainment to see if he would like to try
his hand in the ring.

He declined at the time. But in February this year, WWE hit-
up Clever again. Having not long retired from test rugby, he
thought: "Why not?"

The former Eagles back-row, 35, explains: "I was contacted
by the WWE and asked if I had any interest and wanted to
come out (to try out). I was playing at the time so all of
my focus was being an athlete for rugby.

"Once I retired, I guess they caught wind or something
happened I got calls and another invite.

"That's my whole thing. You don't want to have any regrets
in life, from missing out on experiences. That's why I'm
always saying yes to going on social rugby tours now, even
if it costs me money now. I still have a blast doing it.
"So when this happened, I didn't want to miss out on
anything, so I said yeah, and I went out there for a week. I
absolutely loved my time there in Orlando, Florida. It was
brilliant. Their high performance center was top-notch and I
really felt at home."

After spending a week at this cathedral of wrestling, the
native Californian has headed back out West. However, while
no contract has been signed, talks are ongoing between
Clever and WWE and the ex-flanker is optimistic.
Before the Clever news became official, earlier in the year
social media was abuzz with word of talent scouts looking to
rugby for the next superstar.

While current and ex-players excitedly chattered about who
could cut it in wrestling and what finishers each test star
could use, Clever kept quiet.

"When those things came out, it was funny because I was
tagged on social media from a dozen different people saying,
'Yo, there's a talent agency looking for ...' whatever
else," he recalls with a smile.

"I kept it under my breath, but things were already in
motion. I had my flights booked over there and everything
else. I was laughing it off.

"I think WWE is all about hitting new markets and the
entertainment side. So crossover athletes are nothing new
for them. They've had guys from the NBA or NFL and obviously
with the growth and rise of rugby -- in the States, sure,
but overseas as well -- they want to tap into the market.
"And obviously rugby players are amazing athletes. So I
think there's a mutual benefit for both sides."

Clever, born in San Jose, California, has been a familiar
face on the world scene for some time.
He is best known for his 15-year stint with the Eagles,
although he was embroiled in controversy when he missed out
on World Cup 2015, with the staff at the time claiming it
was due to "conduct violations."

Clever, who returned to the fold in 2016, simply says that
he is not the type to just say "Yes, sir," and that he was,
and always will be, one to look out for teammates and call-
out poor leadership.

A World Cup should be the pinnacle of players' careers, but
the way they were managed in 2015 disappointed Clever.

He has also played all over the world, not just in the US
and in the global invitational, social tournaments he now
loves. He has played Super Rugby with the Lions of South
Africa, in Japan's Top League, and with England's Newcastle

He laughs in agreement when it is put to him that he may
have a drifter's spirit.

Getting stuck in

Back to his week in Orlando, though, what was he doing with

"It was pretty much an intro. I had a tour of the facility,
a meeting with some of the guys and they asked me: 'Do you
just wanna watch; how do you want to do this?' I was keen to
get stuck in. I flew across the country so I wanted to work

"I did some strength and conditioning sessions with one of
the smaller groups of athletes and later that day I jumped
in the ring. So I was in the ring for a few days and, doing
some tumbling, some rolling, some wrestling. It was good.
"For warm-ups there's a big stretch, but you're doing
cartwheels and somersaults and while I was doing it I
thought: 'I wasn't really expecting this.' I don't think
I've done a somersault since I was five years old!

"It was interesting -- they definitely weed out the
athleticism in you. So I just got in amongst it and I
surprisingly did a lot better than I thought I would."
Comparing wrestling training to the rigors and occasional
monotony of rugby training, he continues: "It's different in
the sense it's an individual sport and it's entertainment,

"With rugby, it's all for the team, for bettering the person
inside or outside of you, as a whole. There it's set up for
yourself. There's a spotlight on the individual's
showmanship, rather than the team outcome."

Clever still very much loves rugby.

Just last week, he received an unexpected route back into
the game by signing a contract with the new Austin Elite
professional side in Texas. The team is part of the brand
new Major League Rugby season, which got under way last

He is also helping out with academies, helping to nail down
a pathway for American youths to progress towards this new
elite league and ultimately the Eagles test team.
Clever's contract, however, includes a clause and he has
another meeting with the WWE in May. If the offer to step
into the ring made financial sense, he would take it.

The native Californian, who is on the USA Rugby board, is
also helping out with preparations for the Sevens World Cup
in San Francisco in July.

He will be dropping in on the San Francisco Giants baseball
franchise from time to time as they prepare to host the
sevens event at AT&T Park. Clever is also excited about the
Rugby Night being hosted there on May 14, as the Giants take
on the Cincinnati Reds.

With Clever so well-known in rugby circles and with him now
the first rugby player to be considered for a spot in the
ring, it's pertinent to ask him something else. Does he see
himself as a "face" (good guy) or a "heel" (bad guy) in

With a chuckle he says: "Well through my rugby career I
think I've had a bit of both sides of it. The important
thing for me is being true to myself and what I'm all

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