From facing Daniel Bryan one-on-one last week, to pinning the WWE champion in a tag match on this week’s Smackdown, it appears that WWE’s powers that be realize the star potential in Ali.
After languishing on the low-profile 205 Live roster for nearly two years, Ali has broken through on Smackdown, and fans are getting a taste of one of the most talented performers in the entire company.
Mustafa Ali’s WWE Contract
Ali says that had he not spoken up to Triple H during his run as an alternate for the Cruiserweight Classic, that his life may have turned out differently.
“I was told I was in the tournament. A week before that, they released the participants, and I’m not on the list,” Ali recalled. “I frantically called William Regal and he told me I was an alternate. Something happens, I’m in the tournament, I have a five minute match, I’m gone.”
That brief time in the tournament was obviously not the end of his WWE journey.
“I got brought in for some extra work. Everyone has that Hail Mary moment. I just walked up to Triple H one day and said, ‘Hey man, you’ve seen me wrestle four times now. You know if you know.’
“He was like ‘Hey, there are only so many dogs and so many bones. I’m sorry, things take time.’ I thought he was politely telling me to get out of his way.”
“The next week, I got a call.”
Mustafa Ali Facing Discrimination
Ali grew up in Chicago as the son of first-generation Americans, who immigrated from India and Pakistan.
He says that while he did face some childhood bullying for the way he dressed, he never faced any sort of racial discrimination early in life.
“I was in high school when 9/11 happened. Before 9/11, I never experienced discrimination that was justified in their eyes. It was jokes about camel jockeys, and did my uncle own a gas station. It was ha ha, whatever. It was from people I knew. I wasn’t beat up because I was brown,” Ali said.
After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, his life changed.
“9/11 goes down… I felt like I’m an American. I felt that pain from people dying. I was following the vents, I was trying to educate myself, and then the aftermath happened. It was nothing crazy, but I knew I was different from that point on,” he said.
“When stuff did start happening, comments were made, it was always directed at Muslims. Not at me, but it was in my presence.”
Refusing To Feed Into Stereotypes
Ali says that the fear of portraying a stereotypical character, and the potential for discrimination that went with it, forced him to start his wrestling career in a unique way.
“It carried over into wrestling. I started my independent career at 16, I got trained, and every single person involved in the Chicago independent scene told me, ‘You’ve got to be a bad guy. you’re Muslim. We’re going to call you Sheik Abdullah something, you’re going to wear a turban,'” Ali said.
“I was so terrified of pushing that biased agenda that I refused to do it. I put on a mask and tried to pass myself off as a luchador.”
Ali also tells an amazing story about his late father’s heart attack, discusses his family’s journey to Chicago, where he was born, how his time as a police officer changed his outlook on life, and much more.
The full episode can be found below.