What we learned from: Mustafa Ali on After The Bell

After The Bell’s most recent guest was WWE superstar and leader of Retribution Mustafa Ali. Here are the most notable points from the interview.

He wasn’t first choice for The Cruiserweight Classic

“As with anything that you are passionate about, there are extreme highs and extreme lows. The Cruiserweight classic was that typical indie wrestler moment. I was getting ready to hang up the boots as I wasn’t getting any traction. My friends were blowing up on the indie scene. Travelling was not feasible. I was providing for my family so my dream came second. Luckily I emailed WWE at the right time and place. They said yeah we have a spot for you. William Regal explained the process and I thought yes I’m in. Two weeks before the tournament, they release the names of the participants and my name is not on the list. Everything comes crumbling down. I call and go what happened? they explained I was an alternate. There were ten alternates. It was a hard pill to swallow. I was wondering do I go or do I stay home? I went because you’re always going to ask yourself what if? There was an opening. Lince Dorado’s opponent was unable to compete. He said “give me Ali.” They said that the time-slot is small, that’s why Lince said “I know. That’s why I want Ali.” They cracked the door open and I kicked it down.”

Playing the waiting game...

“I literally had to go up to Hunter and ask for my job. When the tournament concluded, they were bringing guys back for NXT. They were given a dark match, some were on the show. One by one people were getting contracts, and I’m just nit getting a contract. It was the fourth or fifth time I was at NXT, I sheepishly went up to Hunter and went “Hey man, whats the deal? Am I not good enough to be here?” Then Hunter goes “there’s only so many bones for so many dogs, I can only give out so many. It’s a timing thing, just keep your head up.” A week later I got a call, signing me to a full time deal.”

New show surprise

“So no one told us that is was going to be called 205 live and it was going to be our own show. But we were told that’s they were going to present the crusierweight division and it is going to be a part of RAW. Mick Foley was going to introduce it, and you’re going to have your own championship. I was confused because I wanted to go to NXT. I wasn’t allowed to go to the Performance Centre because I was on RAW.”

Not the best idea at first

“It was absolutely half baked. Putting 205 Live on after Smackdown is the equivalent to putting an opening band on after Metallica. No one is there to see them. Davari and I are sitting in gorilla and we look at the screen. It’s Randy Orton and John Cena in a two out of three falls match to end Smackdown. The place is going nuts, we look at each other and go “What are we going to do?” So I think the thing that was overlooked is that you gave us a new show with new superstars. If you gave us Rey Mysterio, you could put 205 on his back. He can create this brand, because there is this immediate interest in Rey.

A reality check

“There is nothing more humbling than making an entrance, you look up to the crowd and you see people leaving. They just saw Cena vs orton, they don’t care about Mustafa Ali. You see a group of determined men that were like OK, walk away. I love seeing a tweet saying “LOL to the people who left early.” Obviously I’m greatful for the opportunities I have now but 205, we built that brick by brick, we were building ourselves as superstars. I’m forever waving the flag of 205 Live.”

On his main roster call up

“It was a lot of pressure because you don’t know. I show up to TV and they go hey you’re wrestling the WWE champion Daniel Bryan on Smackdown, and it’s the first segment. And you have an in ring promo with him. It was very clearly explained, this is a one time deal, you’re not full time on Smackdown. Bryan being as gracious as he is, made sure that I made an impact. I made the most of that opportunity and being able to come back next week. Then being told from there that you are a full time member of Smackdown. And you are the main event tonight.”

On his injury

“I hate what ifs. The thing happened with Randy, it was an accident. My face got caved in. As we all do, we got hit and we get back up. I really thought I was fine. Later that night I have to go out for the melee finish. Erick Rowan grabs me by the face and does the claw chokeslam on the table. I remeber just laying on the table going “OK I feel fine.” I get word that next week I’m in a gauntlet match. I realise this is my moment. This is what I’ve been working for the past 17 years. We have a live event loop leading to TV. I take a turnbuckle that I have taken a million times. I get to the back and sitting Indian style by gorilla. A referee told the doctor and they have me checked out. I remember gripping the medical table because if I let go, I’m going to tip over. The doctor wants to see my hands and I refused. As soon as I picked up my hands I tilted over. That was it, they pulled me. I remember sitting in my hotel room trying not to cry because I know there is no way they are going to let me work Smackdown. They say “dude, you’re out for a while. It was a bad hit you took.” Kofi replaced me and we all know what happened there. But silver lining, great guy gets this opportunity. The bitterness I have towards that is not directed at Kofi. I came back and nothing. There was stuff with Kofi, Randy, Brock.”

On Retribution

“They’ve all had a moment that was taken away from them. Mace got attacked by brock and never came back. Dijakovic was chocked out by Kross while Keith Lee watched. The sentiment of chip on your shoulder is very appropriate for retribution. I felt overlooked, the company looks at profit over people. What I look like inhibited mt from growing. There’s so much art in this story. Imagine having people make pre-conceived assumptions because of your name and what you look like. It’s art. It’s what I’ve been feeling for the past seventeen years. Let us tell a story. I am leading the charge on this one.”

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