Jericho welcomes Mustafa Ali to the show.
Jericho points out that Ali has basically skyrocketed to the main event scene of Smackdown Live, seemingly out of nowhere. Ali says he has no idea how that happened, but on his second or third week on the main roster he was in the main event, wrestling the WWE Champion, Daniel Bryan.
Ali informs that he showed up at television tapings one week and he was told that he wasn’t needed for 205Live that night. He was initially told that he’d have a couple weeks off, but then things changed quickly and he was told he’d be working Smackdown as a one-time deal. Then he was told that he’d be working with Daniel Bryan, and he was in disbelief.
Things went well that night, and when he showed up to Smackdown Live the next week, “Road Dogg” Brian James told him he was being removed from 205Live and was now a full-time member of the Smackdown Live roster. He was told that he would be tagging with A.J. Styles in the main event that night, and he was going to pick up the win over Bryan.
Ali thinks Daniel Bryan played a big part in getting him this opportunity on the main roster, because performers don’t typically get picked off 205Live one week and thrown into the main event on a main roster show the next week.
Ali informs that he barely made it into the original Cruiserweight Classic tournament. He didn’t make the list of competitors, but was one of 10 substitutes in the event that someone couldn’t make it or got hurt. Luckily for him someone couldn’t make it and he was given an opportunity. He was determined to make the most of that opportunity.
He lost in the first round but was given some extra work at NXT tapings, and soon most of the performers from the Cruiserweight Classic began getting contracts with WWE. He wasn’t offered a contract so one day he approached Triple H at NXT television tapings and asked why he wasn’t offered a contract.
Triple H pointed out that there’s only so many roster spots available and told him that he had to be patient. One week later he received a call and a contract offer from WWE.
Jericho asks Ali how he came up with the name “Mustafa Ali”. Ali points out that he always wanted to avoid the stereotypical heel gimmick that accompanies performers of Pakistani descent. He worked in a mask for a while early on in his career but he wasn’t able to connect with the crowd so he decided to take it off.
He worked a heel “Prince Ali” gimmick on the indies for a while, and it was very easy to get heat. However, he hated playing that character and took no pride in instilling more hate between Americans and people who look like him. He decided to drop that character and he never went back to it.
Ali talks about the difficulties of working on 205Live. He points out that going on after Smackdown Live ended was a tough time slot for a new brand. It was also very hard to build a new brand while also trying to build an entire roster of new Superstars that the audience wasn’t familiar with as well. However, dealing with all those difficulties made the roster come together very quickly, and they’re all very close now.
He points out that he received a standing ovation and applause after his Smackdown match against Daniel Bryan. Guys like Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy, who he’s looked up to for years, all greeted him with praise after the match.
He notes that Vince McMahon also gave him some very personalized advice after the match. McMahon told him that he has the rare ability to get empathy from the audience and he’ll always be working from underneath; that’s where he’ll make his money. Ali appreciated that advice a lot.
Jericho asks Ali about the development of his finishing move. He points out that his idea was to do Jeff Hardy’s Swanton Bomb, but backwards. When he first attempted it he jumped too hard and over-rotated. His friends quickly pointed out that he hit a backwards 450, and he knew if he could perfect that it would be a great finisher.
On a recent episode of Smackdown Live he kneed Daniel Bryan in the face while executing the move and he felt terrible. There was no explanation for why the accident happened as he wasn’t rushing, and everything about the move felt good. Regardless, he was terrified that he hurt Bryan.
Luckily, Bryan was okay and he didn’t receive any punishment from WWE officials. Officials and other wrestlers were great in the backstage area after the match, which helped him settle his mind.
Ali informs that he was a police officer before he started working for WWE. He wanted to be a police officer to help fix some of the negative thoughts surrounding police enforcement in the United States today. He always tried to de-escalate any situation he was in, and he always tried to show people respect.
He was wrestling part time while still working as a police officer, and when the Cruiserweight Classic aired one of his superiors noticed him on the show. They weren’t happy with him about his decision to wrestle in his spare time, but they couldn’t really tell him to stop. When he was offered a full time role with WWE he respectfully stepped way from the police force.
Ali says he doesn’t think he’s had his favourite match yet. He’s still trying to master the WWE style and thinks the best is yet to come.
That sums up today’s episode of Talk is Jericho. You can listen to the show yourself anytime here, and I’ll catch ya next week for another recap!