I recently interviewed Lucha Underground’s Shawn Daivari recently in research of my story Finding Muhammad Hassan. Daivari and I spoke at length about his run with Hassan, the heat backstage, why Hassan left, as well as his exit from TNA, relationship with WWE, and his Lucha Underground contract status. Below is the full interview in its entirety.
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I wanted to talk to you about the Muhammad Hassan story I’m doing. It’s not every day you see a main eventer in his mid-20s get out of wrestling altogether.
“Marc had a very specific idea of what he wanted to do. They told him he couldn’t do it anymore, and he had no desire of being in the industry if he couldn’t do what his vision was.”
How do you feel about a guy like Donald Trump promoting prejudice on TV? It seems really put on.
“It affects me more as an entertainer as a person. He’s doing whatever he can do to garner eyeballs. That’s what we do in professional wrestling is make freak show attraction, live sex shows, anything to garner eyeballs, and that’s what he’s doing right now. I have a hard time telling what are his actual feelings, and what he feels he needs to say to get an audience. As a person, it doesn’t bother me because I’m coming at it as a showman. If we were in a different country, a more tolerant place of middle easterners and foreigners, I don’t think he’d say any of this stuff, because it wouldn’t attract eyeballs. He’d be promoting whatever got people’s attention. I think he’s just saying whatever he has to to get attention.”
Do you think the Kurt Angle-Eddie Guerrero situation was a rib, or Kurt was serious?
“I think it was 100 percent serious, and I got close with Kurt later on, I managed him a year later and we traveled together in TNA. He’s not prejudiced against the guy in match one or the main event. Whatever is best for business is what’s done. He put over Jay Lethal once, and it was no big deal to Kurt, he was doing what needed to be done. He never said ‘I’m a main event guy, why am I putting over this match 1 guy?’ He would give advice, and he was doing that for Marc’s finish. He does need to protect his finish. Whether Marc went about it the right way, or if he found another move, or bit the bullet and not said anything about it. Maybe one of those would have been the better option. I don’t think at any point Kurt was chuckling to himself like it were a rib.”
You two were in a main event slot really quickly. What were your expectations going into the gimmick and the angle?
“I had no idea how it was going to take off. It really put blinders on our eyes, because I assumed that was everyone’s experience. I assumed you got to WWE and you were part of the show and went to WrestleMania and main events and belts and stuff, because that was our journey. It wasn’t until later down the road that I realized it was something special that happened to us, that doesn’t happen to a lot of people. There are names from developmental, they last a couple of weeks, then they’re fired, or they spin their tires for a couple of years. Someone might be an amazing talent like Paul London and he didn’t do a lot for a year.”
Do you think Marc brought any of that heat on himself or was it uncalled for?
“I don’t know the answer to that question, but if Marc debuted any time in the last five years, or the TV-PG era, nobody would have bothered, and he probably would have had support of the locker room, instead of fearing he was going to take something away from them. It was really just a bad time, everything was in transition. It wasn’t the Attitude era. Jim Ross got replaced by Johnny Ace in talent relations. WCW’s out of business, ECW’s out of business, everything was really transitional. The dust from all that really settles in 2009 or 2010, people are friends with each other backstage, there’s not a lot of back stabbing. Not that Marc wasn’t surviving where he was, but he could have thrived a lot more today.”
When they pulled you two off TV, how did you feel about it? Did you see it coming?
“No, me and Marc were both kind of blindsided by it. The deal was so hot, we were one of the best segments on the show, in main events and a lot of people wanted to work with us because we were so hot. Vince pulled us aside and said he was going to pull the plug on it. We’re like ‘you’re just going to kill it?’ I thought they were just going to pull us off TV and maybe bring us back in a while, but he was adamant that the Muhammad Hassan character was dead, and it wasn’t coming back. He mentioned repackaging us and possibly bringing us back down the road, and that’s when Marc wasn’t on board that. He knew the money that Muhammad Hassan could make and draw was still there and a great thing. I feel like he felt like he wasn’t going to come back and do something less than what he was doing before. It’s really easy to repackage failures, but not successes.”
How did you react when he decided to walk away from the company?
“We were really good friends. A lot of people are your colleagues, but he was my friend. Whatever decision he made I was like ‘Okay, if you feel that’s best for you.’ He was living in Los Angeles at the time and until he moved back to New York we’d talk and text. When you’re not in the business, it’s easy to lose touch with people. I’ll see a guy like Chris Masters 7 or 8 times throughout the years randomly on independent shows and things like that, but those type of things are no longer happening with Marc. I don’t bump into him at shows. I signed autographs with him one time in New York, the only thing we’ve done outside of WWE and he didn’t like it. He was like ‘It was cool, money was fine, but it wasn’t glamorous or big money like WWE.’ Even when I went to TNA, I talked to him about maybe doing something in TNA, and something that wasn’t as big as WWE…he just wasn’t interested in taking a step backwards.”
Are you surprised WWE didn’t let the heat die down and bring it back?
“They don’t sell anything. Right decision, wrong decision, they stick with it. They don’t sell s–t. That’s the McMahon family. Whatever decision Vince makes, he’s standing behind it. To be honest, the WWE doesn’t need anybody. They don’t need anybody. They’re a perpetual machine that keeps moving. Even though a John Cena or a Rock or a Muhammad Hussan bring in a lot of money, without them, they’re fine. Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin left, and they’re fine. Now if 5 or 6 guys left at one time, that’d hurt, but one guy isn’t going to hurt it. Steve Austin once said that the WWE is like a machine with gears and cogs in it, when one of those cogs is worn out, you can take it out, replace it, and the machine keeps going. That’s how big the WWE is. It’s not always on the talent to draw the house.”
I noticed the vignettes, they got more aggressive each week. How did you feel about the vignettes?
“I thought they were great. That was something they hadn’t been doing for a while. They used to do these packages for talents when they’d come in like Mr. Perfect, so that when they debuted, you’d be familiar with them. They had started doing them again. It was fun and exciting to do them, that way when we started on Raw, we’d have a reaction when we came out. It wasn’t unfamiliar faces. I thought that’s how everything operated, like that was the standard. I found out that wasn’t the case. For one of our promos, Stephanie came over with a blank Microsoft Word page up and sat down with me and Marc and would say ‘This is what you’re doing, this is the pay-per-view, this is how long it’s going to take us to get here, what are we saying tonight?’ The three of us would sit around and brainstorm and she would write something out for us, and add things, and finally she had a page, printed it out, and that’s our script. I assumed everyone’s experience was like that. Then I figured out from day one they were really attracted to us and wanted us to be something successful. Other talents would show up, get their scripts and have no input on it. Take it or leave it.”
Did you ever get threats over the nature of the angle you were doing?
“It’s weird, we didn’t. The most real wrestling fans ever got with me was with Great Khali, when we squashed Rey Mysterio in San Diego, his hometown. When we were leaving, people were banging on our cars, cracking our winshield throwing s–t at us. We’re trying to leave and people are tipping the car. That was the craziest thing, and it had nothing to do with race, they just really liked Rey Mysterio. With Marc, they used to throw stuff at us. They had thrown stuff at DX, but we were really the first talents in a few years to have beer and popcorns and soda and s–t thrown at us for performing in the ring. Once we left the arena and people bumped into us, 90 percent of the time they just wanted a picture or an autograph or something. I never felt any hostility outside the ring.”
What do you remember about the Tokyo situation with Marc Copani/Muhammad Hassan. Did it go the same way I was told? (You can read the full story of the Tokyo incident at this link)
“Yeah, that’s what happened, and Chris Jericho is the one who grabbed me. I was standing next to Marc. We were a team, he was my friend. We were a great duo. It was two guys playing one character. Marc had the look, the talent and promo ability to carry his part, and I had a little more experience, a little more understanding of our industry. We wrapped those two together and had a package for success. Back to the bar scene, people were dumping shots on the carpet. An international hotel bar, you’re looking at $15-20 a drink, and people are racking them up, drinking some, dumping some, giving him a hard time. If I was there the whole time, I probably would have chipped in on the bar tab, too. I remember Jericho coming by, eyeballing everybody, assessing the situation and being like ‘I’m getting out of here,’ and pulling me away. I didn’t want to leave Marc. I was new to the show, Jericho was a main guy that I knew and appreciated and was selling tickets for us, so when he said to come, I gotta go. He kind of saved my ass that night. The next day I had to talk to Marc about it, and I felt horrible about not being there to back him up. It was a s–tty situation. This is our dream job, it shouldn’t be like that for him.”
Ironically, listening to a main event guy is what got him in that situation.
“Yeah and Kurt Angle thinks that everyone is a Kurt Angle, like everybody has the same rights he does. I don’t think he understood there’s a totem pole you have to work your way up.”
How long has it been since you spoke to Marc?
“Man, I don’t know. Maybe four years, five years? Too long. I don’t know why we stopped communicating. Maybe I got too busy with TNA and ROH and we got out of touch. Last I spoke to him, he was a Social Studies teacher, and now he’s Vice Principal, that’s awesome.”
Also, I wanted to ask about your Feast or Fired angle. People who were in those keep telling me they were getting worked by TNA. How did yours go down?
“This is how much of a hot head I am. We were going to do this Feast or Fired thing, and me and Cody Deaner were supposed to come down with the briefcase at the same time for a tie. The following episode of Impact was going to be a live one, and it was going to be Hogan and Bischoff’s first Impact. They were coming in with creative control, and Bischoff was going to be a producer on the show. Terry Taylor tells us Bischoff is going to decide if he really wants to keep us around. We were going to have a match on the following live Impact. The winner got the (unknowingly losing) briefcase. We open the loser briefcase, and we’d be like ‘I don’t want it, I didn’t win it, you won it.’ Bischoff was going to legit decide who was going to stay on the show. I was so mad and frustrated that was a question, because I just signed a new contract with them. I was so f–king pissed. We just signed this contract after they were dragging their heels, so I was like ‘f–k this, give me the briefcase, it’s my last night, if you’re not going to fire me, I quit. Give me the briefcase and let me get the f–k out. I don’t want to wait for Bischoff, let’s do it tonight.’ Terry said he had to ask Dixie, so he went and told Dixie how pissed I was and she said ‘fine, if he wants to go, let him go.’ The worst part is I thought I was possibly saving Cody Deaner’s job, but they ended up firing him anyway! It’s pretty s–tty.”
Is that in bad taste to work the guys backstage?
“Yes and no. What was in more bad taste was them not honoring a contract they gave me, that’s s–tty business. I’ll tell you how good WWE is, though. I just got a letter in the mail from them the other day that said that years ago they sent me a sizeable paycheck, and apparently, I never cashed it. Ten years ago or something. They said they had it on their payroll, but it handn’t been cashed, and they’re like ‘It’s yours, where should we send it?’ I’m like ‘f–k! Sent it to me!’ That’s such good business practice that they notice that mistake and I don’t, and they’re making good on it. They didn’t have to tell me that, but that’s what they do. Meanwhile, I have to go to TNA every quarter like ‘I saw this DVD that I’m on, or you’re using this footage on TV’ and they say they must have overlooked that, then they cut you a check.”
What about WWE Network residuals?
“I don’t know how that works. I know I’m on there. I don’t know how the residuals work, or even if they do that.”
Have they ever asked you to be on the Network for any shows yet? Your angle with Hassan was one of the hottest angles of the era, I thought.
“Since WCW closed it’s doors, I think it was one of the hottest thing to happen at that time. I don’t really watch the show a lot, so I don’t know if anything else as hot happened since then, probably that Nexus angle, but that fizzled out as well. It was a fun ride, and something that I don’t know can be duplicated now. It left a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of my career when I did s–t that wasn’t as good. I love wrestling, so I didn’t mind trying to match that pinnacle of success or entertainment, whether it was in TNA, ROH or now Lucha Underground. I just hope I can be a part of something that good again.”
So are you on the next season of Lucha Underground?
“Yes. I can’t get into specifics, but I’m under contract to them for the next two seasons. “
What else do you have going on?
“I’m still accepting bookings through ShawnDaivari.com to do shows, seminars and training camps, so you can contact my agent through there. Of course check out season 2 of Lucha Underground. See where my character goes in the next season.”
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