Recently, Wrestling Inc.'s Raj Giri spoke with former WWE and TNA star Shawn Daivari for an exclusive interview, which will be published in its entirety next week. Among other things, Daivari discussed turning down a super patriot character in WWE named George W. Bush and opening his own professional wrestling school with Ken Anderson, The Academy: School Of Professional Wrestling.
In 2005, UPN wanted to keep the Muhammed Hassan character off of SmackDown! and Daivari, his manager, would have to be repackaged before being brought back to television as well. Daivari recalled Stephanie McMahon pitching the idea to him of playing a super patriot named George W. Bush.
"The SmackDown! after Great American Bash, I was supposed to come out as George W. Bush, an over-the-top, red, white, and blue America thing. Almost patronizing the whole thing being like, 'hey, I can be patriotic too. I'm not an Arab. I'm American. I love America! My name is George Bush!' and that kind of s--t. And then, I told her it was a bad idea. A) it doesn't have any longevity. You can only do it for so long. And then, B) it's not going to work because people… it just doesn't sound like a great idea and she agreed with me. And she says, 'yeah, I don't think it'll work either.' And that was that."
Daivari continued, "from my experience, my whole time there, almost, I shouldn't say with anybody, but the top people, Steph and Hunter and Vince, if you said, 'no, here's why' or 'no, here's an alternative', and if they agreed with you, it was never an issue. And she did agree with me in that respect, so it was not an issue to say 'no.'"
On the subject of his new professional wrestling school, The Academy, Daivari said that it is an idea that he has been kicking around with Ken Anderson for years. 'The Middle Eastern Nightmare' explained that he took inspiration from the WWE Performance Center to finally make it happen.
"The whole thing started, probably, when they contacted me about doing the NXT guest trainer thing. It has been an idea for years, on and off, we'd talk about it. Then I kind of said, 'okay, lets put some real thought into this.' And then, knowing what the Performance Center was doing, because I had no idea until the first time I got my little brother down there. He went and he told me what they were doing. And I said, 'wow, these are great, amazing, outside-of-the-box ideas'. And then the more I learned about it, the more I thought about it, I'm going, 'f--k, these are great for guys under contract. What about the guys that don't have contracts? Why aren't they allowed to have this kind of training?' And we said, 'well, there's really no reason for it.' Obviously, they can do it bigger and better because they have unlimited bank account, but we were thinking about it and it's really financially feasible for me and Ken to do it. There's nothing that they're doing that can't be done by anyone else as long as don't have a secret formula they aren't letting out. We said, 'f--k it! We should just do it.' And that's kind of what we're modelling our camp after."
With a rich history in professional wrestling and many greats like Curt Hennig, Bob Backlund, Rick Rude, Jesse Ventura, and many others being from Minnesota, the Twin Cities is a fitting location for the new facility. Daivari, who trained under Eddie Sharkey in Minnesota, claimed that he would like to see a resurgence of the North Star State's professional wrestling scene.
"I think my group, the group that I came up with, like, myself, Ken [Anderson], ODB, Austin Aries, at the time, CM Punk and Colt Cabana made their names in Minnesota - they're from Chicago [Illinois], but they made their names in Minnesota - but that was it. After us, nothing [has] really happened around here and I would like to to be that way again. I would like people to be like I was, just saying, 'oh, I was trained in Minnesota at the Academy or whatever'. I would like that to be, 'okay, no more info needed - you're good.'"
Nora Benshoof, also known as WWE's Molly Holly, will be a trainer at The Academy. Apparently, she and Daivari have been friends since 2004. Daivari, who was too young to rent a car at the start of his WWE run, would ride with Benshoof since they both lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"Me and Nora have been friends for years. Pretty much, the way me and Nora became friends was, she lives in Minneapolis as well, and when I got signed by WWE, we were always on the same flights going out of town together. And I think I was 18 or 19 at the time. You have to be 21 to rent a car, so I could never rent a car, so we'd be on the same flight together and then I would be like, 'hey, I can't rent a car. Can I ride with you?' She said, 'yeah, sure.' I would ride with her on the house show loops and to TV and stuff. And, yeah, that kicked off our friendship. And then, we've been friends ever since 2004 or something."
According to Daivari, Benshoof did not want much to do with professional wrestling once her in-ring career was over, but she could not pass up the opportunity to help others achieve their dreams.
"When she got out of the wrestling business, she was just kind of over it. She was done with it and didn't want much to do with it anymore, she just didn't want to do it anymore. And then, if you know her, she's a saint. It is crazy how she was able to stay in the wrestling business as long as she was, knowing what a good soul, human being, she is."
Daivari added, "she doesn't give a f--k about wrestling anymore, but she likes people so much, that she loves the idea of helping somebody achieve their dream. That is what got her interested. She was like, 'if it's someone's lifelong dream to be a pro wrestler, and I can help them achieve that, I'm in.' And she's such an unsung hero too, people don't know. We call her the lead female trainer here, but she trains the guys too. People don't know how talented she is."
Classes at The Academy will be held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, starting November 1, 2016.
"November 1st, we start our first class, and, yeah, it's opening November 1st." Daivari continued, "we have a schedule, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, we train. And then, on a case-by-case basis, as needed, depending on if a student is lagging behind, or holiday, change of schedule, whatever, we can adjust it any way we need. The facilities are that we can come in and out as we want, but we've set the schedule tentatively for Monday, Wednesday, Friday."
For more information on The Academy, click here. If you use any of the quotes that appear in this article, please credit Wrestling Inc.