WWE Superstar Mustafa Ali was on a recent episode of WWE After The Bell where he discussed his beginnings in WWE as a participant in the Cruiserweight Classic. He revealed that before that, he had considered retiring and sticking with his job as a police officer because wrestling did not seem like a future for him.
“As with anything that you’re passionate about in life, there is extreme highs and there’s a lot more extreme lows, and the Cruiserweight Classic was this tumultuous thing for me,” Ali expressed. “It was that typical indie wrestler moment. Anyone that’s done this can understand. I thought this was the year that I’m going to hang up the boots or the kick pads or whatever you want to call them because I just wasn’t getting any traction.
“A lot of my friends were blowing up on the indie scene, and like you mentioned, I was a police officer at the time so traveling all over the world, doing these tours in the UK and Japan just weren’t feasible. The number one thing for me, at that time, was providing for my family as a man should, so my dream came second.”
Ali said that he sent an email to WWE just in time for when they were looking for talent for the Cruiserweight Classic. He discussed his feeling when he found out he would be an alternate for the tournament.
“Luckily, I just emailed WWE at the right time at the right place not knowing that there was a Cruiserweight Classic,” Ali admitted. “At the time, it was called ‘The Global Cruiserweight Tournament.’ So I just emailed at the right time at the right place, and they said, ‘yeah, we’ve got a spot for you.’ William Regal called and explained to me the whole process, and I was like, ‘this is my this is my opportunity. I’m in,’ and a few weeks before the the tournament, they released the list of the 32 participants in the Cruiserweight Classic.
“And my name’s not on the list, and everything just comes crumbling down. I told my wife. I told my friends. I frantically call, and I go, ‘what happened?’ It was then explained to me that I’m not actually in the tournament. I’m a backup. I’m an alternate, and I said, ‘well, how many alternates are there?’ 10. And again, I have no shame. I’m a nobody at this point. I have not traveled the world. I’m not this world-class athlete like so many of the participants, and it was just a hard pill to swallow.
“A lot of stuff was going on personally as we always have going on, and I had to make a decision. Do I still get on this plane and go and kind of swallow my pride and stand there like a good boy and hope to be called on, and I said, ‘you’re always going to ask yourself, what if? Just go’ and I went.
Ali revealed that he and Lince Dorado knew each other from the indies. So when Dorado’s opponent had to back out of the tournament, Ali said that Dorado had chosen him due to their past experience working together.
“There was an opening. Lince Dorado’s opponent wasn’t able to compete, and Lince and I are old friends that have competed,” Ali noted. “I owe the world to him because he immediately stepped up and said, ‘give me Ali.’ They reminded him that the segment that our match was, the time slot was very very small, and he like, ‘yeah, that’s why I want him because I know he can get it done’ and we went out there, and I think we tore it up. I mean, obviously, I’m here now, but they cracked the door open a little bit, and I kicked the damn thing down.”
Corey Graves added his own personal experience of almost quitting the wrestling business and opting to take a more stable job for his family. He said his job as a 911 dispatcher allowed him to work as an extra on Monday and Tuesday’s, and he eventually got a tryout with WWE.
“I can relate as far as the doubts when you’re on the independents so long and you haven’t got that break,” Graves said. I went through the same thing. My first son was born and real life, to your point, came in, and I got a job as 911 dispatcher. And I was like, man, I got to provide for my family. This wrestling thing is probably just not going to happen. It’s been fun. The same thing, out of the blue, I got booked as an extra at TV. My days off from 911 happened to be Monday and Tuesday, and this is when RAW and SmackDown were back to back.
“So I took the booking on my off days, and I went in there looking as normal as I had ever looked. I had kind of grown my hair out, and I was just kind of a normal guy so to speak right. And they went, ‘hey, what are you doing? You interested in a job?’ And I got a tryout. Next thing you know, I’m working. It’s crazy how the world works. I can relate 100% on that.”
Ali also revealed that he had to go directly to Triple H for a job with WWE. He noted that while other wrestlers from the CWC were getting signed, he was not. He said that after he asked Triple H for a job offer, he got one a week later.
“I literally had to go up to Hunter and basically asked for my job because as the Cruiserweight Classic concluded, they were bringing guys back for NXT like a little dark match for NXT here and there,” Ali recalled. “Some guys were getting placed on the show. One by one, everyone starts getting contracts like Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, Lince Dorado and I’m just not getting a contract, and I want to say the fourth or fifth time I was at NXT, I very sheepishly went up to Hunter.
“I was like, ‘hey man, like what’s the deal? You know when you know. You’ve seen me four or five times. Am I not good enough to be here? ‘And Hunter gave me the whole ‘oh, there’s there’s only so many bones and there’s so many dogs, and I can only give up so many bones. It’s a timing thing. Keep your head up,’ and I was like, ‘okay, he’s politely telling me go away.’ A week later, I got a call. ‘Hey, we’d like to sign you to a full-time deal,’ and I was just like, it has to be correlated. This is not to encourage everyone to go up to Hunter and ask for a job.”
Ali also discussed the early talks of 205 Live. He said that the talent didn’t know the full details, but they knew that they would have a title to compete for and would have a spotlight on RAW.
“So no one told us that it was going to be called 205 Live [and] you’re going to have your own show, but it was like, hey, we’re gonna launch this cruiserweight division, and it’s going to be a part of RAW,” Ali said. “This was when Mick Foley kind of introduced it. We’re going to compete for the championship because you’re gonna have your own championship. So it was very like, oh, I’m on Monday Night RAW.”
205 Live had many bumps when it began most notably being fans leaving before the show because the show was filmed after SmackDown. Ali talked about the challenges the 205 Live roster faced and gave his own suggestion for how the brand should have started out.
“Here’s the thing, I 100% appreciate my time in 205 Live,” Ali prefaced. “I look at this past episode of Monday Night RAW, you had me, Cedric Alexander, Drew Gulak, Akira Tozawa, Lince Dorado [and] Gran Metalik. All these alumni from 205 Live that are taking a large portion of RAW. Buddy Murphy is featured in a storyline on SmackDown. You can see how 205 has been a process that has developed these new stars that are now moving on to bigger and better opportunities, but here’s the thing, it was absolutely half-baked.
“205 going on after SmackDown was the equivalent to an opening band going on after Metallica. No one’s there to see them and I’ve told this story before, Ariya Daivari and myself were sitting in Gorilla one day, and we look up at the monitor and it’s Randy Orton vs. John Cena in a two out of three falls match to end SmackDown. The place is going nuts. There’s this crazy match, and we just look at each other like, ‘what are we going to do?’ I don’t want to call it the problem, but I think the thing that was overlooked was that 205 was new [and] new Superstars are being presented.
“If you gave us Rey Mysterio, you could put 205 Live on his back, and he can create this brand because at least there’s an immediate interest in Rey, which therefore, there’s interest in the show. And now you put Buddy Murphy against Rey, and now you’re building Buddy. And then once Buddy’s established, you put me in. There’s a process. New guys, new characters [and] new show, off you go.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit WWE After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.