Former WWE star Ariya Daivari joined Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette to talk about his time in WWE and his upcoming free agency. Daivari’s no compete clause following his WWE release will be up on September 23, and it goes without saying that he’s very excited about it.
“I’m literally counting down the days,” Daivari said. “I’m starting to get all my bookings figured out, and I can start talking to other companies a little bit more seriously. So yes, I cannot wait till the 23rd.”
Before talking about his future however, Daivari talked about his past with WWE. In particular he focused on his time in 205 Live, where he spent the bulk of his time with WWE. While Daivari loved that the brand gave him an opportunity to fulfill his dream of wrestling for WWE, he also thinks it may have pigeonholed him.
“It’s kind of twofold,” Daivari said. “For one, the Cruiserweight Division obviously gave smaller guys like me an opportunity to work in WWE. My entire life I always said ‘I’m going to work for WWE. I’m going to wrestle there, I know I will.’ But in the back of my head you go ‘you’re also 5’10. An average WWE wrestler were these giant hosses of men.’ So that was the only thing that was like ‘that may be the only roadblock I have.’ So when they came up with this Cruiserweight Classic and they said ‘hey we’re going to give another run at the Cruiserweight Division’, I was really grateful for that.
“So that was really cool. Now on the other side of the token, I just know in the history of how WWE does things that once you have that Cruiserweight stamp on you, it might be like swimming upstream the entire time. Because at the end of the day it’s still Vince McMahon’s show and he still likes big giant dudes and stuff like that. So that was the only thing. I was happy it created an opportunity for me to finally wrestle in the WWE but I also know that I didn’t want to be labeled a Cruiserweight. When I was an independent wrestler for ten years, I was never a Cruiserweight, I was never a Lightweight. Because independent wrestling is all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter.”
Daivari would go on to give credit to stars like AJ Styles, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and even MMA star Connor McGregor for showing smaller guys like Daivari could be stars in wrestling. Even still, Daivari never got the feeling that WWE could look past the size issue. He also felt they ignored talents that loved wrestling and wanted to be there in favor of guys who viewed wrestling as a backup plan.
“The other thing too is it always kind of bothered me when WWE looked as this size thing,” Daivari said. “Being a WWE wrestler is a really hard job. If you’re not dedicated to pro wrestling, if you haven’t dedicated your life to the craft of pro wrestling, I don’t think it’s going to work out for you. A lot of the guys who were on 205, me, Ali, Gulak, Lince, Tony, like we’re all really dedicated to pro wrestling. We love pro wrestling, and we took it very seriously when we were on the independent scene. So it was always kind of weird to me because WWE should want that. You should want guys that are like ‘I’m here for this business, I’m willing to die for this business.’
“WWE should be like ‘hell yeah, these are the guys we want on our team.’ But they use, sometimes they’ll use your love and passion of pro wrestling against you a little bit. It was always kind of weird to me that said ‘you should want a roster of guys who absolutely love professional wrestling and they care about it. And they took it upon themselves to learn the road before they got to WWE.’ So it’s kind of weird to me sometimes, those guys are like ‘eh we don’t want to go with those guys. We want to go with this football player who, this was his second choice. Football was his first love, wrestling is his backup choice.'”
Daivari was released from WWE in June, part of the third wave of cuts WWE has had this year. He was both shocked by the decision due to what he felt was strong work with Tony Nese in 205 Live, and not shocked given the number of releases that had occurred.
“When all the COVID releases happened, and that’s when my brother got released, when I survived that wave I went ‘okay, I think everything is good,”‘ Daivari said. “But my release was actually like the third wave. I think when Samoa Joe and the IIConics got let go, that was weird because I was like ‘Joe’s been on commentary. The IIConics were on WrestleMania.’ So that happened, but I remember thinking ‘so WWE hasn’t done a mass release, other than COVID, hasn’t done random releases in awhile. Maybe that’s it. But then it happened again and Braun Strowman got released. I was like ‘if they fired Braun, no one is safe.’
“So I wasn’t preparing for it, I just thought ‘hey it could be anybody at this point.’ But me and Tony were on every episode of 205 Live when it moved back to the PC. And a producer there, who’s not there anymore, told us ‘when you guys aren’t on the show, the show f*****g falls apart.’ Because there’s a lot of new guys who are still learning TV style and all that stuff. So because we were wrestling so much and we were doing a lot of tag stuff and getting a lot of praise, Shawn Michaels was telling us we were doing a good job, I was like ‘I feel like we shouldn’t get released because we’re doing well. Everything is going fine.’ So it was surprising on that aspect because I thought we were doing good stuff. But letting go Braun and Bray Wyatt and stuff like that? Clearly there’s a changing of the guard in WWE and everything’s changing right now.”
Ultimately Daivari has no complaints, as he was able to achieve his dream of wrestling WWE and move on. Now his focus on making his mark in a wrestling landscape that is so much different than the last time he competed on the independents years ago.
“I’m ready to go,” Daivari said. “One thing I always thought about before I got to WWE, because I was so laser focused on WWE, it never allowed me to focus on anything else. That’s why I say my shoot jobs I had, I was always moving around and this and that cause every job I had I was like ‘I’m not supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be in WWE, I’m supposed to be in wrestling.’ So now I can finally say I went there, I did it, I know what it’s all about. I kind of feel your success is chosen for you there, so you don’t have to harp on that. You kind of just finally move on.
“Luckily my time moving on is when wrestling has blown the f**k up. This company called AEW shows up and just turns the whole wrestling landscape upside down. Things are really changing. It’s awesome. And also, I have so many of my friends that I came up with. I have so many friends in Impact, I have so many friends in AEW, I have so many friends in New Japan. These were guys that maybe didn’t get a shot in WWE, but now they’re thriving in all these different places. MLW, NWA, like it’s awesome to see. So it’s cool that I know that if I go to a different locker room, a ton of my friends are there and this and that. I’m very excited to see what’s coming next.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription