In a recent interview with Metro, Mustafa Ali recalled the time he walked into Vince McMahon’s office and asked the WWE boss what he was missing, and why he couldn’t get on WWE TV.
“Even pre-pandemic, I was struggling to maintain television presence – and I know it was all character based,” Ali said. “When you pitch a million and one ideas as far as stories, characters, promos, this and that – and you always get told that you’re good, but then nothing happens – you start pointing the finger at everybody except for you.
“After sitting at home for seven months and then finally coming back to Monday Night Raw, only to pick up a few victories and then to go back to not being on Monday Night Raw and now being stuck on Main Event, you’re kinda scratching your head.
“Like, what have I gotta do? And then you realize, you’ve gotta go ask the hard questions. I went up to Vince McMahon himself and said, ‘What am I missing?’ [He said], ‘Too polished, too clean, too nice, I don’t now if you have it in you!'”
For many WWE Superstars, McMahon’s words could have been disheartening to hear, but they lit a fire under Ali, who urged his boss to leave him on Main Event and let him “slowly turn heel” through his matches.
“I’ll still be presented as a babyface, I’ll still come out with the same look, I’ll still shake the guy’s hand at the end of the matches,” Ali said in his pitch to McMahon. “But there’s a moment in the match where I’ve just had enough. And I did it! If you go back and watch these Main Event matches before I was revealed as the leader of RETRIBUTION, those were actually me auditioning to turn heel.”
Soon enough, Ali began cutting promos in McMahon’s office to show his boss he’s more than just a clean-cut performer. These promos led to Ali being revealed as the leader of RETRIBUTION.
“Once he was satisfied with those [matches], I stared cutting promos for him,” Ali recalled. “I would go into his office, I would cut a promo on him, this and that. I didn’t know, because I’d never asked – I didn’t say, ‘Hey I wanna be with RETRIBUTION.’ I was just auditioning for my own thing. The day of the reveal is when I found out.
“I was thinking about going this way, but they went this way. At the end of the day, it was an opportunity to be on TV on Monday Night Raw weekly for multiple segments. That’s leaps and bounds from what I was doing the year prior.”
Ali will face Mansoor Thursday at the Crown Jewel pay-per-view. Both Superstars will be switching brands to SmackDown starting next week.