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Mustafa Ali On Original Plans For An Anti-America Gimmick, Who Gave Him A Shot As A Face & More

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Mustafa Ali was a recent guest on “Talk is Jericho”. During the interview, he revealed that the original plan for him was to portray an Anti-American heel, and that it was Road Dogg that gave him the opportunity to shine as a face. He also discussed the challenges that 205Live faces compared to NXT and reflected on advice that Sami Zayn had given him. Here are the highlights:

On How He Avoided An Anti-American Gimmick:

It’s actually Road Dogg that pitched the idea [of being a babyface] because when I started they did want me to be the bad guy. So they had the big Pakistani flag in my entrance and if you put up any flag that’s not the American flag, it’s going to get heat. They weren’t going to push it like he’s a ‘evil foreigner’, but they were pushing the anti-American agenda, but very subtly. So Road Dogg pulls me aside and he goes, ‘you’re right! Why do we have to make you the bad guy? You have this great move set and I think we can mould it to fit the WWE style, but let’s run with you as a baby and see what happens.’ So I was all for it and I fully believed I could do it.

On The Challenges That 205Live Faced:

I felt like the biggest problem was the time slot when 205 [Live] was shot. The second biggest problem was that we’re not only building brand new WWE Superstars, we’re doing a bunch of them all at once and we’re trying to build a brand. It’s one thing… if you want to make Cedric Alexander tonight, what do you do? You have him come out and answer Seth Rollins’ open challenge. And they have a crazy match for 20 minutes and people are invested because they care about Seth and now Cedric shows he can hang with Seth and Cedric is made. But now, Cedric has to go out with me, who they don’t know, and they barely know him, and we’re going out after SmackDown.

On Why Comparisons Between 205Live & NXT Are Unfair:

To me, it’s not a fair comparison at all. 205 [Live] always gets compared to NXT. What’s the difference between NXT and 205? NXT is doing great. NXT has a platform and an established brand that took almost a decade to establish. Like, NXT is not new. It took a very long time. And then they brought in all these international stars to help build this brand. 205 [has] got none of that. Do you know what I mean. It’s all guys from the independent scene. The most well known guy on our roster was Brian Kendrick. Like, obviously, we know how great he is, but he’ll be the first one to tell you he’s not on Seth Rollins’ level of popularity.

On The Cohesiveness Of The 205Live Roster:

We learned very quickly that we’ve got to watch each other’s backs. We’ve got to protect each other. Like, this is the only way it’s going to work. When the match with Bryan happened, yeah, the first thing that happened was I came backstage and they were all standing there and they had watched the entire match and it was like all congrats and I was like, ‘man, I’m getting feedback from Vince [McMahon]. I’m getting feedback from Bryan. Like, AJ [Styles]. I’ve looked up to guys like Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio my entire life and they’re giving me props and [saying] ‘oh man, you belong here’ and stuff. All that meant the world, but to come back and see your brothers in arms that you were in the trenches with, they’re all standing there and they’re all genuinely happy for you. Like, dude, that was heavy. That was a very heavy moment for me. This meant the most. As wild as that night was, that meant the most.

On His Best Match & Advice He Received From Sami Zayn:

I don’t think I’ve had it yet in the sense of what it means to really be a good performer. I’ve had, ‘this [aspect] came off real well’ or ‘the story came off real well’ or ‘this spot came off real well’ or ‘I did really well selling.’ I don’t think I’ve had this match that’s this perfect mixture of both. What people don’t realize here in WWE is, you can go out in any company and you can have these crazy five-star matches and you can do all this stuff and you don’t have chains on you. The trick in WWE is to do it within this confined little box.

You can listen to the full episode of “Talk is Jericho” featuring Mustafa Ali below:

 

Credit: Talk is Jericho. H/T WrestlingInc.

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