Mustafa Ali is in the 2019 Royal Rumble match.
It’s the latest career achievement unlocked in a wild past couple months for the Chicago native. Ali’s gone from frequent Cruiserweight title challenger on 205 Live to guy who pinned the WWE champ & almost became #1 contender on SmackDown. There was a little bit of concern when his finisher didn’t go as planned when he used it on Daniel Bryan - including from Mustafa himself, who called the incident “a freak out” - but that seems to have blown over. Probably helps that not only did Ali handle it the right way backstage, but that he has “a strong feeling that he [Bryan] is more involved [in Ali’s promotion] than he’s letting on.”
Those quotes are from another big deal moment for the former Freelance Wrestling champ - his appearance on the latest Talk Is Jericho. Ali also shared with Chris Jericho the most important thing he’s heard lately, some tangible direction from the Chairman himself, Vince McMahon:
“The thing that blew me away was, it’s just the small things, Vince has always been, like, very positive feedback. I actually met with him a few times to kind of like introduce myself and what I represent like... ‘Hey I just want to let you know that this is my background. This is what I think is cool. This is how I think the company can leverage me,’ so - I’ve talked to him before, but this was the first time he gave me very specific direction on how he thought I could make money in WWE.
I came back and he gave me feedback about the promo and this and that and he goes, ‘The one thing I wish you would have changed,’ and he’s like, ‘You’ve got to remember, a guy like you, you’re always, always fighting from under. You have this rare quality to get actual empathy from the crowd. That’s so hard nowadays. Nowadays people are like ‘ah, whatever’. I feel like you have the ability to actually make people go, ‘Man, he’s really taking a beating.’’ He goes, ‘That’s where you’re gonna make your money, because you’re always, always fighting,’ and he’s kind of like pointing at my chest when he’s saying that. He goes, ‘That’s how you’re gonna make your money.’
I was like, ‘Holy crap,’ and it’s crystal clear direction now, you know what I mean? This is what he sees me as, ‘OK, yeah, I can do that boss,’ and he’s like, ‘Alright, good job,’ and that was it. It was very quick, obviously, but that was the most clear, ‘This is what I want from you’ that I’ve gotten. So I was like, ‘OK, that’s what you’re gonna get.’
... We [the cruiserweights]’ve gotten that before. We’d go back, ‘Hey guys, thanks for working hard, appreciate that, thanks,’ and he’s right back to the monitor [laughter]. But this was like stand up, looked me in the eye, ‘This is what I want. This is what I see you as.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got... a direct order. That’s what I’m gonna do.”
Seems like advice Mustafa put right to use in his promo declaring himself for the big match coming up on Jan. 27 in Phoenix:
Do you think Ali can pull off the upset against WWE champs and future Hall of Famers at Chase Field? More importantly, is Vince right? Are you invested in his fight?
BTW - the entire interview on the latest TIJ is worth a listen. Check it out here.