We heard plenty of rumors about what led to Mustafa Ali publicly asking for his WWE release, and how the company handled that while a #FreeAli movement simmered online. Neither he or his employers had really spoken directly about it until Mustafa’s appearance on this week’s After The Bell with Corey Graves. And since that’s a WWE-produced podcast, I guess it kind of counts as both of them addressing the situation.
Here’s what he said:
“I believe private conversations are meant to be private. The reason it went public is because that private conversation went nowhere. Anyone that truly knows me, I know there is a portion of the audience that was like, ‘how unprofessional.’ Anyone that has ever worked with me, dealt with me as a human, knows how much I love this place, how much I love sports entertainment, how much I love wrestling. This is the only thing I want to do. For me to even get to that point, that’s the issue.
“Everyone is judging the action, they are not judging the intention behind the action. Imagine how much it would take for me to try and leave. That’s the conversation and the hot topic. There are situations that I can’t publicly discuss, but that’s what I want to say about the whole issue. The only reason it got to that point is because there was no other option. it’s incredible the things you’ll do when your back is against the wall and you’re fighting for survival. I wouldn’t have done something unless I believe in it. I still stand by the choice I made. I did what I had to do.
“For those that don’t know, I went on a little sabbatical. Always flip it, try to look at the positive things. It wasn’t intentional, but one huge positive was, my youngest daughter was born in November and I got to be home for the full process. My other two kids, I was there, but not there every day and because I was doing tours. It wasn’t the intention, but I was there for the whole thing.”
What brought him back, and what’s different now? Details seem to fall under “keeping private conversations private” policy, but what Ali does say is a version of what we’ve heard from others about existing in the WWE system — do the best you can with what you’re given, and don’t take it personally:
“There wasn’t an ‘aha moment.’ The reality of it is, I realized that my problem was that I care too much. I’m this super passionate guy. I was giving one of the commentators details about what the story was and what I was trying to go for, it was Kevin Patrick, and he said he asked you [Graves] about me and Corey said, ‘The one thing about Ali is that he sees it all. So if he’s telling you something, he’s thought about it.’
“The ‘aha moment’ was, you have to control your passion. I’m a really passionate guy when it comes to this. It’s not just about me. I’m the guy that goes, ‘We can make this guy look even bigger if we shot it this way and then he looks great.’ I’m the mad scientist sometimes and the majority of guys I get to perform with are like, ‘What are we doing?’ That’s the trust level I have with performers and producers. When you have this super passionate guy that feels like he’s running into wall after wall, the sound reality is, I just control my passion now. I’m doing the job to the best of my ability and then some, but just caring too much about how it should be, at least in my mind.”
Don’t care too much is a hell of a mantra, but if that’s what it takes to keep Ali from having to sit out the prime of his career... you gotta do what you gotta do.
Check out the rest of Ali’s visit to After The Bell here.