Muhammad Hassan

Muhammad Hassan: WWE’s Best Heel Got Fired For MASSIVE Heat, What He Does For Work Now

Marc Copani (@marccopani) is a retired professional wrestler known for his time as Muhammad Hassan in WWE. He joins Chris Van Vliet in Philadelphia, PA to talk about His short but impactful run in WWE, how his character was originally pitched to him, not actually being Arab-American, getting heat from the locker room, always staying in character even outside of the ring, plans for him to beat Batista to become World Champion, being written off of TV following pressure from the network, what he is doing today, working in education, if he still gets recognized, any plans for another match and more!

Quote I’m thinking about: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life” – Muhammad Ali

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On never getting back in the ring:

“I cannot step back I would shatter into a million pieces I think as soon as I took one bump, I threw my back out two weeks ago picking up my nephew. I blew my hamstring racing my daughter on the beach. Like it’s just amazing as you get older, like you just come you just pile up injuries for no good reason. I wish I had a good story for how I threw my back out, like, I mean, I could squat and I could bench and that I’m just getting out of the car and doing this and like boom, gone.” 

On what he is doing now:

“I started as a teacher, then I became an assistant principal, and then I became a principal. And now I am the Director of Human Resources in the city school district.”

On being recognised in school:

“The ones who like wrestling. Yeah, it’s funny because my son’s nine and he’s on a basketball team and his friends are all huge wrestling fans, like I’m signing things for them. Shawn actually got them tickets to the show in Syracuse last week, they had a blast. And my son, you know, he’s into basketball. None of my kids are really into which I’m completely fine with. But it’s funny because he’s at that age now where I started getting into wrestling. And he’s just, you know, not a big fan, I guess.”

On if he still follows wrestling:

“Not really. I know a little bit, I’ll check it out here and there. It’ll pop up on my Instagram feed and watch videos but I don’t really watch the show. Not because I don’t want to, just I really don’t have time. I only tend to get to watch TV in my bed at like 10 o’clock at night.”

On possibly being fired for being too good of a heel:

“Someone had said, too controversial for WWE, which I kind of liked because that is a distinguishment right there. Yeah, it was definitely a controversial character and I feel like I played it pretty well. I was talking about this last night, it was very hard to get into character with Shawn [Daivari] because everywhere we went, we kind of faced that. I mean, it was still pretty fresh after 9/11. We went to the airport and Shawn would always be randomly checked at every single airport. It’d be very annoying because then we’d have to run to our flight. So I kind of use that as my anger, obviously, more things than that. But it was very easy to fall into that character and be able to speak the truth about what I saw, because that was what was happening back then. And again, that character would never fly today. You know, it kind of had to stay in its time and I think it’s kind of cool for me doing something completely different that that character still stays as controversial.”

On how long the character would have lasted:

“It would have been gone I think within a couple of years, the world really started changing and the things that we were doing in wrestling back then would never fly today. That was definitely one of them. So I mean, what if Yeah, I’m happy where I am now. So I never really think of it like that. Now, this is fun. Like, this is extra stuff for me to be able to come and do this and talk to you. You know, it’s not real life for me so I really enjoy it. But I’m happy where I am.” 

On the initial character pitch:

“God, I think Jim [Cornette] and Arn Anderson was there at the time and we really didn’t know what that character was going to be. They pitched the idea and we knew about Shawn. But we weren’t sure other than I was going to be an Arab it was going to generate a lot of heat. He talked to me about travelling with Sheikh back in the day and all the heat that it generated. And are you up for this? And I’d been you don’t say no, I remember talking to Rip Rogers, who was trainer there at the time. I’m like, I’m not ready for this. He’s like, you never know if you’re ready. You had to jump into the fire and see if it burned. But I wasn’t gonna say no and it sounded fascinating. Then Shawn came in and we had great chemistry and it kind of took off. We were at the house shows we first started just trying different things, seeing what the crowd would boo at or if they would even cheer. I don’t think we really had a decision made until after the second or third vignette that we filmed in Connecticut before I debuted about what that character was going to be. People are going to cheer him because I am kind of telling the truth. We could have an ethnic demographic that might cheer that character on. But I think the way that I interrupted and the way that character was presented once I got on TV, and after those vignettes became more and more aggressive. I mean, it was obvious that they were going to boo but we kind of film those in order waiting to see the reaction.”

On not being Arab-American:

“I am not. I am 100% Sicilian. And Shawn is not Arab, either. He’s, he’s Iranian. He’s Persian. So again, you know, like, I still hear about that like that. I played an Arab character. It’s like, it’s all phoney, man, it’s this character on TV. It’s the same thing. But with Shawn speaking Farsi, it really tied the whole thing together. And that’s what really started generating a lot of heat.”

On the timing of the character:

“It was a very different time in this country. And it was obviously not a great time to be Arab in this country, so that character really did speak the truth. I do hear from people who are Arab or Middle Eastern quite frequently about how they identified as that character, with that character and how important it was to them, which is really cool to hear that you actually could have an impact like that on someone’s life playing a character. But it wasn’t just an Italian playing the character that was important. It was what that character was saying and what he stood for and really, the hypocrisy that that character was up against in the WWE was really what shone through on that character.”

On picking up momentum:

“It picked up momentum right after the debut. Then I think what really put that character on the map was working with Shawn Michaels. I had done some smaller angles, but working with Shawn and then eventually Hulk Hogan. I think that was kind of where I felt that that character is at the top of its game, in the ring with someone like Shawn Michaels every night you really can’t look bad. So yeah, definitely right around then, and then it kind of ebbed and flowed a little bit up until the end.”

On jealousy from the locker room:

“I think there was, especially when I first got there, and nobody knew me, I felt like a lot more heat. Coming in and getting a push to the moon, it doesn’t upset the top guys, it does upset some of the mid-card guys, because they look at it as that’s the response, the top guys will tell you, if that was your spot, you would have taken it, that did. So all the top guys treated me really well and most of the middle card guys did too. But you know that there’s just heat coming in and being new and back then it was a different locker room. You know, there wasn’t a lot of rules. But I definitely had some heat during my career in the WWE.”

On being told the character can’t be on TV anymore:

“So I remember when we didn’t know where we were gonna go with it. I remember when they were getting a lot of pressure, the character was gonna change or come off TV. I remember talking to Johnny Ace, who was head of talent relations at the time, and I was like any idea what’s going on? And I said something like I’m about to buy a house and he’s like, don’t buy the house. That’s when I knew I was like okay, and I didn’t know what’s gonna happen after that. But after that, it was pretty quick. We couldn’t be on TV anymore. We did the pay-per-view with Undertaker and Buffalo and that was it. They wouldn’t even put the character back on TV in any capacity.”

On this being a Vince McMahon idea:

“I was told later that it was Vince’s baby, that whole idea of bringing back an Arab character was Vince’s idea and he was very, you know, big on the idea. So I think that’s obviously why we got that big push.”

On the rumoured World Championship reign:

“I know I heard that and I don’t know where it originally came from. But I was supposed to, as far as I know, beat the Undertaker, obviously with a lot of help and then wrestle Batista at WrestleMania in Washington, DC. Dave was announced as being from, he is from Washington, DC. So it was kind of like, the era of beats the hometown boy in the nation’s capital was supposed to be the story.”

On not wanting to stay in wrestling:

“It took me a while to really figure it out. I think I was a little depressed. I was definitely heartbroken, turned off. The constant travelling in the spotlight, it was fun while it lasted, but it wasn’t for me. It took me a while to figure out that I just didn’t want to get back in there because it really was a huge, heartbreaking moment for me. You work so hard, you spend so much time just training and preparing, and then it’s all taken away kind of for no reason. I didn’t do anything, I didn’t bomb anyplace. I understand why the character is taking off to me it absolutely had to be but I think that was the heartbreak for me is that I was just out there doing the best that I could and it kind of just was pulled out the rug was pulled out from under me.”

On falling out of love with wrestling:

“It took a long time. I would not face it for a long time and that’s why I never did a lot of signings or appearances, or when anywhere else, it was almost like I was trying to avoid the reality of what had happened to me and as that character. But now, years later, like I look back and I think it was a cool trip. Sometimes because of it, my kids think I’m cool. That’s awesome. I’ll take it when I can get it.”

On having a return match in 2018:

“It’s funny, I was just there to sign and you always bring your gear with you. So I was going to do a signing and the guy was like, Do you want a wrestling match? I was like yeah, I guess I do. There was no big story, and it just kind of like what you’re here do you want to wrestle and I was like yeah, why not? So I put my stuff on got the ring, messed around a little bit and then ended up just wrestling a match for like 10 to 15 minutes was a lot of fun. And then I did like one or two more. It’s kind of like I just want to see if I could do it again. It had been so long and I really enjoyed the the wrestling aspect of being a wrestler being in the ring and working with somebody in the ring. So I just did it there was there was not a lot of thought put into it, man, it was spontaneous.”

Was there any plans of turning that into another run?

“Absolutely not. I don’t want to travel, I don’t want to put my body through [that]. It’s been rough enough as it is getting old. Like I said, Absolutely not never, I just wanted to have a couple of matches. There are small local shows and local promoters, nice guys. So it was just something to do. I did I think two or three matches, and that was it. I’ll never do it again.”

What is Muhammad Hassan grateful for?

“My family, my wife and to have the opportunity to work in education.”

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