The Warrior Prince: The Rise of Mustafa Ali

The wrestling community is still talking about the main event of this week’s episode of 205 LiveWWE’s main roster Cruiserweight Division specific program, which featured a brutal match between WWE Superstars Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy. And brutal in the hellacious term, not that it was terrible. It was anything but that.

And while not to discredit former NXT Tag Team Champion Buddy Murphy – his redemption story on 205 Live has been nothing short of spectacular – this has been the coming out story for Mustafa Ali. While those that have followed him since his indie days in Chicago or his Cruiserweight Classic debut or being part the 205 Live First Class may have felt it, it feels like Mustafa Ali is on the verge of becoming one of WWE’s next great stars. He may still be some time before he shows up on Raw or Smackdown LiveAli is the first 205 Live grown wrestler to suddenly jet into the next level. He would fit in fine on Monday Nights in matches against Seth Rollins or Finn Balor, and if he went blue, he could do some great things with Andrade “Cien” AlmasDaniel Bryan or even the Champ That Runs The Camp, AJ Styles.

Photo: WWE

But Mustafa Ali is still best suited to become the face of 205 Live. He’s become the Johnny Gargano of NXT, that unbridled warrior spirit that has been told they’d never amount to much, who just bulldogged their way to victory, at any cost to their body or career. As long as their character wasn’t lost. He is becoming the first true 205 Live star that people are starting to talk about or tune in to see (not including Neville or Enzo Amore, as they were brought to 205 Live rather than homegrown with the roster). And this feud with Murphy – which has given Murphy more credibility in his character than any point in their WWE career so far – is sure to wind down very soon. There’s plenty of time to relish in more potential feuds with the likes of Lio Rush, Drew GulakTony Nese or KENTA himself, Hideo Itami. While you’re at it, have him stop by an NXT UK taping on the next European tour and let him do an exhibition match against Travis BanksEl Ligero or “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne.

Mustafa Ali has been wrestling for 11 years, the last three as part of the WWE Universe in some capacity. Although known for his work with the Chicago indie scene in the early 2010s, he actually started off in the Wisconsin indies prior to that as well as a couple years with IWA Mid South. In 2009, he started up a regular relationship with DREAMWAVE in Chicago that lasted until he left for the WWE in 2016.

While in Chicago, he also worked regularly for GALLI Lucha Libre, Chicago Style Wrestling (CSW), All-American Wrestling (AAW) and Freelance Wrestling. He worked very regionally (although he worked for WrestleCircus in Texas before he went to Stamford), but he developed a stunning work ethic and spit polished his craft to a graceful art.

He was announced as one of the 16 participants in the 2016 WWE Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) and at the time, was one of the least recognizable names on the list to anyone not from the Midwest wrestling circuit. But he turned into a diamond in the rough, a hidden gem, who who shine through the adversity of an internet panned program and continued to get better each and every week, no matter the opponent or situation. For his first round match up in the CWC, he was paired up with a familiar foe, in Lince Dorado.

Interestingly, Ali became one of the few wrestlers who came to the WWE from the indies and was given a less stereotypical gimmick than what he came from. On the indies, he was Prince Mustafa Ali, and his entrance music and presentation was more of a tolken Middle East foreigner character. But in the WWE, while still passionate of his culture and nationality, he’s become just an Everyman. An Everyman who just happens to be Muslim and from Pakistan. It’s not drilled into your head, it’s not done in poor taste, it’s just a part of who he is as a human. The same way that Daniel Bryan is proud of his family, or the Hulkster likes saying his prayers.

Photo: WWE

While Mustafa Ali made history in 2016, being the first Pakistani wrestler to ever sign with the WWE, Ali looks past that. In an interview with Al-Jazeera this past spring, Ali addressed his approach to this persona on television. “My vision is a lot bigger than being the first wrestler of a background to do something,” he told Al Jazeera. “Someone with my name and my appearance comes with preconceived ideas attached.

“My mission is to erase as many preconceived ideas, barriers and stereotypes as I can.”
Ali was a teenager in Chicago when the 9/11 attacks happened, a moment that triggered widespread hostility towards Muslims in the US.”

While his matches in the CWC and on the early part of 205 Live were great showings, it wasn’t until his homecoming to Chicago, when he gave an impassioned speech about who he was, that fans began to see the man behind the aerial moves. He began to showcase with more confidence, with matches against the likes of Neville and Tony Nese.

A huge turning point was when he began a feud with his occasional tag team partner Cedric Alexander, that turned into the story of the Cruiserweight Championship tournament, culiminating in a match up at this year’s WrestleMania. Alexander may have walked away with the title that night (and deservedly so), but Mustafa Ali walked away with a purpose.

Enter Buddy Murphy. Mustafa Ali first met Murphy in the Cruiserweight tournament, with Ali defeating the returning from exile Murphy.

Once Ali’s run with Alexander came to an end, the dejected and defeated Murphy returned to settle the score.

The feud hit a crescendo this Tuesday night, when the two main evented the show again, this time in a No Disqualification Match. What came out of it, set the Twitterverse on fire.

With both stars cemented as Superstars, Ali is poised for greatness in the ring. But it’s not just his role as a wrestler than has proved so inspirational.

It’s his humanity.

Mustafa Ali is an avid Twitterer and his interaction with his fans goes beyond the occasional “like” or retweet. Several stories in the past year have proven that Mustafa Ali’s determination to live a normal life, through adversity of preconception, and be the best human he can be, has inspired others to find focus in life, when once there was none.

A few weeks back, Ryan Satin at Pro Wrestling Sheet covered a story of a fan named Michael Greene, who had been battling mental illness and was considering to turning to suicide. A friend of Greene’s had reached out to Ali, who posted this video on his Twitter wall this past May.

A quick look at his wall and you see he offers hope, inspiration or even a few words of love to his many fans who have ailments, setbacks or illnesses that may be bringing them down.

And see the kind of inspiration his fans have drawn from his story.

And he even deals with his “naysayers” with the grace of a Jedi.

At the end of the day, Mustafa Ali walks through one of the most feared ethnicities in America right now with the smile of an ignorant man. But he is far from ignorant. He’s empowering and encouraging, a man who looks to look hatred in the eyes and march through it with both arms open – to either hug or fight – and find himself a part of the American Dream. WWE has found their next big star, but please Vincent Kennedy McMahon, don’t take him from 205 Live…yet.

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