Monday Night Raw superstar Mustafa Ali revealed on the latest edition of Corey Graves’ After the Bell podcast that Daniel Bryan helped make his main roster debut in December of 2018 a memorable one.
As quoted on Thursday by Sportskeeda, Ali recalled the time he was first told that he was moving from 205 Live to the main roster and how he felt pressured because he would be wrestling Bryan, who was then in the middle of his last reign as WWE Champion. Adding to the pressure was the fact that both men would take part in an in-ring promo.
According to Ali, he was informed at first by backstage producer Brian “Road Dogg” James that his appearance would be a “one-time deal” at first. However, he stressed that Bryan was “gracious enough” to help him out and ensure that he “made an impact” in his debut on SmackDown.
“I made the most of that opportunity and that turned into coming back into TV the next week and then being told there that ‘hey, you’re no longer on 205, you’re a full-time member of SmackDown.”
Although Ali enjoyed a good push in his first few months and was even in contention at one point for the WWE Championship, he ran into multiple setbacks when it came to his creative direction.
As reported by Ringside News, the expectation backstage was that Ali would be winning last year’s men’s ladder match at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view before company officials supposedly announced at the last minute that Brock Lesnar — who was making a surprise return — was booked to win, thus giving him a guaranteed world title shot.
Earlier this year, Ali was widely rumored to be the mysterious hacker causing chaos on SmackDown, only for WWE to quietly pull the plug on the storyline. He was then moved to the Raw roster, where he floundered as a mid-card babyface before making a heel turn last month when he revealed himself as the leader of RETRIBUTION.
Recent rumors, however, have suggested that there isn’t much focus or direction with the group’s current booking, especially since they have yet to win a match since debuting as a stable.
Ali isn’t the only superstar who has apparently benefited from Bryan’s presence as a veteran performer and, as of late, creative team member. As noted by The Inquisitr, the longtime blue brand mainstay was reportedly instrumental in convincing company officials to give Lucha House Party, Chad Gable (then known as Shorty G), and Drew Gulak more prominent roles on television.