liam thomson poses with the sink ahead of the One Fall Sessions

WHAT IF: The Muhammed Hassan character wasn’t killed off?

There have been a number of controversial figures in the wrestling world.  These can sometimes be real people in management as well as characters that have been portrayed by the wrestlers themselves.  One of those characters, who was undoubtedly one of the most controversial in the last 20 years is Muhammed Hassan.

The Muhammed Hassan character (as well as his manager, Daivairi) was a gimmick that was about an Arab-American who was sick of all the prejudice, racism and stereotyping he received from American citizens, especially since after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  His initial promos consisted of him and Daivari expressing their hatred towards American citizens and how Arabs were negatively portrayed in the media. After a number of dark matches at the end of 2004, he made his TV debut during a promo with Mick Foley.  Shortly afterwards, he had a short feud with Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler which culminated in Hassan defeating Lawler in his first televised match at New Year’s Revolution 2005.

Since then, Hassan became, arguably, one of the most hated characters in WWE history, but at the same time, was given a major push seeing as he was such a huge draw as a heel character.  He went on to have some very high profile matches against legends such as Sgt. Slaughter, Chris Jericho and (dare I say it…) Chris Benoit.  His most notable match of his tenure though was when he and Daivari teamed to face Shawn Michaels and the returning Hulk Hogan in a losing effort at the Backlash pay-per-view.

hassan and daivari - WHAT IF: The Muhammed Hassan character wasn't killed off?

Following his feud with Hogan and HBK and a beatdown by Batista the following night, Hassan continued to use his intimidation tactics to force then-GM, Eric Bischoff, to give him an Intercontinental title match against Shelton Benjamin.  He almost won the match, but Benjamin’s rope-break halfway through the match caused the decision to be reversed and Benjamin retained after the match was restarted.  Hassan saw this as an act of prejudice on the referee’s part and this only added fuel to Hassan’s heel persona.

His last major feud and most controversial moment came after he was drafted to Smackdown in June 2005, when he faced the Undertaker in a #1 contender’s feud.  On 4th July 2005, in a match that featured Undertaker and Daivari, Hassan prayed on the ramp of the stage and summoned a group of masked men, dressed in masks and camo pants, who beat down the Undertaker with clubs and piano wire.  The men subsequently carried Daivari away from the ring after he was defeated by Undertaker.  The 7/7 London bombings occurred in the same week as Smackdown was supposed to be aired.  Subsequently, that particular segment was aired in the USA and Canada with a discretion warning to viewers, but was removed from Australian and European broadcasts due to its controversial ‘terrorist’ nature.

The angle provoked national attention in major US media outlets. In response to the criticism, UPN decided that it would monitor the storyline closely and that it did not want the Hassan character on its network that week.  In response, Hassan cut a promo in which he reiterates that he is an Arab-American and that the American people automatically and unfairly assume that he is a terrorist. Despite being in character, he referred to the real-world media coverage of the storyline, singling out comments made by Don Kaplan that the masked men were ‘Arabs in ski masks’.  A very stereotypical comment in my opinion as we never found out the identity or race of the masked men.

Eventually, due to increasing pressure from the general pubic and UPN, WWE was forced to remove the Hassan character from their programming, writing off Hassan’s character at the Great American Bash by having Undertaker Last Ride him through the stage and “injuring” him.  The following Smackdown aired a promo by Teddy Long saying that Hassan would no longer appear on Smackdown and thus the character was killed off completely.  This caused a huge uproar with the fans as they felt he was the top heel character in the company and was a massive draw for TV shows and PPVs.

Muhammed Hassan was pushed to the moon and back with how much he was over with the fans as a heel character.  Over his 6 month stint, he faced legends, was briefly undefeated and even got a few title matches as well against Shelton Benjamin and John Cena.

I think the most revealing aspect of his character was that it showed the level of xenophobia and prejudice in the media towards people of different races, particularly Arabs and Muslims.  That’s what I liked about Hassan. He showed us that we all, at one point or another, tend to stereotype people of different races, just because the media tells us so. And he did it in such a polarizing way, that it made him extremely over as a heel.

I reckon if the media were not so xenophobic about the Hassan character and if the 7/7 terrorist attacks hadn’t occurred in the same week, he might have stuck around a bit longer.  Rumors were flying around that he was supposedly booked to defeat the Undertaker at the Bash and subsequently win the World Title further down the line, becoming the youngest ever champion at just 23 years old.  It’s hard to tell where his character would have gone afterwards.  I doubt a face turn would have been likely, but I think he could have a brilliant run as World Champion and be portrayed as the ultimate heel character.  Given his age at the time, could he have stuck around for over 10 years? Could he have been the most hated character of all time? Would he have gone down in history as a Hall of Fame caliber wrestler? (Much like the Iron Shiek or Nikolai Volkoff?) Unfortunately, the real world’s prejudice, media bias and unfortunate terrorist attacks forced WWE’s hand to scrap the Hassan character before it had a chance to get started.  It’s a harsh dose of reality at it’s best…

Funnily enough, Mark Copani, the wrestler who portrayed Muhammad Hassan was Italian-American, not Arab-American.  So it goes to show that he wasn’t just a talented wrestler but a great performer as well.  Makes you wonder how the general audience would have responded had more of them knew about the man behind the character!

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *