Blurring the Lines: WWE Can Use Recent Rumors to Create a Fan-Favorite Underdog

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2022


Oftentimes, WWE is at its absolute best when forced to blur the lines between real and fake, preferably with its back up against a wall, too. 

Which makes the Mustafa Ali situation very interesting. 

For those out of the loop, Ali recently seemed like the latest big-name Superstar about to leave WWE. He requested his release, then Fightful Select reported (h/t Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats) that a fight between him and Vince McMahon played a role in that. Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp later reported that WWE won't grant Ali his release. 

This is the first Ali has really surfaced at all in the WWE landscape recently, as he last appeared in a loss to Drew McIntyre on SmackDown on Oct. 29

Interestingly, Ali worked a promo there about how fans booed him because of his name and appeared headed for a notable storyline. Instead, he up and disappeared from programming and hasn't really been seen since. This was notable because prior to this potential big storyline, Ali last had a major attempted push in the flop of a Retribution stable. 

But the fact WWE hasn't granted Ali's release is pretty interesting. The company has been pretty open-minded when it comes to releasing requests in modern times, and indeed, it has cut 80-plus people over the last few months. It's either ridiculously petty of the company to deny the release, or a sign they still love what he can do. 

For Ali's sake—and that of fans everywhere—here's to hoping it's the latter. 

The recent unfolding events around Ali is a layup of sorts. Here's a chance for WWE to throw Ali into a major program where he plays the underdog, one given the green light to reference his release request, his spat with Vince and the fact he now wants to stick it to them in CM Punk-esque fashion by gunning for their top titles. 

Fantasy booking, or something that could unfold? It's hard to say with WWE, but we know Ali can work a mean mic promo, and he's fun to watch in the ring. The company is terrible at building main-event babyface stars (how's that Big E push going?), so leveraging this real-life situation into something that benefits both parties and fans would be brilliant. The historic "Yes Movement" started with a small, similar-feeling push and ballooned into something that overrode intended WrestleMania plans. 

This wouldn't necessarily have to be a main-event thing, either, though it sure wouldn't hurt. While Roman Reigns is top dog for the next year or so still on SmackDown, the Raw scene is wide open after real-life adjustments turned out great—Reigns pulled out of an event, which left Brock Lesnar to go win Raw's top title.

Imagine, for a moment, Ali overcoming Lesnar after an underdog build. If there's one thing WWE fans love, especially online, it's critiquing the product. Add the real human rooting factor that is a big-bad employer taking advantage of an employee and it has all the makings of something pretty much everyone can get behind. 

Mustafa Ali / Adeel Alam @AliWWE


Rolling this out would silence hardcore fans and folks who don't like WWE at all, at least a bit. Ali's a guy with near-unlimited potential, was originally brought on to help promote the emphasis on cruiserweights, then finally blossomed into a main-event star after a public sparring session with the company. 

It's an especially interesting time for WWE to make it happen, too, what with an event in Saudia Arabia, the Royal Rumble and Mania itself coming up. That's more than enough ammunition for WWE to make a bonafide international Superstar out of an up-and-coming player. If the plan is to get the Raw title off Lesnar so that Lesnar-Reigns is back on track for Mania, Ali in an underdog babyface role against, say, a Bobby Lashley, Seth Rollins or somebody else could work. 

Ali has to want to do this, of course. But if WWE's really not letting him out, there's an opportunity for both parties to reap the benefits. And with the presence of All Elite Wrestling, that applies even moreso for Ali, who could then play the open market. 

Maybe this is all just wishful thinking. WWE has a habit of blowing wide-open layups. But through an organic back and forth between the company and an underutilized Superstar, there's quite a bit of potential here. 

Ali as the fan-favorite underdog was always a possibility given his charisma and approach to storytelling. But now that real life has had its say, too, some simple creativity would give fans something fresh and exciting to look forward to this Mania season.