by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Prince Mustafa Ali is a wrestler who has worked to evolve his character in recent years from a standard Arabian heel to an American of Middle Eastern heritage with logical complaints. Although he is still in his 20s Ali has worked for a slew of promotions and recently completed a three day tryout for WWE. Some notable companies he has wrestled for include IWA: Mid-South, JAPW and Dreamwave Wrestling. In IWA: Mid-South he has participated in the Ted Petty Invitational and in JAPW, Ali held the JAPW Light Heavyweight Championship. He now runs the Vanguard Wrestling Academy and can be e-mailed about it at email@example.com. He can be followed on Twitter @princealitruth. This interview was completed on July 8, 2013. In this interview Ali and I focus on the topic of having an Arabian heel gimmick on today’s wrestling scene.
Daniel Johnson: As a performer how would you describe yourself in a nutshell for those unfamiliar with you?
Prince Mustafa Ali: In a nutshell I feel I’m one of the few most well rounded wrestlers. I can brawl, fly, have a technical wrestling match or even go hardcore. As far as character, in a nutshell I am an American born Muslim that has faced an incredible amount of discrimination my whole life.
Daniel Johnson: Given the range of your style I was curious who the very first wrestler was to get you interested in professional wrestling?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Two guys hooked me. One was Bret Hart. I love his ability to tell a story. You were sucked into his matches every time. I loved his ability to make the whole room care for him. The other was “Macho Man” Randy Savage. To me he was such an innovator of his time. Hands down, one of the most exciting performers of all time.
Daniel Johnson: You mentioned two wrestlers who were both fairly well featured in the WWF during the 1980s. The Iron Sheik was also around during this time. Was he your first experience with an Arabian heel gimmick? If not then who was? Also, regardless of who it was what was your first impression?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I remember Iron Sheik, but for some reason I never associated myself with him. I was like all the other kids. Rooting for ‘Murcia. He was the evil bad guy. I was born here so I was USA all the way. It wasn’t until I got older did I realize race played such an important role.
Daniel Johnson: How would you say your views on Arabian heels changed over the years and when did you first realize the race factor?
Prince Mustafa Ali: 9/11. That changed everything for me. I was 15 years old I think at the time and that’s when I remember having to defend my race and religion constantly. The Arabian heel character works. I’ll never knock it because it works. Its definitely not something I wish to do anymore. I just felt like I was reinforcing a negative stereotype to people. Especially kids. That’s why I evolved my character into what I truly am, an American. An American that isn’t accepted as an American.
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of non-wrestling related, but have you ever been to the Middle East? If so what were your impressions of where you went? If not then do you ever plan to go?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I have not been to the Middle East. I do have some people I am close to that reside there. So I’m well informed of what goes down there. I do plan on visiting soon. Every Muslim must perform Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Daniel Johnson: Have you ever looked into the wrestling scene there? I heard at least one country, Kuwait, has banned it, but some countries like the United Arab Emirates have their own wrestling scene. Would you ever be interested in performing in one of those countries or elsewhere outside of the United States?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I think anyone that does this would jump at that opportunity.
Daniel Johnson: How did you go about developing your character and what did you do to make it stand out from other Arabian heel gimmicks before you evolved the character?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I just wanted to be different and real. I did that old “foreign land terrorist” character for years and it was almost too easy. I wasn’t excited about the character anymore. I could literally say anything I wanted to and people would boo it. Like, “I love America!” Boo! So I thought to myself, “Why not make it real? Why not bring my real life problems and beliefs to the ring? And boom: the new Ali was born. I shouldn’t use the word boom though. Government might have a problem with that.
Daniel Johnson: I’ve heard variations of the saying, “The best characters in wrestling are people who play themselves with the volume turned way up” many, many times. Do you feel this is true and does it apply to your current character?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Definitely. Its so much easier for people to connect with something real rather than something that is forced. Its easier for everyone, the performer and the audience to get lost in the story
Daniel Johnson: What is your exact ethnicity and what if any knowledge of your ethnicity did you use to make your character more genuine?
Prince Mustafa Ali: You tell me. If you’re in the audience do you really believe that I’m some rich evil prince from Saudi Arabia that came to your high school gym to wrestle? My dad is from Pakistan and my mom is from India.
Daniel Johnson: Did you draw inspiration from any past characters in developing your current persona? if so who?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Nope. This is just me.
Daniel Johnson: Given that your gimmick has evolved what changes have you noticed in crowd reactions, if any?
Prince Mustafa Ali: The crowd I feel is more upset. Its okay to them that someone from a far off land hates America. But they’re so much more offended when an American speaks up against their country. How dare they. The typical response is, “Well you’re not a real American.” The problem is, I am. I was born and raised right here. And speaking up for the truth is the most American thing I can do.
Daniel Johnson: What was the most hostile crowd reaction you have ever received? Has it ever gotten scary?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Countless, man. People jumping the rail, waiting for me in the parking lot after the show. Everyone acts like a tough guy. But the majority of the time nothing happens. One time against WWE’s Seth Rollins I got attacked by army reserve officers. That got a little scary, but I was able to defend myself.
Daniel Johnson: Likewise are there any areas where you just know you are going to get a reaction. If so where? Do you ever have to tone it down just for your own safety?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I don’t assume anymore. I’ve had people flip out that I never thought would and then I’ve had people from the rural South agreeing with me. So I honestly never know who is going to react more extremely. I play it by ear. If I feel like there’s going to be some serious problems, I’ll tone it down. Just a bit.
Daniel Johnson: The original Sheik, Ed Farhat grew more and more hated the longer he held the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship. Even though both you and your character are American is this something you ever thought about doing in the past or would like to do in the future, holding an American championship to get even more of a reaction? Or are the reactions you already get worrisome enough?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I think I’m doing the exact same thing he did in the sense that he had something that they didn’t want him to have and I am something that they don’t want me to be. I let every single person know that I am American , more American than they are. I even come to the ring with an American flag sometimes. The amount of people that want to snatch it from me and yell, “You don’t deserve to carry that flag” is incredible.
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of a random question, but what is your opinion of Muhammad Hassan and how he was used by WWE?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Picture perfect. I was so upset that they pulled him off of TV. To me he was always spot on with his promos.
Daniel Johnson: Likewise, Shawn Daivari seemed to be distanced from his past with Hassan later in his WWE run. Hassan was rarely if ever brought up when talking about Daivari after he left. Likewise, Daivari seemed to revert back to an Arabian heel rather than playing up any of his American roots. What do you think of this occurrence and do you think Daivari could have gone further if he was promoted differently?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I can’t comment on that. What happens up there is what the writers want to happen.
Daniel Johnson: No problem, getting back to your career, race and ethnic issues can often be touchy subjects. Has there ever been a time when you think you went too far either in your earlier career or more recently? Or are you careful not to cross some lines?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Yeah. There was definitely some tacky moments from me previously. I remember being talked into dragging the American flag on the floor. That definitely crossed the line with quite a few people. That’s something I wouldn’t do again. Its cheap heat.
Daniel Johnson: You mentioned earlier how tired you were playing an Arabian heel. Despite this are there any wrestlers who have played these characters you have yet to work with that you would like to. Either as partners or opponents?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Arya Daivari is someone I’d like to work both with and against. He does that character perfectly and is known to be a workhorse in the ring.
Daniel Johnson: Is this something you could see happening in the near future? Is there any particular promotion you would like to work with him in?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I definitely think this is something that’s bound to happen. He’s a regular at Dreamwave Wrestling in LaSalle, Illinois and I am also a regular there. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we ended up teaming up sometime in the future. I’m sure they’ll come up with some racist tag team name like “7-11” or the “Bomb Squad.”
Daniel Johnson: Have you wrestled abroad at all? If so how do you have to adapt your character oversees?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I’ve had the pleasure of working in Canada, but any other opportunities that came up to work overseas were nixed due to situations out of my control. For example, I was suppose to work in Mexico, but the whole swine flu epidemic broke out. Since then I’ve had some offers, but there wasn’t too much financial motivation for me to pick up and go. I’m all about exposure and getting your name out there, but I’m not doing it where I lose money. Too many guys now are allowing promoters to take advantage of their “passion.” I’ve heard of guys flying themselves to Japan to work. You ask me to fly myself somewhere, I’ll ask you to kiss my ass.
Daniel Johnson: What advice would you give to any young wrestlers interested in portraying an Arabian heel?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Find a way to make it your own. Any guy can throw a scarf on his head and start yelling nonsensical and incoherent things. Find a way to make this character your own. Evolve with it. Honestly, it’ll get boring after a while. That’s what happened to me. But then again, I don’t really care what you do because you’re an Arabian and I don’t like your kind of people in my country.
Daniel Johnson: Getting into some more general questions about your career what do you consider your most significant accomplishment to be in wrestling so far?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I think I reached the highest accolade I possibly could recently actually. I was invited down for a three day tryout on the road with WWE a few weeks ago. I got to perform in front of William Regal and was able to show him what I am capable of doing in the ring and on the mic. The feedback I got was surreal. In a nutshell, he told me that my in-ring work was tremendous, my mic work was incredible and that I deserve to be here. Hearing that from a guy like Regal, nothing tops that. Cloud nine.
Daniel Johnson: One of the most prestigious titles you have held, if not the most prestigious, has been the JAPW Light Heavyweight Championship. What
was the experience like of winning the championship?
Prince Mustafa Ali: At that time period I had a lot of buzz going around. I was “a rising star” on the scene and I felt like I needed something to solidify that. Winning the JAPW Light Heavyweight Championship definitely helped with cementing my spot as one of the top lightweights in the game. I was extremely honored to win it. Look at the list of guys that held that title. No really, go look at the list. Ignore all the other names and find my name. It looks great there, doesn’t it?
Daniel Johnson: You held the JAPW Light Heavyweight Championship for two shows before losing it in a match with Flip Kendrick. Despite this you still held the title for 63 days. What was your favorite part about that time and about being champion?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I didn’t have a favorite part. The title reign was cut short because of a silly reason in my opinion. In all honesty, everyone lost on that one. Flip had a good following and the crowd wanted him to be the champ. They wanted the chase. So instead of getting a couple months out of Flip chasing me for the belt, they just gave it to him. It is not sour grapes on my part. I just knew it was bad business.
Daniel Johnson: JAPW has not held a show since March, 2011. However, there has been some rumbling of the company having a show to relaunch the company. Would you be interested in working for JAPW?
Prince Mustafa Ali: JAPW was a lot of fun and it’s a place where I got to work a lot of talent that I would never have crossed paths with down in the Midwest. I got to work with guys like Amazing Red, Human Tornado, Adam Cole and Bandido Jr. If JAPW was coming back, I’d definitely hope to come down and perform for them again. But not if they make me work Bandido Jr. again. I hate that guy.
Daniel Johnson: Another popular promotion you have worked for is CHIKARA. Is there any one memory you have of your time in the company that stands out the most?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I won’t comment on anything related to CHIKARA. Only worked for them once so I don’t have any real insight on them.
Daniel Johnson: Just about every wrestler wants to someday make it to WWE or to a lesser extent TNA. Is this a long-term goal for you as well? Which do you think you would fit in better and why?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I think the only goal is WWE. If you want to do this, you want to be the best and work for the best. The best is WWE. It was, at one time, a long-term goal of mine. Now, it’s something that I’ll address if the opportunity ever arises. Right now I’m in the middle of a juggling act. You see if you only have one goal, one talent, one mission in life then you’re only juggling that one ball. You can throw that ball very, very high because all you are concentrated on is that one ball. Now, when you try to incorporate more things into your life like having a wife, starting a family, having a steady income, you’re adding more balls to your juggling act. Instead of concentrating on that one ball, now you’re juggling four balls at the same time. Now it’s extremely difficult to throw that ball up high because you’re also concentrated on the other balls. Hope that makes sense. I mentioned balls a lot. Weird.
Daniel Johnson: Outside of wrestling what television shows do you like watching?
Prince Mustafa Ali: The usual list: The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad. I’m a huge fan of The Newsroom as well.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite motion picture that came out this year?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Doesn’t exist. If it’s a favorite, it was made a while ago.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you had for the first time this year?
Prince Mustafa Ali: There’s this place called Insomnia Cookies in Chicago. It’s simply the most incredible cookies you will ever find. If you’re a cookie monster like myself, this is your spot.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song released this year?
Prince Mustafa Ali: Nothing. Again, if it’s current, I probably don’t like it.
Daniel Johnson: What was the last book you got through and would you recommend it?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I believe the last book I went through was Bret Hart’s autobiography. I enjoyed it very much. It’s always cool to see how someone else sees or interprets wrestling.
Daniel Johnson: Back to just a few more questions about wrestling. First, what is the weirdest part about being a wrestler?
Prince Mustafa Ali: To me the weirdest, yet at the same time most beautiful, part of pro wrestling is this unspoken trust you have in the ring with the other guy. I’ve wrestled many people who I have never met before. I have no idea who they are. I don’t know their real first name. But I know when I’m in the ring, he’s my responsibility. I need to make sure that he’s able to go back home to his family tonight. It’s a weird concept if you really think about it. You’re literally trusting a complete stranger with your life.
Daniel Johnson: In your opinion who would you say is the best wrestler 25 years old or younger today?
Prince Mustafa Ali: That’s tough because I really feel like most guys reach their prime after the age of 25. The guys I would list off as some of the best are definitely over the age of 25.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Prince Mustafa Ali: I say lots of dumb things on my Twitter: @princealitruth. I have a wrestling academy in the Chicagoland area so if you’re interested in learning from one of the best in the Midwest send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out Prince Mustafa Ali in character! In this match from IWA: Mid South’s 2008 Ted Petty Invitational Ali has Joey Eastman in his corner as he wrestles Egotistico Fantastico:
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Prince Mustafa Ali currently ran Prince Mustafa Ali’s Dreamwave Wrestling Academy. Ali previously ran this academy, but it has since closed. Ali currently runs the Vanguard Wrestling Academy.
Categories: Wrestling Interviews