How WWE underused Mustafa Ali

Despite having never won the Cruiserweight Championship, Mustafa Ali established himself as “the heart of 205 Live” by stealing the show every single time he stepped foot in the squared circle.

Ali competed in the Cruiserweight Classic back in the summer of 2016, but he got eliminated by Lince Dorado in the first round of the tournament. Despite the loss, he signed a contract with WWE and started competing in the company’s new cruiserweight-exclusive show “205 Live”.

In January 2018 the Cruiserweight championship was vacated due to Enzo Amore being released and a new tournament for the assignment of the new champion was announced. Even though Ali lost in the final against Cedric Alexander, he impressed the crowd with his mix of technique and agility, and during that summer him and Buddy Murphy squared off in a long series of highly-praised matches, like the No-DQ match that took place on the July 4th episode, which is still acknowledged not only as one of the best matches in 205 Live history and in 2018.

In December 2018 Ali moved to the SmackDown roster, where he debuted by confronting none other than the WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, who just turned heel for the first time since 2012. Ali was supposed to compete in the annual Elimination Chamber match but he was pulled-out due to an injury. Despite this, he quickly retuned to action and faced both Bryan and Kevin Owens in a triple threat match at FastLane for the WWE Championship, but the American Dragon retained.

A couple months later, Ali was scheduled to win the Money in the Bank ladder match but plans changed the same day of the PPV, and in the end it was Brock Lesnar who grabbed the briefcase and cashed-it in on Seth Rollins one month later. Mustafa Ali’s 2019 ended with a short rivalry with Randy Orton, which culminated in a great match at Hell in a Cell, won by the Legend Killer.

Fast forward to January 2022, a couple days ago Mustafa Ali publicly asked for his release from his current contract, and now the real question is: why hasn’t WWE kept on pushing Mustafa Ali and ruined his momentum? Let’s go back to October 2020, when Ali came back after a long hiatus and revealed himself as the leader of Retribution, therefore turning heel for the first time since his debut in WWE.

But the Retribution angle turned out to be a huge flop. In fact, the stable lost his very first match by DQ against the Hurt Business in a very anti-climatic way which killed the crowd’s interest for this act. Ali’s 2021 was a colorless year as well, because he didn’t have that much of a TV time except for a small alliance with Mansoor which escalated to a feud which the latter won.

Looking back at these storylines, it’s clear that WWE underused Mustafa Ali, because the Chicago athlete has proven countless times to be a very charismatic performer, both in the ring and on the microphone, and it’s quite a shame that the company has never found an important role for him.

For example, Ali could have been a good challenger for Shinsuke Nakamura’s Intercontinental championship, or he could have been a legit contender for the Tag Team titles along with Mansoor, since both midcarding and the tag team division are quite a mess, especially after all the mass releases that deeply impacted the WWE roster.

What will the future have in store for Mustafa Ali? As we know, the wrestling landscape is becoming wider with time and there are lots of options on the table. In fact, it’s quite sure that a great performer like Mustafa Ali will find success and have a real chance to share his message.

Andrew Ardley