Double Impact (07/24/05): Mohammed Hassan And America By: Michael Melchor
Back when Mohammed Hassan debuted, I remember talking with DA BOSS about the character. Our general shared opinion was that, if Hassan was done right,
he could be an atypical heel that could garner himself and WWE a lot of attention. If done wrong, he’d be no
better than the Iron Sheik or Nikolai Volkoff – another stereotypical, anti-American heel that wouldn’t seriously
get over if his life depended on it.
As we all know by now, the latter came true. How many times has Hassan has hid
ass beat by Austin? Benoit? Hell, at the Royal Rumble, it was damn near the entire WWE roster!
Upon his debut, we were essentially promised this “groundbreaking”
character who could comment on current times and the state of the nation and its people. Since his debut, we have yet to receive
Everybody and their mother knows about the 7/7 SmackDown by now where they played
a beatdown of the Undertaker of as a “sacrifice”. All sorts of accusations and generalizations were made not only
be WWE fans, but the media as a whole.
Online, there were 2 schools of “knee-jerk” reaction. One was that
WWE was SO INSENSITIVE as to air a segment like that the same day London was attacked (never mind that there was no way in
hell that it could have been avoided, logistically). The other was that no one takes this stuff seriously. It’s only
Rasslin’ – relax!
In his own reaction to the negative mainstream coverage, the character of Mohammed
Hassan reminded us that wrestling has the capacity to land squarely in the middle of both of those schools of thought (and
I use that term loosely).
The entirety of his promo (which I am compelled to reprint here because it makes
a point better than I ever could), transcribed from WWE.com, is as follows:
I stand here tonight the only patriot left in America. I stand here tonight
perhaps even a martyr against tyranny and injustice. Because the fact is I am an AMERICAN professional wrestler, but because
of my heritage, because of my background, because of who my ancestors were, I'm labeled - we're labeled terrorists. Terrorists;
I'm a terrorist! Well it must be true - it's gotta be true - because it's right here in black and white, in a reputable source,
like the New York Post.
What, you don't believe me? Here it is: "Terrorist Wrestles After Bombing." I'm
a terrorist - we're terrorists. We wrestled after a bombing. Well, Mr. Don Kaplan— [to Daivari] have you ever met Don
Kaplan? Have you ever spoken to Don Kaplan? Have you ever called Don Kaplan on the phone? Well, I never have either. So, if
Don Kaplan of the New York Post has never met us, how does Don Kaplan know we're terrorists? Don Kaplan also wrote that "Arabs
in ski-masks carried Daivari out as a sacrifice last week." Arabs in SKI-MASKS...in SKI-MASKS...in a ski-mask. How does he
know that they were Arabs?
The point is, because of articles like this, because of the fear that the media
has put in all of you people, I have been denied my God-given right to pursue the profession of my choosing...to pursue the
American Dream. I have been denied my basic rights as an American citizen. You know, as I look around this crowd and I look
at all these faces looking at me in disgust, I think a lot of you have forgotten what this country was founded on. I think
you have forgotten that your ancestors fought for their freedom. They gave their lives for their freedom - whether they be
black, Irish-American, Italian-American, Jewish-American, Asian-American, they gave their lives for their freedom.
What's next? What's next? Because anytime anything goes wrong in this country,
it's the Arabs. When a plane crashes, it's the Arabs. When a bomb goes off, it's the Arabs. The blackout two summers ago -
it was the Arabs. Hurricane Dennis must be the Arabs.
You people say what you want. Because I have a right to be in here. I have a
right to say what I want. And what I'm going to say, my name is Muhammad Hassan. I am an Arab-American and I am very proud
of my heritage. But, as an American, my first amendment rights have been trampled. And, I stand here before all of you ashamed
of my country.
What the transcribe can’t convey was that, during a good portion of the
promo, the crowd was absolutely quiet. None of them knew how to take someone speaking his mind so truthfully and convincing
them that he could actually be seen as sympathetic.
The last guy to do that was Bret Hart. In 1997, he spoke out against America
and broke the mold of the buffoons that came before him be being honest about the state of America. Quite a few fans agreed
with him, but most everyone, whether they loved or hated him, were captivated by a character that went beyond black and white
to the degree that he did.
Oddly enough, this was about the time the tide turned in WWE’s favor against
WCW and started the biggest period of wrestling’s popularity to date.
We now know that it can happen again. Mohammed Hassan can shatter the mold by
portraying an American citizen being ashamed of his country because of its own prejudices. Holding a mirror up to the audience
may be the thing that could get Hassan and the rest of the company out of doldrums and into the popular consciousness.
The problem is, would today’s America be ready for that? This isn’t
even aimed at John Q Redneck, but at the highest authority in the land.
We live in one of the most constrictive presidential administrations the world
has ever seen. Privacy is being deconstructed because of the “Patriot Act”. AT the same time, a top player in
the White House leaks information about an undercover CIA agent out of spite and retribution against someone who criticized
the administration and received not even a slap on the wrist.
The “land of the free” has become less and less so over the past
few years. With all of the paranoia, how the hell could someone like Hassan speak out like he should? IS WWE covering
its own bases in not letting him truly cut loose?
The immaterial point could be made that, if this is the case, then WWE shouldn’t
have let the character out from the beginning. What’s more important here is that a “Rasslin’” character
could be the catalyst for making people think about how we treat and view others. We’re all made to think that wrestling
is an escape and not to be taken too seriously. I’ll admit to that being the main reason that I watch it myself.
However, we also know that what started wrestling back on a path to its creative
and financial peak was when they walked that fine line. When the guys in the ring could give their honest feelings no matter
how much it made people think about their own prejudices. I could go one step further and say that, if Hassan were allowed
to take that road now, this could open up a door for “that redneck sport” to become a great place for social commentary.
It’s not like the Bush Administration would pay it any mind, anyway. Hell,
it’s only Rasslin’ – relax!
I’d love to see Hassan be more than the typical coward who runs his mouth
and continually gets his ass beat in the name of patriotism. I’d also love to see wrestling become a platform –
even if a temporary one – for more than a storyline about a guy getting his heart broken and taking it out on everyone
Sadly, I should probably face the fact that I never will. The current fanbase
likes its “worked-shoot” story about Matt Hardy too much to pay attention to anything important.
The rest of the country won’t go for it, either. They’re too busy
worrying about Tom Cruise’s latest meltdown to think about anything else important as well.
Lastly, the current political and media climate won’t go for it. They’re
too busy feeding us the Karl Rove controversy to let us think about anything else important.
Besides, have you seen Hassan on TV since July 7?
Neither have I.
In a world full of people, only some want to fly - isn't it crazy?This is something I don’t do very often at all. The last time I did something
like this was about 4 1/2 years ago on the 3rd anniversary of Brian Pillman’s death. Why don’t I do this more often, especially as a lifelong wrestling fan?
Because there are very few times that I see a story on the death of a wrestler that actually makes my stomach drop. Call it
being “desensitized” or just seeing too many “death due to drugs” stories, or whatever. Honestly,
I really couldn’t tell you because I don’t know. Hearing about guys like Bossman, Hennig, and Hawk were surprises,
but honestly, despite how much I enjoyed seeing them work (especially Hawk), it never had the effect of a sucker punch
to the gut. This one did. I'm probably one of the few that it affected like this because I’ve already
seen a myriad of comments and jokes ranging from what a shock – this one WASN’T drug related! To that’s
what TNA gets for holding an all steel-cage PPV to wow, I thought Tammy would go before Chris because she’s pushing
heart attack-weight. I won’t sit here and waste column space lambasting fools like this because
it takes away from the fact that we lost one of the best workers our generation had ever seen. Not only that, but the statements
are made out of ignorance and assumptions, but not the truth. The fact is, there are quite a few dicks out there who are writing Candido off
as another drug case, but that’s not what happened here. Ironically enough, he checked out of the hospital as soon as
he could because he didn’t want to be anywhere near temptation. He’d cleaned himself up and he was back to work
and show that he had at least one more good run in him. If he’d stayed at the hospital, there’s a great chance that doctors
would have found the infection or the blood clot and taken care of it so Candido could live to grace another ring. And I would
have loved to seen that as I’ ve noticed and followed the career of Chris Candido for a long time. The first time I saw Candido & Sytch was at Hershey Park, PA. I was there
with my Dad and step-mom back in '91 taking in the fun & the rides when I remember seeing this striking, athletic younger
couple. I remember thinking, "she's pretty cute...but damn, that dude's big. Wonder why he's not wrestling." Little did I know. I'd seen them in PWI a year or two later and remembered
seeing them at the amusement park. After kicking myself in the ass for not approaching them at the park, I followed (in print)
the adventures of Candido, Sytch, and Brian Lee in SMW, wishing there was a way I could see this stuff. As word picked up, I finally saw the Body Donnas arrive in the WWF. The gimmick
was what it was (another WWF cartoon character), but something about those 2 (never mind Pritchard) stuck with me. They actually
made it work! Candido was heel enough to play this off and be the most annoying fitness guru I could imagine. Then came what he did in the ring. For the first time, I actually got to see
him wrestle. That was a real treat as Candido was a master in-between the ropes. At that point, I’d no idea what “psychology”
or “workrate” or any of that shit was (and there are times I wish I still didn’t). All I knew was that,
despite being annoying as all hell, this guy was good. In ECW is where I really became a Candido fan. His mannerisms, the way he could
wrestle his ass off AND get the crowd into it were all brilliant. To top it off, his gimmick in doing so - "No Gimmicks Needed"
- was teriffic. A shot at his old employer and a definitive statement that his talent spoke for him more than any blue jumpsuit
ever could. The way he would play off of that combined with how he was (mis)used was masterful. Once he was added in as part
of Shane Douglas’ Triple Threat (another favorite), I was sold. I was glad as hell to see him as part of the "New Blood" in WCW. Seeing him
show up and take the Cruiserweight Title made my month. Unfortunately, I was also surprised when they left just as fast -
until I found about the drug problem. I'd always hoped Candido would clean up and head back to WWE; I would have killed
to have seen "No Gimmicks Needed" in THAT environment... ...but, instead, he went to TNA. I was fine with that; at least I got to see
him work again, this time cleaned up and ready to make the best of it. Candido was back – being as heel as he ever was
and working with two kids he could impart a world of knowledge to (The Naturals) after starting in the business at age fourteen.
Candido was also back to work. Several reports from friends and fans
came in that Candido, while not a physical Adonis, was in the best ring shape he’d ever been. His timing, psychology...ALL
of it was back in order. Candido meant business as he set out for one more great run— Now this shit happens. And I'm left rambling like a lunatic because I've no
other way to state that one of my favorites was unfairly taken from this earth and I'll miss like hell seeing the man in the
ring and on TV. Do me a favor, Chris - when you get up there, let God know that you don't need
a blond hairpiece or a workout outfit. Let God know that you can outwrestle anyone else in the Kingdom. Let God know that
there are "No Gimmicks Needed" and that you're there to kick some ass.
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).