After competing for the Cruiserweight division since his WWE debut in 2016, Mustafa Ali was moved up to the SmackDown Live roster on the December 11, 2018 episode. Although Ali never was able to win the Cruiserweight Championship despite many close calls, WWE felt that Ali has what it takes to be featured on one of the main two brands.
Ali was the latest guest on the Talk is Jericho podcast, and discussed his meteoric rise on the blue brand. Ali expressed that he was not aware of WWE’s plans to make him a top name on SmackDown Live, primarily due to the placement of 205 Live, and it being a lower priority on Vince McMahon’s radar. However, Ali did state that Vince could have walked by a monitor backstage and was impressed by his work, which led to an opportunity to compete on SmackDown Live.Ali stated that Creative told him that he was going to sit out of 205 Live until they have something for him. While he was expecting a few weeks, he was pleasantly surprised at what came next.
“I was told it was one-time deal, and I was like, ‘ok, cool.’ Showed up to TV the next week. ‘Yeah, when you get in, go see Road Dogg, Brian James.’ And, Road Dogg is the one that tells me. He’s like, ‘hey, we’re taking you off of 205 [Live], you’re permanently on SmackDown now, and you’re teaming with AJ Styles tonight and you guys are working the main event against Andrade [‘Cien’ Almas] and Daniel Bryan. And you’re getting the win on Bryan.'”
Ali thought that a sudden change from being off for four weeks to defeating the WWE Champion in the main event of SmackDown Live was a rib. He added that he knew nothing about this sudden push, especially since he failed to win his Cruiserweight Championship match against Buddy Murphy at Survivor Series, as well as his title match in the tournament finals at the WrestleMania 34 Kickoff Show against Cedric Alexander.While he will not admit it, Ali feels that Daniel Bryan vouched for him to move up to the main roster, and wanted to work with him. “Just for a guy to get plucked out of 205 [Live] and get put with him in a program and then attacking me backstage after my third week on SmackDown, it’s all very, like, him,” Ali said. “He’ll never come out and say it to me, I think, but I have a strong feeling that he’s more involved then he’s letting on.”
If any portion of these quotes are used, please be sure to credit The Floor Seat for the transcription.