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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Life and Death of Muhammad Hassan
August 17, 2005 by Stewart Brower


Nobody could say he was the WWE's greatest wrestler. His move set was limited and he was methodical bordering on slow. Yet Mark Copani, better known as Muhammad Hassan was probably the most over heel in wrestling before his 'demise' at the Great American Bash. The reasons why are clear but unusual to the max.

Before his debut in late 2004, Hassan was being heavily hyped by excellent promos that left his character both clear and ambiguous. We were told that he, and his manager Daivari, were Arab-Americans who were sickened by the intolerance and prejudice they had suffered since 9/11 and were prepared to take action to rectify it. It was unclear whether they were meant to be heels or faces and it was this uncertainty that was so interesting. One thing that was clear was that this was an extremely controversial angle, and the WWE was going to need to be especially sensitive to pull it off. Hassan and Daivari debuted on RAW in December 2004 where they engaged in a heated political debate with Mick Foley. Disturbingly they were booed before they had even said a word. It seemed the fans had decided in advance what roles the pair were to play. Subsequently Hassan was booked like the usual heel, taking shots at the crowd and assaulting beloved figures like The King and JR.

Things took a slightly racist turn at the Royal Rumble when Hassan was eliminated by eight men immediately upon entry. From this point forward Hassan was booked well. Now established as one of RAW's top heels he began an undefeated streak that lasted seven months, taking in victories over stars like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Sergeant Slaughter and Shelton Benjamin before an anticlimactic two minute squash to John Cena. But more than his matches, it was his promos that got him over. He argued against common stereotypes of Arabs and of his treatment, and though a bit repetitive, they raised solid points while showing amazing poise and charisma.

Despite having an entertaining and most importantly realistic character, the WWE decided to take Hassan in a new direction: that of the Anti-American, which has been done so many times before. The Iron Sheik, La Resistance, William Regal and Lance Storm have all played variations on the character, and it is nothing new and no longer interesting. Yet the WWE persevered, first with a short feud against Hulk Hogan (and Shawn Michaels) and then the extremely controversial feud with The Undertaker. It could be argued that in this case the WWE was a victim of bad timing. After all, the controversial moment in which five masked men wearing terrorist fatigues was taped two days before the atrocities in London. However, for the WWE to then have these man carrying Hassan to the ring like a god at the Bash, illustrates the insensitivity they have had with angles like this.

The 'death' of Muhammad Hassan, was the death of what was a promising character, one shot down prematurely by racist stereotypes. For his final appearances Hassan became what he said he never was: a Muslim fanatic and supposed terrorist. Hopefully the events at The Great American Bash are not the metaphorical - Last Ride for Copani's WWE career. He is extremely skilled with a microphone, and though as I said he is not exactly Chris Benoit in the ring, he does have potential and is good at bumping. If not for a stupid and inconsiderate action on the part of the SmackDown! writers, the character of Muhammad Hassan could have become a main-eventer, and even World Champion, but alas it is seemingly not to be.

by Stewart Brower ..


Nick Currier wrote:
no offense but i think you are dead wrong! Hassan was a very weak wrestler with limited potential, and for you to say he could become world champion is just absurd. All hassan was, was an experiment gone wrong and now his career with the wwe is over and we can now watch wrestling knowing there will be no Hassan making a mockery of america and for that i am grateful
lotus wrote:
and i think that if you watch wrestling you take the good guys with the bad. i loved muhammad hassan ,and i agree he could have been great. now how they treated him,hes actually itallian-arab. it is not his fault the stroy line writers made him the villian or infidel as the americans want to say.i am arab american and i love wrestling.i lost respect for the show after they allowed undertaker to last ride him like that and seriously injure him. and taker was one of my most favorites ,he did thid and no one seems to care about it he was on smackdown the very next week. and what else makes it so bad is ,if it would have been anyother wrestler,they would have updated his condition. no wod for muhammad hassan. just that hes out indefinately.i still want to know how he is,what injuries he sustained.i cant find anything on it.but let it be a caucasion,they would have mentioned it,if anyone knows about mark cobani-aka,muhammad hassan my mail is lotusizjuicee@msn.com thanks lolo
Erkka Järvinen wrote:
Hassan didnt have any real charisma. It was cheap heat, end of story. Anyone could get heat with that gimmick.
Armando L. Nunez (Fayetteville, North Carolina) wrote:
Hello: I'm a wrestling fan for about 30 years & I had saw a lot of controversy in wrestling. This Hassan's character killing was a terrible injustice. U.P.N.'s prudes doesn't know the inner workings of a character and how it work with the fans & circunstances in which are used. During the end of World War II, a lot of "german" & Japanese wrestlers came to the ring & and said how terrible we are. During the cold war a lot of "soviet" wrestles talked trash of U.S. of A. On dessert Shield / Storm even Sgt. Slaughter became pro- iraq. It just an angle!!!. The W.W.E. have to reinstate Hassan and tell U.P.N. to stick it were the sun don't shine.Imagine Pro Wrestling with no characters, it will be bland(Of course, the ones that hurt credibility. For example, The Hurricane and Simon Dean). If Controversy bothers the bigwigs of T.V., Remember controversy makes the world turn, if you don't allow it, you'll never win.
J.M. wrote:
I wanted to let Stewart Brower know that I agree with his interpretation of events.

Yes, Hassan was at times slow and visibly green in the ring. Daivari looked good whenever he wrestled, whenever he got the chance (lightweights seldom get respect in the eyes of McMahon). Hassan had the potential to become better all around. Given time, both would have become valuable assets in WWE. And Hassan was on his way towards becoming one of the best heels ever, whether you like to admit it or not. His impressive mic skills surpassed at least 90% of the wrestlers on both rosters.

The only reason the Hassan controversy came about was because of bad timing, extremely poor writing by Smackdown writers and the stubborn short-sightedness of those in charge. Until that point, McMahon had taken the high road with those characters, having them booed for being whiny and not simply because of their heritage.

But the fans turned on both Hassan and Daivari even before they spoke one word (which I noticed too and was disturbed by it) during that Lawler/Ross - Hassan/Daivari debate. And now the fans turn on them again after they became the heels that they wanted them to become. Make up your minds, people.

Hassan spoke truths. He pointed out hypocrisies. He made the best of some very poor situations the writers wrote. Arab-Americans objected to the character. Somehow I doubt that they would have done so if he were champion beforehand. The Iron Sheik and the Iraqi-sympathizing Sgt. Slaughter never got this much flack, even during the height of the first US-Iraq war.

Hassan isn't totally to blame for that episode of Smackdown. Breaking it down, McMahon + writers were 60% liable, UPN 25%, Undertaker-Hassan-Daivari 15%. Undertaker, a veteran, could've said 'no' and it would have been nixed, no questions asked. Hassan-Daivari may have objected to this angle but may have not been in a position to decline. UPN could have easily cut that segment of the show out. It was the higher-ups that foolishly didn't do the right thing.

I never saw Hassan as a "stereotypical" character. But then again, McMahon doesn't care about that. He dabbles in offending minorities all the time (gimmicks such as the Mexicools, Kerwin White, La Resistance, Eugene, Big Vis; insensitve remarks being made such as "I see sand people" by Steve Austin).

The argument that "Hassan is being played by an Italian-American and not an Arab-American" and that this is wrong isn't totally true. I believe that one of his parents is an Arab.

Here's to the theory that maybe Hassan will ironically come back on RAW when it switches to the *USA* cable network, to continue to voice his opinions that he is an American being persecuted.
Kimmie wrote:
Great Article.While I have sypathy for those in the london bombings there should be no way Hassan and Davairi should get fired because a bunch of Hypocrites assume they are terrorists. Like WWE said it has been done in the past. There have been numerous times masked men were used to attck someone So if I wear a ski mask and camoflauge Im a terrorist" The Media and all these peple can cry foul but UPN is racist and they support shows making fun of White people with no problem but an Actor doing his job gets the Boot. Another example is Tucker Carlson claiming his finishing move, the Camel Clutch displayed a "Decapitation Angle". First of all they need to realize it is a wrestling move that was invented in a long time ago by a wrestler named Gory Guererro. It was made famous by the Iron Sheik and Seargeant Slaughter and Sheik never got criticized for his use of the move and seeing him and Hassan having similar characters it makes the crowd dislike him more which is what he is trying to accomplish.These People need to grow up and its wrong to kill someones livelihood just to satisfy a bunch of wimpy ass crybaby Asses in the media.Now Hassan will probally never get as big a chnce he had because he is a "terrorist"
eyeballjackson wrote:
I, for one, loved the Hassan character and storyline, at least as far as it went on RAW (Smackdown is another story), and it's great to see so much appreciation for an intentionally controversial figure here and elsewhere on the 'net.

I'm a little saddened to read people's comments about Hassan "disrespecting the US", though. These folks are taking wrestling WAY too seriously, and I suspect that they are marks of the worst kind -- not just marks for wrestling, but marks for lame political propaganda.

It took guts for the WWE to introduce a character who criticized American politics and society (and let's not forget that both Copani and his character are as American as anybody reading OWW except maybe for some Native Americans, and I'm sure you're out there) and I'm honestly surprised McMahon let it happen in the first place.

Hassan's rants made everybody do a double-take, whatever their political beliefs. I love it when wrestling has this effect -- it's the ultimate kayfabe: you start to wonder what is real and what is fake, and as a lot of folks have been saying, that hasn't happened in the WWE for far too long. I hope to see Hassan return, but there's been so much REAL hate directed at the character that I tend to doubt we'll see Copani or Daivari again in any capacity, and that's a real shame.

Then again, I'm a mark for Eugene's retard gimmick, so take the above rant with a grain of salt and think what you want to think. This is America, after all!
Steven Rankin wrote:
Wheneverr I think of Muhammad Hassan, I think of a dead painter who's work was more appreciated after their death then it was while they lived. Even though people booed Hassan and Daivari I think a lot of fans liked them in a sort of Roddy Piper-ish way (hated them yet loved them at the same time), it simply took the hypocrites at UPN to open our eyes.

Anyway, Copani was one of the greatest heels the WWE has had in a while, and even he was expendable. Oh well, I guess Vince would rather have the spotlight on some roided up lunkhead or a wannabe street thug.
ROTCSergeantE4 wrote:
I think Muhammad Hassan was a great wrestler. He was undefeated for 7 months, maybe he did cheat to win sometimes, but there are some characters who were loved for cheating (no disrespect to him or his family, but Eddie Guerrero was one of them).

Muhammad Hassan just arrived at the wrong time. There are some stars who are loved who we were racist against at one point. Tajiri is Japanese, I remember the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. There are many hispanics in the WWE/WWF, I remember we fought the hispanics long ago. It goes on and on.

Muhammad Hassan was even born in America. He was born in Detroit Michigan. Maybe he did have Arab descent, but not all Arabs are bad. I'd bet anything that if Muhammad Hassan had come in 20 yrs. after the 9/11 attacks, we wouldnt show as much racism towards him. Muhammad Hassan definitley had a shot at being the World Heavyweight Champion. Anyone who says different is saying it out of racism. If someone like Kurt Angle can get the World Heavyweight title, I know that Muhammad Hassan can. While he was on Raw, he was amazing. SmackDown! may have been another story. I want more than anything for him to come back. I want to see him with the World Heavyweight Championship or WWE Title. I know he could get it. He definitley would have been a hall of famer someday.
Brock345 wrote:
Muhammad Hassan was a great wrestler. I think he could have became something more than just an Anti-American. London was hit with a major terrorist attack, but writers should have "chilled" or "clamed" him down and stopped the terrorist, even maybe keep him off the show awhile. But Great American Bash, even though I haven't seen it, should have been done to him like that. But, I guess we will never know what come have became of Muhammad Hussan.
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