Former WWE star Daivari talks Undertaker, getting cut from SmackDown
Shawn Daivari was truly one of the fortunate ones. At only the age of 20, he was inserted in a prominent position, managing one of the most hated people in the WWE at the time, Muhammad Hassan. In light of the 9/11 terrorist attacks a few years earlier. Hassan and Daivari were placed in a role of being vocal toward the prejudice shown by Americans to everyone of Arabic descent as a result of the tragedy, and turning a negative into a sports entertainment positive.
Daivari admits he gained his early opportunity due to living in the right place at the right time. “There’s a good chance if I didn’t live in Minnesota, that I wouldn’t have started maybe until after high school, if not ever. But, I right in the right place, I happened to be in the right territory, where AWA used to run, and I happened to meet the right guy who was desperate for money. So, he’ll take anybody, I was 15 years old, to sign the injury waiver or if I break my neck he wasn’t responsible and he needed the money, so [Eddie Sharkey] started training me.”
After making his start wrestling for independent promotions, as well as dark matches for TNA, Daivari made his way to WWE’s developmental promotion at the time, Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). Again, he found himself in the right place at the right time. Despite being a smaller competitor, he had the gift of gab, which is something that Vince McMahon immediately noticed during an extremely rare appearance at an OVW event. As far as what allowed him to be called up to the main roster so quickly, in a managerial role, Daivari stated, “I think that was when Vince came down to OVW, and he heard me cut a promo, and it was one of those things that like, a good promo always come from some place real in your heart, just like a good story or a good novel, or any piece of art, music or whatever. If it comes from inside your body like a piece of your soul, it’s gonna be better than something that is just factory generated.” He explained how he was viewed as an enemy after the terrorist attacks, which is something he was not used to feeling growing up in Minnesota. He was able to channel that new reality in his promos, making it much more poignant and realistic. “After 9/11, I really started feeling like a minority,” said Daivari. “I never felt that before, so there was a little piece of me that kind of held that resentment, and when I was able to do those characters, I was like, ‘Holy crap! These characters are exactly how I felt in 2001! I’m an American. I’m one of you guys. Why are you guys turning your back on me? I don’t get it; I think we were buddies. And that was the ability to pull from some place real, and I think gave me a little bit of that extra juice that was something that caught Vince’s attention.’”
Daivari and Hassan were only on the main stage for under six months before being placed in a prominent spot in the company, feuding with WWE Hall of Famers Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels. Having so much handed to them in so little time, tension built between the dup and more seasoned members of the roster, who have been grasping for a similar position for their entire careers. “They treated me like gold, and they treated Muhammad like crap.” Daivari said about the backstage morale toward the two. “I had like 13 or 14 tryout matches across 2002, 3, and 4. So when I got there on Raw, I was very familiar with everybody. It wasn’t like a new guy coming in. Everybody knew me.” Things were different for Muhammad. “It was his first time up. He looked like a million dollars, he was way bigger than I was,” Daivari explained. “I wasn’t considered a threat to anybody. I wasn’t gonna take anyone’s spot because if I was gonna do anything, I was gonna end up in the Cruiserweight division, which was such a low priority to begin with, it’s not threatening anybody.”
Despite this, Muhammed Hassan became one of the top heels on SmackDown, and had a gimmick that was destined to draw heat due tappingto a genuine disdain from citizens of America. WWE used this heat to put him in a high-priority feud with the Undertaker. While Hassan was quickly ascending in the rankings, even gaining an advantage on The Phenom on different occasions, the angle stopped abruptly, and both Hassan and Daivari were quickly written out of television matches. In giving a reason why the meteoric push was so abruptly halted, Daivari explained that, this time, the role was reversed. They were in a bad place at the most inopportune time, killing the momentum their characters built. On July 7, 2005, London, England fell victim to a terrorist attack, when four bombs were detonated across the city, killing 56 and injuring hundreds. The controversial angle was being aired in North America, which drew a great deal of criticism. As a result, the network axed both characters from the show and Muhammad Hassan never returned to wrestling again.
Daivari, however, went back to the drawing board, and was ready for another opportunity to be presented to him. Early in WWE Creative’s discussion of how to repackage Daivari, he was presented with a bizarre gimmick by Stephanie McMahon. “Stephanie came up to me and was like, ‘We’ve got an idea for you for like next week. We want you to debut as a character named George W. Bush, and we want you to wear Red, White, and Blue trunks, and be like a super American patriot.’” Daivari said that his response to Stephanie was, “I would love to kind of do my own thing, but that is a terrible idea. I don’t know who came up with it, or whose idea was it to come up with the name George W. Bush, and take me from the hottest heel to wearing red, white, and blue, and what the purpose is or the explanation for it. But, I really, really, feel strongly against it.”
Although Daivari taking a stance left him at home for three months, he did manage to use his ability to draw heat to manage three top superstars: Kurt Angle, Mark Henry, and the Great Khali. Daivari even managed Angle when he won the World Heavyweight Championship after a battle royal on SmackDown after Batista was forced to vacate the belt due to injury. As a result, Kurt Angle was chosen to replace the injured star as SmackDown’s top babyface, but was currently on Raw and being managed by Daivari. Angle was quickly switched to SmackDown, and Daivari turned on Angle to draw heat for his next opponent Mark Henry. The two ended up colliding at the Royal Rumble for the World Heavyweight Championship, Angle retaining the strap.
Daivari rose to a top position in the WWE again thanks to his ability to quickly draw heat, bringing in the Great Khali. Just weeks after his debut, he faced The Undertaker at Judgment Day, and defeated him in a shocking and unexpected victory. Daivari said The Undertaker was always on board with a new wrestler like Khali getting a high profile victory before establishing himself in the company, “Taker was on board the whole time. He believed in the angle, he believed in Khali, he believed in the look, and he believed in the fact that people would buy into a series of matches leading up to Taker getting a big win at a pay-per-view that matters. So, he had faith in all of it, and he was on board. He was cool with it.”
Throughout his final year in the WWE, Daivari mostly was involved in the Cruiserweight division, and losing matches throughout 2007. His last marquee match was losing to Jim Duggan in a Flag Match, before he was released shortly after. Since then, Daivari has experienced success in many promotions, including winning the X Division Championship at TNA, as well as stints in Ring Of Honor, and Lucha Underground, where he currently works as DelAvar Daivari. Although it has been eight years since he has been a WWE employee his experience in the company, being in such a top position at only 20 years old, has left an indelible mark in his pro wrestling career.