Sleep-deprived and dripping with sweat, Dean Muhtadi exited his hot yoga session in a state of calmness.
Muhtadi needed that yoga to revitalize himself after a four-day loop on the road for WWE. Four years ago, his life was a whirling combination of rental cars, undersized hotel beds and long rides between shows. He had flown on a red-eye back home to Orlando following that Monday’s Raw, and could sense that Tuesday morning he was in dire need of hot yoga’s healing effects.
“I went to unwind,” says Muhtadi, who created a larger-than-life persona in WWE as Mojo Rawley. “After class, I was completely relaxed, and that’s when I checked my voicemail.”
Muhtadi, at the time, was still employed by WWE. When he noticed a familiar 203 area code pop up on his voicemail, that meant the office had called. The voicemail was succinct, informing him Paramount had called to gauge his interest in appearing in a new G.I. Joe film.
“I didn’t know anything about the role or the shooting schedule, but I was all in,” says Muhtadi. “I accepted it on the spot.”
The result is Muhtadi’s role in the new G.I. Joe spinoff film, Snake Eyes, where he engages in a phenomenal fight scene with lead actor Henry Golding, who was cast as Snake Eyes.
Muhtadi used his reservoir of knowledge from his time in football and pro wrestling to excel in his Snake Eyes scene. He made the most of his limited time on-screen, making an impression through his facial expressions, body language and overall presence.
“It was like if I had a 30-second segment in WWE,” says Muhtadi. “Even when I had limited time, I wanted to leave you with something you could remember. I wanted to make the most of what I was given, and it was easy because I was so blown away by Henry Golding’s athleticism. Snake Eyes was an exciting opportunity, and I wanted to maximize it.”
His scene in Snake Eyes was shot over the course of a day in 2019. True to his craft, Muhtadi did pro wrestling proud by doing his best take on the first try.
“I’m so hyped about it,” says Muhtadi. “I learned so much from Robert Schwentke, the director, and I did my best to keep the energy level high. I’ve never had a day like it. I was so sore the day after, which made it feel even more rewarding.”
No longer with WWE, Muhtadi is paving a new career path. After being with the professional wrestling juggernaut from 2012 to ’21, this is a different route than anticipated. He was released in April and now a world of opportunity is within reach for the 35-year-old former NFL player, beginning with more time on-screen.
“I really want to do more acting,” says Muhtadi. “I think this is just the beginning. It’s something I’m passionate about and I want to keep learning. I definitely want to do more in the future.”
Muhtadi is also keeping his options open within pro wrestling. Though he spent nearly a decade with WWE, he was rarely thrust into any meaningful story lines. That appeared to change last year when longtime friend Rob Gronkowski joined WWE for a run with the company, allowing Muhtadi the chance to play a prominent role. Yet that never materialized, as Gronkowski’s time in WWE coincided with the pandemic, and his appearances in the empty Performance Center simply did not resonate with audiences.
“I’m grateful we had our WrestleMania moment together a few years ago in Florida,” says Muhtadi. “You need fans for Robbie G; he feeds off that energy. Those empty-arena shows were tough for us. Everyone was doing their best, but this is a business built on crowd interaction. We had some really cool plans set up for WWE, but it was a golden opportunity for him in Tampa with the Bucs. Then he got to go off and win a Super Bowl with a new team in Year 1, so it all worked out for him.”
Following Gronkowski’s departure, WWE decision-makers opted to no longer highlight Muhtadi.
“It would be hard for me to show less than what I had in my time with WWE,” says Muhtadi. “I was used in the same role—openers, small segments to get the crowd fired up, behind the scenes for community service. I never had a real story line or a real program where I could get multiple takes at the same guy on TV, where we could build some chemistry or get time on the mike.”
Muhtadi knows how to express himself, and his videos on social media have generated significant response—they drew Paramount representatives to consider him for Snake Eyes.
“The promos people know me for are the ones I cut on Instagram,” says Muhtadi. “So it would really be hard for me to show less than the wrestling world has seen of me. I definitely don’t think it’s over.”
Full of charisma and physicality, Muhtadi still brings value to wrestling. Though he never found the right momentum in WWE, a desire still burns to succeed in pro wrestling.
“I want to branch out and diversify myself now, so when I come back, I’ll bring even more reasons to watch,” says Muhtadi. “There are a lot of places to work, and it’s been awesome to see the rise of AEW. It’s such a great opportunity for people to show what they’ve got. Whether it’s WWE, AEW, New Japan, Impact or Ring of Honor, it’s good to see competition and more than one avenue to succeed.”
As Muhtadi looks to expand his brand outside of WWE, he begins that process with a role in a summer blockbuster.
“Snake Eyes is a sick film, and it’s great that you can go see it on the big screen,” says Muhtadi. “My part with Henry Golding is off the charts, and my whole family is rocking a 50-person party bus to see it. We’re rocking this big, and I recommend everyone at home does the same.”