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Dean “Mojo” Muhtadi on Paragon Talent Group: “There is so much possibility to make a positive difference”
The former Mojo Rawley’s return to pro wrestling couldn’t have come at a better time.
In the one year since he was released by WWE, Dean “Mojo” Muhtadi has only worked one match. That number will increase to two on Saturday, as Muhtadi wrestles Big Damo—formerly NXT’s Killian Dain—at the inaugural WES show in Nottingham, England.
“I can’t sit back anymore,” says Muhtadi, who has been keeping sharp while training at Shawn Spears and Tyler Breeze’s Flatbacks Wrestling School. “I’m hyped and I’m ready to get back in the ring, and it’s been awesome to work with two friends, who know my strengths and weaknesses, to get me back in the game.”
(UPDATE: The WES show has been canceled and Muhtadi has announced a meet-and-greet in its place.)
Muhtadi isn’t just bringing his signature brand of enthusiasm back to the industry. Along with close friend Steve Kaye, he also co-founded a new management company, Paragon Talent Group. It is designed to prolong and enhance the careers of pro wrestlers through building brand marketing deals, increasing name identity and value, and negotiating deals with all the major wrestling organizations.
“I founded Paragon Talent Group with the mission of showing the world what professional wrestlers are capable of outside the pro wrestling bubble,” Muhtadi says. “It’s all about creating brand deals and lasting partners, showing the world the value of professional wrestlers.”
Already representing more than 50 former WWE wrestlers, Muhtadi possesses a unique lens on his perspective. He played collegiate football for Maryland, where he also earned his MBA. Far exceeding expectations after transferring from Division III Christopher Newport University, he went unselected in the NFL draft but got a taste of life in the pros during brief stints with the Packers and Cardinals.
Muhtadi never cracked a game day roster, yet the lessons he learned from football were ones he brought with him to WWE and acting, with a role in Snake Eyes. His nine-year run with WWE ended quietly after his release in the spring 2021, and all those experiences helped shape a sharp and creative mindset with a core foundation of advocating for talent.
“This is an opportunity to set the bar very high for pro wrestlers,” Muhtadi says. “That’s why we started the company. There was a need for it. And it’s been gratifying to see the impact we’ve already made. Paragon did over $2 million for our clients in the first year. Our careers don’t last forever, so we need to be smart and make the most of our opportunities.”
Thriving in multiple different platforms, including hosting a weekday show for TMZ Sports, Muhtadi still has a lot to prove in the ring. Upbeat, intense and overflowing with energy, he last wrestled earlier this spring at Dream Mania, a fundraiser for the Down Syndrome Foundation of Florida. That was his first match after leaving WWE, and likely would have happened much earlier had he not dealt with a serious case of COVID-19.
“My lungs took a serious beating,” Muhtadi says. “It got scary. For months, every breath I took was an active process. And it was early into Covid, so there really wasn’t an active treatment plan.
“Slowly, I’ve ramped up my training, but I did it smartly. I initially planned to hold my return for the right situation and the highest bidder, but Dream Mania came along. It was an incredible opportunity to raise money and make a real impact. I was honored to be part of it.”
Only 35, Muhtadi has yet to even hit his pro wrestling prime. He has the chance to seize the industry’s attention with a standout performance at the inaugural WES show on Saturday.
“This is going to provide some more representation and legitimacy to the industry,” Muhtadi says. “And I have to make sure my gas tank is full so I’m ready to keep up with Big Damo. He is an incredibly talented wrestler. I’m in London now, I’m ready, and it’s the exact challenge I need.”
The past decade in wrestling has set the stage for Muhtadi’s next chapter. After starring for WWE, including a memorable WrestleMania moment with Rob Gronkowski, he now plans to set the industry aflame in a very different way.
“I’m still going to make an impact in the ring, but I also want to be someone who protects pro wrestlers with Paragon,” Muhtadi says. “There is so much possibility to make a positive difference.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Last week’s Blood and Guts match on Dynamite was phenomenal. Claudio Castagnoli performing the Cesaro Swing on Chris Jericho atop the cage was incredibly tense viewing. Congratulations to all involved.
- I’m surprised that Claudio didn’t turn on AEW champion Jon Moxley. The roster is overpacked with talent, and Claudio needs a program that will keep him in the main event. And with all due respect to Brody King, who won last week’s battle royal, there is no suspension of disbelief that he will take the title from Mox.
- If you love pro wrestling but haven’t watched The Usos–Street Profits tag match from Money in the Bank, I can’t give it a higher recommendation. The Usos continue to elevate their tag legacy, and it is a pleasure watching Montez Ford steadily blossom into the future of pro wrestling.
- Logan Paul has signed with WWE. It will be fascinating to see how far he can climb up the roster by next year’s WrestleMania.
- Alan Angels of the Dark Order has left AEW, and he will be in this must-see match coming up with Impact Wrestling.
A closer look at Money in the Bank winners
The two winners of this weekend’s Money in the Bank ladder matches were Liv Morgan and Theory. Morgan’s possession of the briefcase was short, as she cashed in later that night on Ronda Rousey to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Theory will have a much longer run with the Money in the Bank briefcase.
Internally, there are higher hopes that Theory’s run with the briefcase is similar to Seth Rollins after he won the same contract in 2014. Rollins was only 28 at the time, and he was on his own after turning on his fellow Shield members Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. He became “Mr. Money in the Bank” and eventually cashed in nearly a year later at WrestleMania 31, winning the title in a surprising, memorable manner.
Theory, who turns 25 this summer, can work a solid match. But the prospects surrounding him as Money in the Bank winner are underwhelming. His ascent to the top of the card feels like the push given to The Miz before he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to defeat Randy Orton in 2010. Making Miz champ felt forced and rushed, similar to what we are witnessing with Theory.
The Money in the Bank victory for Liv Morgan felt far more meaningful. She has been with WWE since 2017, yet never had an opportunity to have meaningful consecutive storylines on television. The crowd erupted when she won the match, which was the same reaction when she dethroned Ronda Rousey for the title later that evening. And this feels different than the cash-in from Nikki A.S.H. a year ago. Nikki won the briefcase at Money in the Bank, then defeated Charlotte Flair for the belt a night later on Raw. Unfortunately, her title win meant more than the title reign, and she dropped the belt back the next month at SummerSlam. That is the pitfall WWE will need to avoid with Morgan.
Morgan should wrestle Rousey at SummerSlam, and she should beat her. That finish can give Morgan a legitimate shot at becoming a major star. She has charisma and a convincing style in the ring, and can also cut entertaining promos. Morgan possesses the skill needed to become the breakout star of the year. And beating Rousey at SummerSlam would help bring Rousey one step closer to becoming a heel.
Rousey shares distinct similarities with Hulk Hogan from 1995. Hogan was a comfortable-yet-stale champ at that point in World Championship Wrestling. He always felt like an outsider, as his WWF style always clashed with the core of WCW. Rousey is similar; like Hogan was in WCW, she is an outsider to WWE coming from the world of mixed martial arts. She was a pioneer in UFC, but it is telling how the crowd exploded when Morgan beat her for the belt at Money in the Bank. If she ever turns heel, Rousey could craft an extremely memorable run in WWE.
While Theory is in no position to challenge Roman Reigns, there is plenty of potential moving forward for Morgan and Rousey.
Tweet of the Week
Hard to capture the joy of a Polaroid shot with your favorite athlete (mine was, many moons ago, beside my brother with the Bruins’ Glen Wesley), but this has the potential to be incredible.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.