Remember When Undertaker Ended Muhammad Hassan?
Mark Copani was a bright prospect in the early 2000s. He was decent enough in-ring and on the mic where he could’ve improved in the right place. Copani had a look that made for a natural foreign heel. Now, it was the early 2000s and running with foreign heels was iffy, to begin with but WWE rolled Muhammad Hassan out there.
The Timing of Muhammad Hassan
Off the bat, WWE went the Strongbow route and went with someone who wasn’t Arab-American. This wasn’t unusual for wrestling. Rikishi was The Sultan, Giant Bernard was Tensai, Fritz was an evil German, Nikita was an evil Russian, Phil Hickerson was Asian, and I couldn’t tell you what in the hell Brooklyn Brawler was supposed to be as Kim Chee.
This wasn’t like Tommy Rich and Tracy Smothers being Italian in ECW since it was painted as ludicrous. At any rate, Muhammad Hassan came in, he had the dope music which was one of the best memes, he had Daivari who was liked on the indies, he’d worked with Jim Cornette in OVW—he was ready for the main roster.
There are two things about running Hassan on the main roster. First, he was put in the mix of the uppercard very early. In WWE’s defense, the gimmick of a bitter Arab-American who had some pull would’ve put him higher up on the card.
I mean, you have to ask if he was as well off as the gimmick let on why was he wrestling period. Never mind that. There was also the thing with him being a heel. The original intent was for Hassan to be a face but creative said: “Screw that noise.”
That was some late cheap heat but Hassan and Daivari did their thing with it. Would it have been tasteless right after 9/11? God yes. Has WWE trafficked in tasteless before? Of course! The Attitude Era and parts of the Ruthless Aggression period had tasteless angles.
So, The Undertaker Kills Muhammad Hassan
Between his debut and up until the weeks before Great American Bash 2005 Hassan was doing his thing. Heeling it up pretty standard stuff. Then the martyr angles began. UPN let it slide for some time. This was a period before WWE was really concerned about sponsors and network demands.
Then the bombings in London happened. That fated episode of WWE SmackDown was already taped with a segment where Muhammad Hassan and Daivari has The Undertaker martyred. Hassan’s goons—dressed like the guys in hostage videos we’d seen on the news—carry Taker off.
UPN goes “Flag on the goddamn play! This is tasteless-tasteless!” WWE has run this same angle for some time now, mind you. The character didn’t need to escalate to this but creative figured it did and networks didn’t really stop them.
WWE scrambles to cover itself. The Undertaker wins at Great American Bash in an enjoyable but solid bout. Hassan’s martyrs attempt to beat up Taker but all them—including Daivari—get steamrolled. This was as beautiful a one-man beatdown you were going to see, folks.
Then The Undertaker chokeslams Muhammad Hassan on the stage. WWE creative goes “We have to kill this angle! Burn everything. No, shred it first then burn it!” Taker gives Hassan the Last Ride from the stage to the floor below.
He was so young and had at least three years left before being totally future endeavored. I will say Hassan got future endeavored on top. He didn’t go out after being in a tag team for a period, doing a bunch of comedic angles, and slumming it on WWE Velocity or Superstars.
No, The Undertaker killed his WWE career when Muhammad Hassan was one of the top heels and rising talents on SmackDown. Not a bad ending but he was a victim of just bad timing by creative. The plans for the Hassan character apparently included beating Batista at SummerSlam for the title since Hassan had nuclear heat.
In the end, Copani declined going back to OVW. I mean what were they going to repackage him as that didn’t include a mask or face paint and a wig? The long game could’ve been to run him under a mask and bodysuit for several months to let the blowback die down and have him reveal himself as Hassan.
The character played on fans’ prejudice to a large degree and WWE could’ve run Hassan from there. This controversy was also the most attention WWE was getting at the time. In 2018, Copani wrestled several matches as Hassan for DYNASTY before retiring for good.
As of September 2019, he has stated he had no interest in returning to wrestling. He didn’t care for how he was made to take the fall or how Arab-Americans were portrayed via the gimmick. Currently, he’s a middle school vice-principal and happy with it.
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