WWE SmackDown Exclusive: Ali talks about being overlooked & how he rebuilt his character
Thanks to the kind folks at WWE India and Sony Entertainment Television, I was invited to a teleconference with WWE SmackDown Live Superstar Ali, before his performance at Money In the Bank. One of the nicest guys and gentlest souls in the company, Ali radiated positive energy through the course of the hourlong interview.
I had a chance to ask a handful of questions to the extremely gifted athlete. Here they are for your reading pleasure.
How was it teaming up with Finn Balor on SmackDown Live? Would you like to do it again?
Ali: Teaming with Finn was really, really cool. I think a lot of people were taken aback by our chemistry. We worked really well as a team and we picked up the win. So yeah, I wouldn't mind teaming up with Finn at all. I think we had really really insane chemistry.
Is there anyone in WWE that you haven't faced yet and you'd want to take on?
Ali: I had a brief little skirmish with Jeff Hardy leading into Elimination Chamber but I haven't had a match against him. Jeff was the guy I grew up watching, idolizing, mimicking. He is someone absolutely influential in my career. So, I'd absolutely love that when he's back from his knee surgery...I'd absolutely love to get in the ring and take on Jeff Hardy.
How much of your style did you have to change when you came up to SmackDown Live from 205 Live?
Ali: No modifications at all. I'm performing the same way that I did on 205 Live. Obviously the competitors are bigger, you know, and stronger, so there are adaptations to that from a psychology standpoint. Like I'm not picking up a guy like Randy Orton and throwing him over the top rope.
As far as me, myself, the moves that I perform they all stay the same. 205 Live really groomed me and got me ready for this stage.
What do you think of Tony Nese as the face of 205 Live?
Ali: I think it's very very cool. Tony Nese, for the longest time in 205 Live, he was in the same position that I was in, they didn't really have plans for me or were interested in us. We were kind of guys who were going to be used in the background. We weren't going to be the main focal point.
I was very, very quick to realize that they don't believe in me. I mean it's one thing to get a job here but it's another thing to be positioned to be a star. So, I felt like they don't see me as the next level star. So I was very quick to start rewriting my character, do promos and paint the picture for them.
I think that Tony realized that later on and look what's happened now. He's become the Cruiserweight Champion. He was always an insane athlete. He was missing the direction, you know. Because he's a guy like me, he's been in the trenches.
He was absolutely killing his matches, but not getting a reward from it. Sometimes great matches become an afterthought. But now he got to win the Cruiserweight Championship in his home state at WrestleMania. That's a memory he'll have for the rest of his life. He got to do it in front of his wife and his kids and I'm very very happy for him!
Be sure to catch WWE every week only on SONY TEN 1 and SONY TEN 3 & don't forget that Ali will be performing at Money In The Bank!