On this day in Pro Wrestling history in 2005, WWE was asked to pull the Muhammad Hassan character.
“In one of the most controversial moments in the WWE, on the episode of SmackDown! taped on July 4, General Manager Theodore Long put Muhammad Hassan in a match against The Undertaker at The Great American Bash and placed Daivari in a match that night against the Undertaker.
Daivari was defeated easily, but Hassan began to “pray” on the ramp, summoning five masked men, dressed in black shirts, ski-masks, and camo pants. Armed with clubs and a piano wire, they beat and choked the Undertaker out, and Hassan put him in the camel clutch. Afterward, the masked men lifted Daivari above their heads and carried him away. Three days later, the London bombings took place. The footage aired unedited on UPN in the United States and on The Score in Canada with an advisory warning shown several times during the broadcast. It was removed from the Australian and European (including in the United Kingdom) broadcasts.
The angle elicited national attention in the New York Post, TV Guide, Variety, and other major media outlets. In response to the criticism, UPN decided that it would monitor the storyline closely and that it did not want the Hassan character on its network that week. Hassan later delivered a promo to the live crowd for the July 14 airing of SmackDown!, but when UPN announced that the segment would be edited, WWE decided to host the video of the segment on its official website.
In the segment, Hassan, reiterates that he is an Arab-American and that the American people automatically and unfairly assume that he is a terrorist. Despite being in character, he referred to the real-world media coverage of the storyline, singling out the New York Post’s Don Kaplan by name, and denouncing his description of the events on SmackDown!, such as Kaplan’s comment of the masked men being “Arabs in ski masks”. On the July 14 episode of SmackDown!, Hassan’s absence was explained by a statement delivered by his lawyer Thomas Whitney, which said that Hassan refused to appear on the show until that month’s Great American Bash due to the way he had been treated by the media and WWE fans.
It was revealed in late July 2005 that UPN had pressured WWE to keep Hassan off of their network, effectively removing him from SmackDown! Hassan lost the match to The Undertaker at The Great American Bash and was written off with The Undertaker doing a Last Ride through an open stage ramp onto a concrete floor where it was reported that he sustained serious injuries and had to be rushed to a nearby medical facility, apparently a solution aimed to end the Hassan character. Several days later, WWE hosted a video of a kayfabe announcement from Theodore Long, where he reiterates the stipulation that Hassan would no longer appear on SmackDown.
Due to increasing public pressure, WWE was forced to later drop the character altogether, sending Copani and Daivari back to their developmental territories to alter their gimmicks. This resulted in huge fan backlash, mostly because Hassan was at the height of popularity (or notoriety, as it would be, since the character was a villain). Copani was released from his WWE contract on September 21, 2005 and then subsequently retired from professional wrestling.”
Before getting released from the WWE, Hassan was scheduled to get a mega push as he was set to defeat Batista to become the youngest World Heavyweight Champion (breaking Randy Orton’s record).
Speaking of Hassan, he made his return to Professional Wrestling earlier this year (after 13 years). You can watch it below:
In an interview with Pro Wrestling Sheet last month, Hassan noted that he would like to return to WWE for a one-off appearance, like during a Royal Rumble match, as he misses Pro-Wrestling, the atmosphere and being around with the boys:
“It would be enjoyable to be back in the atmosphere again. It’s nothing I would want to do full-time, but I’m not going to lie — I miss it. I miss being around the boys. I miss being in the ring. I miss the athleticism of it — the art of wrestling.”