New characters need significant motivation
By Rennie Detore
Sunday, November 7, 2004
Watching the introduction of Arab-American characters Muhammad Hassam
and Khosrow Daivari didn't elicit the kind of response WWE probably
wanted. I didn't want to hate them. I wanted to hate Vince McMahon for
The Hassam and Daivari characters aren't so much offensive as they are
a form of cheap, campy heel heat -- the idea that fans will loathe
them for two reasons: Hassam and Daivari are telling us not to and
because they are Arab-Americans.
WWE, however, issued somewhat of a mission statement on the "Parents"
section on its Web site, almost assuring concerned viewers that these
newest superstars won't be stereotypical.
"WWE is introducing two new Arab-American characters on Monday Night
Raw. Muhammad Hassam and Khosrow Daivari are U.S. citizens who have
grown up in America. They love their country. However, they now face a
new and different kind of relationship with their fellow U.S. citizens
as a result of being Arab-American in a United States still struggling
with the tragic events of September 11."
That statement seemingly has genuine intention. But what WWE says
often translates into something completely different on television.
Can McMahon avoid pigeon-holing Hassam and Daivari? Will those two be
relegated into one-dimensional characters in the same mold as other
anti-U.S. figures such as The Iron Shiek, Nikolai Volkoff or Iraqi
sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter, circa 1991?
That's where McMahon and his writing staff will hopefully creatively
Hassam and Daivari must be clearly defined as heels for their in-ring
actions, not because of their beliefs. WWE can't simply throw them out
and hope fans hate them for being different, which is why the
aforementioned sentiment of loving America and growing up here also
must be echoed by Hassam and Daivari.
If fans still choose to reject Hassam and Daivari, that's fine because
WWE presented them in a fair and just manner, devoid of any Muslim
Unlike the Sgt. Slaughter character, who openly endorsed Saddam
Hussein during the Gulf War, Hassam and Daivari aren't condoning the
actions of terrorists from 9/11. They're simply stating that the bias
toward Arab-Americans still permeates through our country because of
As long as that, along with Hassam and Daivari's U.S. background, is
made clear on TV, WWE has no apologies.
What is unclear, though, is how Hassam and Daivari are supposed to
generate the kind of marketable heel heat (i.e. positive bad guy
interest) that makes for enjoyable entertainment.
An overt reaction of ignorance and hatred from fans, which is likely
what is going to happen, won't do much for the careers of Hassam,
Daivari or WWE's prosperity.
What made Triple H such a great heel in 2000 was his appeal as both a
hated wrestler and a marketable superstar. He was entertaining and
evil, a great combination that hasn't been duplicated in WWE since his
run alongside then-girlfriend, Stephanie McMahon.
Hassam and Daivari, both well-seasoned developmental wrestlers, aren't
being positioned in such a way because their introduction focused more
on current events than in-ring ability.
The logical move would have been to introduce either Hassam or Daivari
as competent, individual wrestlers or as a tag team. Behind that
decision is the idea of molding them into bad guys that can be
appreciated and disliked for more traditional, yet entertaining, pro
Then again, that might take too much effort on McMahon's part.
WWE released 10 wrestlers last week: Billy Gunn, A-Train, Test, Nidia,
Chuck Palumbo, Rodney Mack, Jazz, Johnny Stamboli, Rico and Gail Kim.
The two surprises on that list are Test and Nidia.
Test (Andrew Martin) had been recovering from a neck injury, and his
real-life girlfriend, Stacy Keibler, still is a member of the active
"Raw" roster. WWE rarely, if ever, releases an injured superstar.
Nidia was the first female "Tough Enough" winner, so her departure
seems bizarre because she was the product of a WWE-produced show.
Giving up on her so quickly almost nullifies any credibility "Tough
Enough" still had as a legitimate platform for new superstars.
If the casual fan learns of Nidia's release, what incentive does he or
she have to watch the latest group of WWE hopefuls competing for a job