Though Mustafa Ali didn’t receive the boisterous cheers at WWE Fastlane 2019 that he usually does, the SmackDown Live Superstar’s time to shine will come one day.
When it comes to the men in WWE, the Road to WrestleMania 35 revolves around Kofi Kingston – as it rightfully should. Kingston was screwed out of a WWE Championship match at Fastlane by Vince McMahon, who toyed with Kofi not once but twice. Instead of Kingston competing for the championship in Cleveland, Kevin Owens and Mustafa Ali competed in a Triple Threat match with title-holder Daniel Bryan.
To say that Ali was thrown into the deep end would be an understatement. The former 205 Live Superstar was seemingly the match’s biggest babyface, yet his impromptu addition to the match didn’t receive the usual thunderous approval from the WWE Universe.
Instead, the fans chanted vociferously for their hero of choice, Kofi Kingston, who has never received a one-on-one opportunity for a world title in his 11 years of exceptional work.
So while Kofi’s rise to a world title opportunity has literally been more than a decade in the making, Ali’s rise has come after mere months; he was only added to the SmackDown Live roster in mid-December after being a surprise opponent for Bryan.
Therefore, the fact that the WWE Universe was more ready to cheer for Kofi shouldn’t come as a surprise. And their cheers for Kofi weren’t meant to be a slight at Ali, whom the WWE Universe has the utmost respect for after his months upon months of hard work in laying 205 Live’s foundation brick by brick.
Quietly, the fans inside the Quicken Loans Arena started to root for Ali near the end of the match when the big moves started coming. Ali even hit an 0-5-4 to Bryan on the apron, only missing out on a pinfall victory for the WWE Championship when Rowan, who is essentially Bryan’s bodyguard, stepped in to make the save.
As a whole, the Triple Threat match delivered, despite the crowd’s reluctance to cheer after the savage ambush Vince McMahon orchestrated on Kofi Kingston. Ali showed, once again, that he belongs in the ring with world champions, shining alongside two legends of the wrestling business in Bryan and Kevin Owens. Though Ali has never won a title in WWE, he looked right at home competing for one of the company’s biggest prizes, and, in that sense, he passed the test.
There will be more big matches and moments for Ali, whose tenure on the main roster has lasted just three months thus far. In those three months, Ali has already become a main event player on SmackDown Live, which is bound for FOX in the fall. That bodes extremely well for Ali, even if it’s abundantly clear that WrestleMania is about Kingston, who, again, has waited for a focused storyline like this for a damn decade.
The good news is that Ali won’t have to wait that long for his moment in the sun. Every time he steps in between the ropes, he delivers as an athlete, and every time he cuts an impassioned promo, he adds another believer. WrestleMania 35 is all about Kofi in the SmackDown Men’s Division, but whose to say that a future WrestleMania won’t feature Ali as one of its major players? In the meantime, he’ll be laying the foundation for his own world title reign brick by brick – and as we saw at Fastlane, laying bricks is no easy task.