Muhammad Hassan was an interesting and controversial figure in professional wrestling. For this piece, I was the first person Hassan, real name Copani had been on-record with in years.
This article was originally published on Wrestling Inc., and I was able to retain the rights to it. You can read my thoughts at the bottom of the page, and here's our follow up interview.
"You can be politically correct if you want, but are you trying to say we don't have a problem? Most Muslims, like most everything, I mean, these are fabulous people. But we certainly do have a problem, I mean, you have a problem throughout the world. It wasn't people from Sweden that blew up the World Trade Center." - Donald Trump
The above quote is from a WWE Hall of Famer, a billionaire, an allegedly respected businessman. A quote from a Presidential hopeful - Donald Trump.
Many have accused Donald Trump of going on the offensive against the Muslim faith in 2015, playing on the fears of a giant portion of American residents - a misconception that all Muslims should be suspected terrorists. Some said that racism was not only be tolerated, but endorsed and encouraged. Others said they were just looking to protect themselves. It all seemed so familiar to wrestling fans, even those who weren't politically savvy.
If you were a WWE wrestling fan, this type of reaction may have not been a surprise. The WWE actually aired a storyline on their wildly popular weekly programming highlighting the issue of xenophobia well over a decade ago, and they nearly struck gold with hate associated with it. As it turned out, the WWE, nor the world were ready for Muhammad Hassan.
WWE didn't explicitly say that Muhammad Hassan was Muslim on-air. They didn't have to - the religion of Hassan wasn't the focal point. He was Arab-American in a post 9/11 world, and he wasn't happy about the way things were going. In reality, Marc Copani was a 23-year old Italian kid playing an Arab-American on television. In the months that followed, he would see his recognition rise to previously unthinkable levels, and not necessarily for the better.
Within weeks, Hassan was working with legends of the wrestling business as their villainous foil. But as quickly as he arrived, and ascended, Copani and the Hassan character were gone, never to be heard from again. Why? How? Nobody really knew.
"I had my last match with the Undertaker in Buffalo, and I've not stepped into a ring since then," Copani said. "You don't top that. I made the conscious decision that when I was done with wrestling, I was done with wrestling, and I haven't been back since."
I certainly wouldn't rank tracking down Marc Copani as one of the toughest or easiest things I've done in my life, but as it pertained to pro wrestling interviews, it was rough. Copani isn't the most socially active former WWE star, yet he's not a hermit by any means. He's simply a man who doesn't crave the attention that many former stars of the business do.
Muhammad Hassan is one of the most intriguing characters in recent wrestling history. Truly loathed by crowds, the Hassan character sped to the top of the WWE card. A debut in January, WrestleMania three months later, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and Madison Square Garden the next. Then, just gone. Not for a while, presumably forever.
How could that happen in a business where reactions mean money, and money usually means being indispensable? A heavily hyped character, a tried and true angle (see the Iron Sheik in the 1980s, Sgt. Slaughter in 1990) with a twist. Muhammad Hassan's original vignettes aired in 2004 and centered around himself and friend Daivari talking about the prejudices they'd encountered in America after the horrible World Trade Center attacks. This wasn't your typical middle eastern gimmick.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, movies were postponed, shows were cancelled, most things deemed possibly insensitive to the situation were put on hold. Just over three years after the attacks, the WWE felt it was safe to roll out these angry Hassan and Daivari characters, and they did it with fire.
"This is where I grew up, right next to you. I went to the same schools, ate the same food, watched the same television shows, and there was never any animosity between us," the Hassan character said calmly in his first televised vignette in late 2004. "Not since 9/11. 9/11 changed everything for me and my people now. You look at us differently now. Don't say you don't. Be honest. All I want is a chance. Don't judge me because I'm of Arab descent, judge me because of my talent, my skill. Judge me for me. I just want a chance to represent you in the WWE."
As it turns out, Copani isn't Arab at all. He's "100 percent Italian from Syracuse, New York," as he told me. Still, Copani as the Muhammad Hassan character was hot fire for the WWE, at least early on. They had a top level heel who would confront white America about the struggles that he'd been through. Fans booed, but could they argue with him?
"Psychologically speaking, we despise the traits in others that we see in ourselves. I think the Muhammad Hassan character put a mirror to your general American population and reminded them that even though we live in this liberal society that recognizes civil rights, we aren't exempt from prejudiced tendencies. The character itself did a great job in provoking that in people. By telling the truth that people would rather deny, they started to see that in themselves," Copani said to me. It wasn't the first, or probably 100th time he's had to think about this.
The message from Hassan in the first vignette wasn't aggressive in any way, and quite frankly, spoke honestly about many Americans. There was, and is a lot of accepted racism under the veil of homeland security. Shawn Daivari (then known as Khosorow Daivari) followed up Hassan's words with a Farsi translation of the promo. Boos could be heard over the video, coming from the live crowd. The act was off to the races before they even physically appeared in front of an audience.
The vignettes became progressively more angry with each passing week. Hassan started to highlight the prejudice in American-Arab run businesses being overlooked in fear. He began threatening to beat the prejudice out of people. He threatened to lead a revolt against his own country of America. A much louder, vicious Daivari again translated.
Hassan would debut shortly thereafter, defeating eventual WWE Hall of Famer Jerry "The King" Lawler at the January 2005 New Year's Revolution pay-per-view. A mainstay as a heel in the WWE on commentary, Lawler's longevity and accomplishments garnered him the respect of WWE fans. Meanwhile, Hassan defeating Lawler, flocked by longtime broadcast partner Jim Ross, helped garner their hate. What helped garner hate even more, is that despite being abrasive, Hassan had a legitimate gripe - many Arabs were unjustly persecuted and judged following 9/11, and still are to this day. People didn't like hearing that, preferring to ignore it instead. Hassan wasn't allowing it to be ignored any longer.
"I was able to use truth as a part of my gimmick. Truth that really confronted people with what was going on in 2005, which was a lot of xenophobic backlash from what happened in 2001," said Copani.
Hassan's arrival came at the right time for both himself and the WWE. The company wasn't in any sort of peril, especially when compared to television ratings and revenue of today, but it had watched star after star leave the company. Over the two previous years WWE lost the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. They had to develop stars, and fast. Muhammad Hassan was a beneficiary of this, and shot up the card. His ring work gained criticism from some fans, but again, he was relatively new to the business. Shane Helms, who was then known as "The Hurricane," wasn't at the top of the card, but was one of the top merchandise sellers of time, and wrestled Hassan on many occasions. He saw a young star in a tough spot, under bright lights way too soon.
"He was just young. He wasn't ready for that level, but I don't remember us having any bad matches or anything being so horribly wrong that it wasn't fixable. He had potential, he had charisma, he just didn't have the experience. You can't take a high school quarterback and throw him in the NFL and expect him to work wonders," Helms said.
Former WWE writer Court Bauer admits there were conversations about the idea that Copani couldn't handle the heat associated with such an aggressive character. Nonetheless, Copani jumped head first into Muhammad Hassan.
"The general consensus was that he was fearful of the heat, that he was uneasy with it," Bauer said. "Yet, you're talking about a guy who was committed to the character. He'd wear the head dress out in public. He's taking the gimmick so far to wear the head dress at an airport and try to present himself as the gimmick. Ask a lot of people who aren't entertainers who have to go through that, you're subjected to a lot of scrutiny if you're profiled."
Regardless of any doubts associated with Copani/Hassan, the wins kept coming, and over WWE treasures at that - former WWE and WCW champion Chris Jericho, WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter, The Big Show. As is often the case in pro wrestling, backlash tags along with that newfound success.
"They messed with Marc a whole lot, too much really," Daivari told me.
"Heat" is a term used in professional wrestling for issues between the talents, and Copani admittedly had no shortage of it.
"There's backlash with anybody new coming up. That's a part of the process. With a character like that that starts out hot, it's not usually from the top guys, it's from the midcard guys that you feel that heat from backstage. The top guys are kind of settled in, comfortable, their spots aren't going anywhere. It's the midcard guys that feel slighted and overlooked. There was plenty of backlash, and you learn to take it in stride. I think with this character at this particular time and this particular push, there was a lot more than you'd see typically. Some of that I'll put on myself as well. I was young, I was overconfident, and I didn't handle things the way I would now. There was a lot of heat associated onstage and off-stage with that gimmick," Copani told me. "Sometimes I would speak my mind when I shouldn't, and I would keep my mouth shut when I should speak my mind."
Court Bauer worked for the WWE as a writer during Copani's run as Hassan, and remembers the locker room being categorically different than that of today.
"That was a hard time," Bauer said. "That locker room was nothing like today's locker room. It was old-school. I'm not saying it was a locker room that was indicative of the time, but I've never been in a locker room that was like the ferocious as that locker room at that time. The culture was pretty vicious. WWE 2003-2007 was a pretty gnarly place. It was very tough for a lot of guys. It was hard if you were green to the business to learn how it works. You had to pay your dues. Eyes open, ears open, mouth closed and respect the veterans. If you did that, you were okay. If you f--ked up? Ooh, you were looking at doing some hard times so to speak."
Helms, who now works for TNA Wrestling as an agent, thinks that the young star didn't necessarily bring the disdain from the locker room on himself, saying that Copani made rookie mistakes that come with the territory.
"A lot of the things that got him heat, 9 out of 10 people would have made the same mistakes. He wasn't a bad dude or a bad kid or anything, he was a good kid," Helms admitted. "He was in a tough spot and a no-win situation."
Copani recalls paying a $2,000 bar tab during a 2005 WWE tour in Tokyo in order to make up for a mishap involving Eddie Guerrero, and perceived disrespect towards him by the rest of the locker room. As it turns out, Copani was pressured by a veteran presence backstage, as many admittedly naive 24-year olds would be.
"The story is that Eddie Guerrero used the Camel Clutch, which was my finisher," Copani explained. "Kurt Angle, got in my ear and said 'Eddie shouldn't be using your finisher, it's disrespectful to the business.' Not to Eddie, nothing to Eddie. It was like 'You shouldn't let someone use your finisher, you're a top guy, you have to say something.' This is Kurt Angle, so I do what he says. Lo and behold, it was Eddie's father who invented the Camel Clutch, so I felt like a gigantic asshole."
Daivari remembers the incident well, and said that it was blown out of proportion by the locker room, who took exception to it.
"It was one incident, it was over. Once everybody got word of it, everybody started raising hell about it," Daivari said.
The incident landed Copani in the infamous 'Wrestler's court,' where wrestlers are tried in front of their peers. "I went to wrestler's court, and Undertaker and Shane McMahon were there, it was a pretty big deal, I was pretty nervous. Looking back, I think most people know it wasn't something I did on my own. I'm almost positive that Kurt said something to the effect of 'well, no one's gonna think you're a p---y...' (laughs). But it was like a wink, wink, everybody's going to think you're a p---y," said Copani.
Kurt Angle was a respected name in the WWE locker room despite only having been in the company five years. Prior to joining the WWE, he was an Olympic Gold Medalist at the 1996 games in the freestyle wrestling category. Listening to Angle was a wise decision if you're a rookie. Daivari told me that he believed Kurt Angle had good intentions, but didn't realize not everyone was as high on the totem pole as a former world champion.
Legend has it that Eddie Guerrero flew off the handle, displaying the infamous Eddie temper that would often shine through on television. Copani, however, remembers it much differently, as did everyone I spoke to.
"Eddie never lost his temper. He was very cool about it. We talked and hugged afterwards. I talked to Rey afterwards and I think they knew it wasn't coming from me. I would never disrespect Eddie Guerrero, the guy's a legend," Copani said sincerely.
According to Helms, despite Copani paying the astronomical bar tab to rectify the situation, not all of the boys backstage were chomping at the bit embrace him.
"He tried to make amends and bought some people some shots, and the people he bought them for just held up their shots and poured them out (to help rack up the tab Copani was paying). I was hanging out with a couple buddies and just grabbed them like 'lets get outta here. This s--t ain't gonna get no better.' It was a tough spot," Helms said.
Some would paint Copani as a victim in that situation, but that wasn't the vibe I got from him. He badmouthed no one throughout our entire conversation, something that rarely happens from those in the wrestling business, much less someone who has been out of it for well over a decade. On the other hand, I could hear regret in Daivari's voice he spoke about Tokyo. He was yanked from the bar by Chris Jericho, who knew the situation was getting out of hand, leaving Copani behind.
"An international hotel bar, you're looking at $15-20 a drink, and people are racking them up, drinking some, dumping some, giving him a hard time. If I was there the whole time, I probably would have chipped in on the bar tab, too. I remember Jericho coming by, eyeballing everybody, assessing the situation and being like 'I'm getting out of here,' and pulling me away. I didn't want to leave Marc. I was new to the show, Jericho was a main guy that I knew and appreciated and was selling tickets for us, so when he said to come, I gotta go. He kind of saved my ass that night. The next day I had to talk to Marc about it, and I felt horrible about not being there to back him up. It was a s--tty situation. This is our dream job, it shouldn't be like that for him," Daivari said.
Daivari said that even though he was directly affiliated with Copani, he didn't get the same troubles from the locker room. "I was pretty much exempt from it, I wasn't a threat to anybody. Marc was a threat to a lot of people. In great shape, Vince loved him, he was one of the hottest characters on the show. The people that f--ked with him, their positions were threatened, and were going to be bumped down the card. I wasn't a threat to anybody at all. Bradshaw wasn't going to move down the card because I was there, but he was because Marc was there. Someone like Bob Holly may not have been on the Smackdown house shows anymore because there's only room for so many talents, and maybe Marc's the one that bumps him off of it. They were the ones who had legitimate concerns, and they were the ones who f--ked with him the most."
John Bradshaw Layfield and Bob Holly, who were singled out as the main instigators of the situation (by virtually everyone but Copani) did not answer my requests for comment for this story. In 2005, Muhammad Hassan was a threat, and an overnight sensation for the WWE. Backstage politics weren't changing that, at least for the time being.
"He was in the mix. He was booked with the Undertaker, that tells you all you need to know. He was positioned to go somewhere, and it was the top," Bauer said of Hassan.
The Copani-Guerreo incident was in February of 2005, and the Hassan-Daivairi partnership cruised from there. Just a little under two months later, the duo were put in a feature segment on WrestleMania, WWE's biggest event. Calling it a 'feature segment' may not even be doing it justice, as it involved Hulk Hogan, arguably the biggest star in wrestling history.
"It was the highlight of my career. I've worked with tremendous talents. Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Kane, Undertaker, but it's Hulk Hogan. Not to take anything away from those guys, but it's Hulk Hogan. The moment in MSG when Hulk Hogan saved Shawn Michaels, I learned the meaning of the term 'blew the roof off of the building.' The center of that ring, it felt like we were lifting off the ground," Copani recalled.
In the eyes of the WWE, Muhammad Hassan was on top of the world. A WrestleMania slot with Hulk Hogan, followed by a major pay per view match against the legend isn't a task just given out to anybody willing to take it. As it turns out, Hogan would only have five more WWE matches after his feud with Hassan and Daivairi. Ironically, Hogan himself has been exiled from the WWE due to a racial tirade that surfaced in 2015.
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon took a liking to the Hassan character as well. "He was very optimistic. He thought Marc had a lot of potential," Bauer told me. "He wouldn't have given Marc the green light if he didn't believe in him. He wouldn't have given him Hulk Hogan or The Undertaker if he didn't believe in him."
For all that he had going for him, Muhammad Hassan wasn't an unstoppable force on WWE programming. He was defeated in under two minutes by eventual megastar John Cena, but usually his losses either came via disqualification, or in tag team matches where the much smaller Daivari would be defeated in order to help Hassan save face. When he was eliminated from the 2005 Royal Rumble, it was at the hands of six other stars, including four world champions. Just a few months in to his WWE career, Marc Copani had solidified a role at the top of the WWE card. Booker T, John Bradshaw Layfield, the Big Show, Christian were a few of his opponents after he moved to WWE'sSmackDown brand.
A main event slot, the boss on their side, great crowd reactions, things looked like they were set for smooth sailing for Copani, Daivari, Muhammad Hassan and the WWE.
Well, until July, 7, 2005.
"When it came down from UPN, when (they) said 'he's gone,' he was orphaned. Ultimately he faded away," said Bauer.
In an episode of SmackDown taped on July 4, the Hassan character was booked against legendary performer The Undertaker at that month's Great American Bash. However, that night, Undertaker was forced to deal with the pesky Daivari. Following the bout, Hassan appeared, praying on the ramp and calling five men clad in black masks armed with clubs and piano wire, who viciously assaulted The Undertaker before carrying him out above their heads. Three days later, prior to the episode airing, 56 people were killed and over 700 were injured in a suicide bombing in London. The footage of Hassan's attack aired unedited on UPN later that evening. The press weren't happy about it, and neither were UPN.
The Muhammad Hassan and Daivari characters were banned from UPN. Spike TV, who aired Raw, didn't want him either. The idea was briefly floated to make the Arab-Americans pay-per-view only characters, but eventually it was nixed. The once white-hot act was being removed from television altogether.
"Johnny Ace told Shawn and I what was going on. Initially, we were going to fight it," Copani says. "We were going to do publicity, talk shows, that promo in the ring, but eventually we realized if we fought it, we still weren't welcome on Spike, which was showing Raw at the time or UPN which was showing SmackDown. We knew we'd be very limited. I don't remember exactly how I found out, but within a few weeks of the Undertaker segment, we knew that character could not come back in that way to WWE TV."
It didn't. Hassan made one, final appearance: his match with the Undertaker in Buffalo at the aforementioned Great American Bash show. The Hassan character was effectively killed off after what many considered an underwhelming match. Oddly enough, the WWE doubled down on the masked terrorist angle, as they accompanied Hassan and Daivari at ringside. They were disposed of before Hassan was slammed through the entrance stage. Cameras showed Hassan convulsing on the concrete floor below, his back across a lighting rig.
Audiences, sponsors, networks had spoken. Muhammad Hassan was gone, crippled within the 'WWE Universe.'
We're talking about a world that was finally seeing television push the envelope. A few years prior, The Sopranos turned television on it's head, with The Wire following shortly ever. There wouldn't giant groups of audiences or networks calling for Bryan Cranston to be pulled off of the television screen while performing dastardly deeds as Walter White on Breaking Bad. Why when a wrestling act did it? Marc Copani knew exactly why.
"It wasn't push-back from white Americans, it was push-back from Arab-Americans who thought this character was a poor representation of them, which I can't disagree with," Copani admitted. "Even though Muhammad Hassan wasn't a radicalized fundamentalist, it was a storyline that represented a group that killed innocent people. I think that if you step back and look at it about what is right to parody, and what is insensitive, it was becoming insensitive given the plight of the United States and Western Europe at this time."
Even in today's edgy television climate, not all shows are exempt. Especially WWE's often kid-friendly product. "Even today we have shows like Homeland, and they get push back for their portrayal of Muslims and Muslim-Americans," Bauer said. It was difficult to justify keeping Muhammad Hassan on television based on the direction the character had been steered.
The WWE didn't wash their hands of Copani and Daivari, despite the controversy. While Copani says he wasn't explicitly asked to go back to Louisville's Ohio Valley Wrestling, he wasn't interested in returning to the developmental territory and experiencing another slow path which may have not even led to a WWE return.
"I had just moved from Louisville maybe 8 months prior. We weren't assigned to OVW, it could have been an option," Copani said. "I was also made aware it'd be a while before I would be called back up. I was told that explicitly. I guess nobody really knows, but at the same time, the character hit so quickly and hard that from what I gathered, it'd be kind of hard to spin that character into something that people could believe or get heat again. Ultimately, in my experience in that last year and what I had seen...I don't want to say I wouldn't have come back because I would have if something came up in the immediate future, but I realized I needed to move on from wrestling for my own good."
And move on, he did. Hassan moved to Los Angeles, and was granted his WWE release in September of 2005. Remember that heat he had? Stories filtered out of the locker room and into the press. It was said that Hassan turned down character ideas, wasn't liked backstage, and was using WWE and pro wrestling as a stepping stones that would lead to other projects, namely acting. There were rumblings that Copani simply wasn't interested in wrestling anymore, and the writers saw it, too.
"Guys that are sitting on the sidelines, for whatever reason - they're injured, being repackaged - they're almost stalking you," said Court Bauer. "Your phone number, your email, your text. Like 'Hey man I have this idea, I have 20 ideas.' They're trying to get to Vince, to Hunter. Anyone they can to advocate those ideas. That chatter wasn't really there with Marc. It was kind of a silent understanding, an inevitable divorce."
Despite the rumors that Copani was using wrestling as a stepping stone, Helms says that it wasn't really Copani's fault that things didn't work out in wrestling, even after the Hassan character. "I don't think there's any way you're going to be repackaged after being Muhammad Hassan. You can't come back and be something else," Helms said.
Copani's partner Daivari, now still just 31 years old, worked for the WWE until 2007. He'd later move on to TNA, Ring of Honor and currently Lucha Underground, traveling the world, still chasing a dream. He thinks that if he and Copani had come along a few years later, the story would be much different.
"It's really easy to repackage failures, but not successes," Daivari told me. "If Marc debuted any time in the last five years, or the TV-PG era, nobody would have bothered, and he probably would have had support of the locker room, instead of fearing he was going to take something away from them. It was really just a bad time, everything was in transition. It wasn't the Attitude era. Jim Ross got replaced by Johnny Ace in talent relations. In 2009 or 2010, people are friends with each other backstage, there's not a lot of backstabbing. Not that Marc wasn't surviving where he was, but he could have thrived a lot more today."
But Marc Copani isn't around today. At least not in the wrestling world.
"He was an interesting 'what could have been.' You have to want it, and I don't know if Marc had that desire. There's something to be said about 'too much, too soon,'" Bauer noted.
While Copani made it big for a brief time in the WWE, he didn't make it big in Hollywood, as it turned out. After writing and rewriting scripts for a while, he returned to New York and pursued a different journey - teaching. Marc Copani, who had been involved in one of the most socially charged story lines and situations in WWE history, became a social studies teacher, molding young minds.
"I talk global studies, ancient Islam and modern Islam, ancient Christianity and modern Christianity. How those subject areas have really clashed. We can trace back relations between western Europe and the middle east back to the crusade, and even further back if you know what to look for. Teaching history and a sense being a part of history, it's very rewarding," Copani said of his teaching days.
Copani says he always had desire to teach, as well as to learn, with social studies, psychology, sociology and civilization being a real penchant for him. He also feels as if this helped him when it came to the politically-based Hassan character. Despite having a crew of writers backstage, he had to think on his toes.
"One of the things that made the Hassan character so good was my knowledge of the past, politics, modern psychology and sociology and civilization of the American society," said Copani. "I had writers, but at the same time very early on, it got to the point that with the character, it got so popular that we didn't know if I'd be out there for three minutes or 8 minutes. Stephanie McMahon was the one I spoke with the most, and they may say you need to hit this this and this, but they didn't script it."
Marc Copani doesn't have a sad story. He doesn't have an unfortunate ending. He's not washed up physically, although he still has his share of wrestling injuries. You won't see him selling autographs at empty tables at wrestling conventions every weekend. There's no stories of him entering WWE-sponsored rehab or getting arrested. He's not a troublemaker. He's also never wrestled since leaving the WWE. He doesn't want to, it's not a need for him. He's a successful man.
The man who was rumored to 'not have passion,' has plenty of it, as it turns out. Copani has a son, a 20 month old. He also has career as a respected building administrator, a Vice Principal, a promotion from his position as a social studies teacher. It's a far cry from receiving death threats for things he did in the ring, and heat from his peers for things he did outside of it.
"My life is really different now," Copani told me. "I got into education about five years ago and got my master's and my CSS and now I'm a building administrator, my passion is working with kids in education. New York state education, which is one of the more complicated and bureaucratic systems in the country, I'd like to continue to advance in that field. Right now, that's my focus. It's a strange story, I understand it's an interesting story."
Today, the aforementioned Donald Trump is capitalizing on the same fears exploited by the WWE. Copani knows the drill, he was running plays from the same book 11 years ago in front of thousands in an arena, and millions watching around the world.
"When Shawn Daivari and I did the character, anti-Islamic feelings were relatively new in this country," Copani explains. "There hadn't been many major terroristic threats or events that took place on United States soil with the exception of the World Trade Center attack in 2001. With someone like Donald Trump and everything that he's saying, ten years removed from 2005, ready for the anti-political correctness to come across the airwaves. I think that's why a lot of people are embracing Donald Trump. Back in 2005 it was relatively new. The World Trade Center attacks sparked this anti-Arab, anti-Islamic feelings. Now the United States has kind of settled into it. A lot of people are intrigued and impressed for lack of a better term about how ballsy Donald Trump is."
Daivari tells me that it's been probably five years since he and Copani spoke. Unfortunate, especially considering how he glowed while talking about how well they worked as a duo. Before we hung up the phone, he asked me to pass along Marc's number, something Copani seemed more than happy to approve of.
Perhaps Copani, flanked by his friend Daivari, can be coaxed into delivering a final Camel Clutch to WWE Hall of Famer Donald Trump if that whole Presidency thing doesn't work out. Copani seems like he has all of the closure he needs. I asked him about a possible WWE return to close our interview.
"I guess it would depend on what capacity," Copani said. "I stay in shape, I'm definitely not out of shape, but I'm not in ring shape or as good of shape as I was when I was 25. I think that they've moved on from the Hassan character and all of the negativity associated with it. I made a decision that when I wasn't going to wrestle anymore, was that I wasn't going to wrestle anymore. Part of how I withdrew from that was the conscious decision to move on with my life, because I think it's very dangerous to spent your present focusing on your past and not your future. I choose to look into the future. Everything I do now is focused on that. I like working with kids and making this state and this country better one kid at a time, to be pie in the sky about it."
Although Muhammad Hassan's success story was short lived inside the ring, Marc Copani found long-term success outside of it.
I'd like to thank Marc Copani, Shawn Daivari, Court Bauer and Shane Helms for all contributing to this story.
SRS Revisits: When starting this project, I was looking for something that I could both sink my teeth into, as well as capture people's attention, and I think this article did that. Our country is much different than it was even 12 years ago when the Hassan angle started. I have a follow-up coming soon, as I asked Copani if he'd help launch Fightful. I've been sitting on it for a little while, as UFC 200, CM Punk's debut, the bevy of WWE suspensions, Summerslam and the draft have left me without a real place to put it.
I didn't expect this feature to take off the way it did, and shortly thereafter, Copani started doing occasional appearances at conventions alongside Daivari. I was planning on heading to Dallas for WrestleMania this year and catching up with Copani at WrestleCon, but unfortunately that didn't happen. I've kept in touch with Marc, and drop him a line every now and then, and he couldn't be more welcoming. He later told me that he was appreciative of how fair the article was to both sides. He said he didn't expect that from someone covering wrestling, which is one of the points of this website in general. We strive to be as thorough as possible.
I spoke to Shane Helms, Court Bauer, Daivari and others for this piece. At first I'd just planned on getting a few minutes of quotes out of people (like Helms) before I interviewed them about other things. The few minutes from Shane changed that. Him being so frank (which is really a characteristic of him) and honest led me to believe others would be. Fortunately, they were, although I think that I just had the right group of people to speak to. I go into more detail on the follow up, which you can see at this link.