Source: Jim Varsallone of the Miami Herald
To garner a list of accomplishments and legendary opponents, one would think Shawn Daivari is an older, seasoned veteran talent in the modern day world of pro wrestling/sports entertainment.
On the contrary, Daivari, the TNA X Division champ, is just 24-years-old. Prior to TNA, he wrestled the indies including Ring of Honor and even had several high profile spots with WWE.
”From the first day I was here in TNA, I never felt like I a new guy,” he said. “I got here, and there were guys I worked with on the independents, guys I worked with in WWE, guys I worked with in Europe. It was really cool to come in my first day on the job and feel like I’ve been here for years, and everybody’s so cool about it, open arms.”
Daivari started young.
Born in Minneapolis, he debuted in 2000 at age 15 with All-Star Championship Wrestling in the Midwest. A talented worker, he shares his first name with a wrestling great he truly admires — Shawn Michaels.
Trained by Eddie Sharkey, Tom Prichard and ironically Sheik Adnan El Kassey, the Iranian-American became Arab-American Khosrow Daivari in WWE and later Sheik Abdul Bashir in TNA.
”I was in WWE four years, and only the first nine months I thought was really, really good stuff,” he said. “I’ve only been in TNA three months, but so far I’ve been doing really, really good stuff that I could of or should have been doing over there [WWE].”
WWE signed Daivari in August 2004.
Right place. Right time, sort of.
Daivari debuted on WWE Raw in October 2004. He stood alongside Muhammad Hassan as controversial Arab-Americans who were tired of the prejudice and racism they were receiving after the 9/11 attacks. In the weeks leading to their debut, the two men appeared on Raw in vignettes promoting their hatred toward America.
The character portrayal garnered them a spot at WrestleMania 21 with legendary Real American Hulk Hogan. Thanks to Hassan, Daivari later scored an upset win over his idol Shawn Michaels on Raw, leading to a tag match of Daivari and Hassan against Michaels and his surprise tag team partner Hogan.
After being drafted to SmackDown!, Daivari worked a match against another legend, the Undertaker.
In July, UPN requested WWE keep Muhammad Hassan off its network. WWE complied, effectively removing him from SmackDown!. At a pay-per-view, Undertaker destroyed Hassan who then left pro wrestling to pursue other avenues.
”I was more upset that nobody stuck up for us,” Daivari said. “They took an inch and turned it into a mile. When you’re in the public’s eye and you’re a company that big, if somebody acts, you have to react. Otherwise, it looks like you’re not doing anything. That goes for WWE, Yahoo, Microsoft.”
WWE is publicly traded on the stock market.
“When you’re that big a company, if your public or your audience acts, you’re forced to react. It was a [crappy] situation to be in, but I understand why it happened. They pulled the plug on my gimmick the first time, but within three months, I was back on television doing something different.”
Initially, Daivari went to Deep South, WWE’s feeder group in Atlanta and also Ohio Valley Wrestling, WWE’s other feeder group in Louisville. After a few months as Sheik Daivari, he returned to WWE and became Kurt Angle’s official referee and then manager.
”When you look back on it, there are guys who get injured who are out longer than three months,” Daivari said. “So it wasn’t that big a deal, looking back on it. It’s cool that the first nine months seemed like my most successful time artistically, creatively in WWE.”
He later managed Mark Henry and the debuting Great Khali. Daivari found himself involved with another legend, Rowdy Roddy Piper, in a Piper’s Pit segment.
In the ring, Daivari battled Jeff Hardy, Gregory Helms and WWE legend Hacksaw Jim Duggan. In October 2007, WWE released him. He worked for indies Professional Championship Wrestling in Arlington, Texas and American Made Wrestling, before joining TNA in June as Sheik Abdul Bashir during TNA’s World X Cup Tournament.
Using his anti-American gimmick, Bashir won the TNA X Division title, besting Petey Williams and Consequences Creed at TNA’s No Surrender PPV in September.
”There’s a lot of comraderie among the guys here in TNA,” Daivari said. “The guys are all cool. Everybody is friends here. I’ve never been in a locker-room where everybody gets along.”
TNA allows talent to offer input and suggestions on its angles and character development.
”I didn’t know that coming in here,” Daivari said, “and it’s been very cool that I’ve been allowed to do that. It’s something I always knew if I was allowed to give my input, the majority of what I’d want to do would work for me.
“If you have a writer for any television show, they have two hours of programming they have to worry about it. Usually for me, I only worry about three minutes and what I’m doing for those three minutes or five minutes or 10 minutes or whatever it may be.
‘It’s really cool when they come in and say, `Here’s your five minutes. What would you like to do?’ So far I’ve suggested three or four specific things. The first two went well. The third one didn’t, and the fourth one did go well.
“The coolest part was, even though they were unhappy the third one didn’t come out the way they wanted, they still gave me an opportunity with the fourth one. That was cool they let you try something, and they’re not afraid of failure. If it doesn’t work, then you just pick up right where you left off and turn a negative into a positive and do your best with it.”
Daivari is respectful but not shy.
”I always voice my opinion,” he said. “Sometimes it gets heard. Sometimes it doesn’t.
“Since my first day in TNA, I know I was the new guy, and usually people try to watch their Ps and Qs and keep their mouth shut and do what they’re told, but I’ve always felt like as long as what you’re doing is good for business, there’s no way they can be upset about it.
“I think my second or third week on TV I made a personal phone call to [TNA leader] Jeff Jarrett to talk to him about something, and he’s pretty much the highest end of the food chain you can go.
‘Thinking about it, that’s a pretty ballsy thing to do your second or third week on the job to call and say, `I have this idea, and I want to do this,’ but I don’t think he took it that way. I think he took it like, `Wow, this guy really cares about what he’s doing, and he wants everything he does to be as good as it can be to make the segment as good as possible.
“He told me first how busy he was, and he was extremely busy, and it had to be a short conversation, and we talked on the phone for like 45 minutes. It was something I really cared about, something I was passionate about. I think he thought, `That’s really cool that my talent cares that much about the show, and he’s not here just to collect a check.”
Daivari grew up a wrestling fan.
”For the most part, wrestlers are the biggest wrestling fans,” he said. “They were such a big fan of the product that they had to become a part of the product. Sometimes there’s people who are in it just as a business decision or just for a monetary thing, but usually those aren’t the people who hang around. You look at the guys who have been here 10, 15, 20 years wrestling. Very few of those guys were not fans growing up.
“I’m not saying you have to be a wrestling fan growing up to make money because there have been cases where guys like Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley made boat-loads of money, and when they were on TV, they did very well, but it’s very rare you’ll find a 10-year guy or 15-year guy who was not a wrestling fan growing up.
Daivari loves his work.
”What I know is when I’m at home, I look forward to getting back to work,” he said. “The majority of times when people are at work, they can’t wait to get home. Pro wrestling is like an addiction.
“Traveling makes it the hardest part of the job, but when you go through the curtain and the bell rings and your match starts, you don’t even care about the travel.
“One time I wrestled in South Africa, and after 33 hours of travel time getting back to Green Bay from South Africa for a match, I was dead tired, but when I got in the ring in Green Bay that night, I didn’t even care about the travel. I was like, `I’m here to wrestle. This is cool. This is fun.’
“Once you go through the curtain, this is the best job in the world. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.”
• How did you learn?
“When I started training, I learned the basics, and I learned more and more from having matches. The only way you can learn is to go in front of a live audience. You can practice and train as much as you can, and I’m not saying it doesn’t help, because I’ve seen people accelerate a lot faster. It took me about four years to learn what Bobby Lashley learned in one year, just because of the training he had.
“I’m not saying that’s the only way to do it. The way I did it went a lot slower. The guy I trained with showed me the basics. This is how you run the ropes. This is how you get punched. This is how you throw a punch. Just wrestling in front of a live audience with different people is how I got better.
“I’ve seen some guys who have been trained by the [crappiest] trainers in the planet, and they’ve become huge successes, and I’ve seen people trained by the most experienced professional wrestlers on the planet, and they’re awful. You take bits and pieces from everybody and make it your own. That’s proper training in wrestling.”
• Your big break
“I sent a tape to WWE, and they called me back and said they liked my stuff and asked me to send another tape in six months. In the meantime, I sent a tape to TNA, and they said the same thing.
“TNA used to run out of Nashville, and they booked me in a dark match there. They said I did a good job but had nothing for me but asked to stay in touch with them. Same thing happened with WWE. They called me when they had some shows near where I lived, and I did some dark matches for them. They said I did really good but had nothing for me but to stay in touch.
“I did that back and forth. In 2003, I did six sets of dark matches for WWE and three sets of dark matches for TNA, and WWE was the first one to offer me a full-time wrestling contract, and I ended up with them.”
• Making it to the big time so soon
“I was in OVW four weeks, and then I went up to Raw full-time.
“It’s hard to compare success because success is relative to everybody. As far as the pay-scale, when I talk to other guys, the amount of money I made from wrestling at 23 or 24-years-old is way ahead of the curve. I’m way past what they made at that age.
“If that’s one way of measuring success, hopefully by the time I’m 35 or 40, I’m continuing that same trend. Artistically or creatively, [WWE star] Randy Orton was world champion at age 24, and here I’m 25, and I haven’t reached that level.
“Financially and creatively every year I’ve been moving forward. So I’m fairly happy with where I am at 24, and I look forward to what’s going to happen when I’m 34.”
• Biggest compliment
“I don’t know. Probably in WWE. They would always stick me with their new guy that they were ready to make a main event player. To become a main event guy usually you need months and months and years and years to build.
“Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of that, and they need to get this guy on TV, and he’s wrestling in the main event on the next pay-per-view. For about 2 ½ years straight in WWE, the company’s formula was just put Daivari with him, and he will be ready.”
After joining forces with Hassan in WWE, Daivari sided with Kurt Angle, a returnee from injury Mark Henry and a new guy The Great Khali.
“That was kind of the pat on the back where the office had that faith in me with the amount of heat I had, and they could attach a guy with me and move him up the ladder faster than the natural progression of the wrestling business.”
• Working storylines
“The person making the decision — in his mind — he’s convinced it’s the best way to go. Nobody ever makes a bad decision to sabotage their own product. They believe that’s the best way to go, and they’re running the show.
‘You have two options. You can either give them their check back and say, `I don’t want to work for you anymore,’ or you just do what you’re told. You can’t hang around and do both.”
• How would you describe your profession?
“The profession we’re in is 100 percent scripted entertainment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t risks of injury. If a stuntman jumps out of helicopter and breaks his leg, did somebody really shoot a rocket at the helicopter and did it really explode? No. But did the stuntman actually jump out? Yea. It actually happened.
“That’s the same way with getting into the ring. When I’m going in there, do I know who’s going to win the match? Did the writer tell me this is what you’re going to do tonight? Yea. But once I’m in there, is the guy actually throwing me from the top rope to the floor? Yea. That actually happened. Did I break my leg? No. Could I have? Yes. It happens sometimes.
“Just because you know it’s going to happen doesn’t mean it’s not real. If I told you right now, I’m going to slap you in the face. You know it’s coming, but it doesn’t make the slap anymore phony or hurt any less.”
Writer’s note: [Anyone recall former WWF star Dr. D David Shultz and ABC’s John Stossel?]
“There’s nothing sport about our product. This is not an athletic contest. This is 100 percent an entertainment television program, but there’s athleticism. I can say the same thing about Disney On Ice or Cirque de Sorleil. It’s not a sport. There’s no athletic contest, but the people performing are probably the world’s most amazing athletes, doing the stuff they do.
“I see someone like Booker T or Samoa Joe. I mean Joe could be like an NFL player. There’s no guy his size [6-2, 298] and his strength who moves like he does. Same with Booker [6-3, 253] and Kip James [6-3, 260].
“Booker and Kip are two of the most legitimate athletes where if they trained, they could have been a baseball player or a basketball player, but they just chose to be in this business, because they probably weren’t crazy baseball fans growing up. They were probably crazy wrestling fans.”
• Why is Bashir bullying TNA referee Shane Sewell?
“A character like mine picks on innocent civilians who have no way to defend themselves. If I pick on someone like Consequences Creed for example, he’s going to fight back. If I pick on Petey Williams, he’s gonna fight back, but a referee is perfect. He’s someone I can bully around, pick on and there’s nothing he can do about it.
“The last time he did lay a finger on me, management knew he was wrong because he’s not supposed to do that, and they gave me [an X Division] title match because of it, and I won the belt.
“Creatively, that’s the perfect guy, but a man’s a man, and there’s a breaking point.”
• Helping Daivari develop and progress
“It sucks now, and it’s taboo to talk about but Chris Benoit.
“He really, really helped me out personally and professionally. This was a main event player, a world champion who had been successful around the world, drawing money everywhere. He was a world champ for the company. I was literally just coming into WWE, and he took more time with me than anyone.
“We worked out together. We traveled together. He would watch all my matches. As soon as I would come back, he would ask me 20 questions. I would give him everything I thought, and he would give his two cents.
“He would want you to come to your own conclusion, and then he would fill in the bits and pieces with his opinion, and that’s the type of information you can store in your memory bank and use in the future. You could be doing the worst thing on TV and do it over and over and over again because nobody tells you. You don’t know it’s a bad decision until somebody points it out to you.
“It’s a real [crappy] situation. He’s somebody I used to look up to quite a bit, but now I don’t even have a complete thought of him. It’s unfortunate. The decisions he made changed everybody’s opinion and my opinion of him. His first impression isn’t the memorable one. It’s the last one, and now he’s just a guy I don’t even know.”
• Daivari actually speaks the Arabic language Farsi.
‘Usually, it’s just generic heel promo, or sometimes I reiterate what I just said, the last line in English. If I said in English, `I’m going to the bathroom to take a poop.’ I would repeat it (phenetic), `Dam-dam Da-shee Shush-kanov.”’
“As long as the television is good and the material is good, I think everybody strives to have the best segment on the show. If that’s the title picture, great. If it’s not, it’s not.
“I think Mick Foley is going to be a really, really strong part of the TNA product. I don’t know if he will be a part of the title picture, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less of an asset to the show.
“I think the goal or intention is to generate the most interest, be the most valuable asset on the show, and usually things like championship belts and money will follow. They go hand-in-hand.
“If I had it my way, I’d be the No. 2 guy in the company because being the No. 1 guy, there’s only one way to go. The No. 2 guy can always move up. No. 1’s stuck. You can only go one place from there.”
• How long can you do this?
“There are guys actively wrestling now in their mid-40s. So there’s no reason, God willing if I stay healthy, that I can’t do this for another 20 years. Ric Flair wrestled into his 60s. I think if you want to, you’ll be able to go as long as you want, as long as you’re healthy and don’t stink up the joint.”
• Do you look at the ratings?
‘Sometimes but not too critically. The thing that no one takes into consideration with ratings’ numbers is what else is on during that time slot. They never say this segment lost 30,000 viewers when Monday Night Football came out of the commercial break or vice-versa. This show went into commercial break, and people went channel surfing.
“A long segment in TNA is 10 minutes. Most segments are three to five minutes. Ratings are broken down in quarter hours, 15-minute intervals. If I have a 3-minute match with Joe Shmoe and it says it gained 100,000 viewers, that was only three minutes of that 15-minute segment. Maybe the guy who went on after me gained 100,000 viewers or vice-versa.
“There was one show we did where everybody was so concerned because of a significantly lower rating, but that was the same night as the first basketball game of the season, opening night of the NBA on Thursday night on TNT. Well, that was another cable channel on at the same time as your program with a much larger audience and a very similar demographic.
“I think it’s a cool tool to use, but people who solely make or break their decisions on it are not looking deep enough into it. They are very narrow-minded. For the most part, I don’t think anyone in the television industry dictates their program solely based on the numbers. They use it as a tool to make their decisions, but it’s not a deal breaker.”
• TNA’s growth
“From when I was there in TNA in 2003 at the Nashville Fairgrounds to what it is today, it has changed and grown significantly. To see the steps made the last five years, it really gets me excited to see what changes are going to be made in the next five years.
“We picked up live events [house shows]. The international market is picking up pretty strong with syndication in different countries leading to international tours. We have pretty strong markets in Europe and Australia. Once we take the TNA iMPACT! show on the road as a traveling touring program that will be another big step.”
• TNA iMPACT! (9 p.m. EST/PST Thursdays, Spike TV) is hitting the road for the first time and landing at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip for a live show at 6 p.m. PST Thursday, Oct. 23.
Celebrating its fourth season on Spike TV, TNA iMPACT! will leave its home at Universal Studios Orlando for the first time in company history for a one-night-only live event to celebrate iMPACT! moving to high definition.
Appearing live will be TNA champ The Samoan Submission Machine Samoa Joe, Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle, The King of the Mountain Jeff Jarrett, The Icon Sting, Booker T, The Phenomenal AJ Styles, The Instant Classic Christian Cage, Beer Money, Inc, LAX, Awesome Kong, TNA Knockouts’ champ Taylor Wilde and more.
Tickets are on sale at the Hard Rock Hotel box office, all Ticketmaster locations and TicketMaster online.
• TNA tapes TNA iMPACT! four times a month at Soundstage 21 of Universal Studios Orlando. Admission is free. Seats are first come, first serve.
• Daivari spoke highly of TNA star Consequences Creed.
• A story on Creed ran in the Florida International University’s student newspaper which can be found at fiusm.com/articles/slug-consequences-creed.
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Source: Jim Varsallone of the Miami Herald