Mansoor Reflects on His WWE ‘Raw’ Debut and Breaking Down Stereotypes
Mansoor has a lot on his shoulders as the first WWE superstar from Saudi Arabia.
The 25-year-old first made an immediate splash at the 2019 Super ShowDown. The newcomer won a 51-man battle royal before a stadium of thousands in Jeddah. From there, he picked up other upsets in his home country over Dolph Ziggler and Cesaro.
Despite the initial success, he has largely been seen on streaming and international shows like 205 Live and Main Event. That was until the May 3 episode of Raw when Mansoor officially joined the Monday night brand, kicking off the run with a match against Sheamus. Days after the milestone, TV Insider caught up with Mansoor to reflect on what this big opportunity means for his career.
How much notice did you get that you were joining Raw?
Mansoor: I found out the day of. That’s the great thing about being a WWE superstar. When you go to work, you are kept on your toes. It’s exciting. I’ve been coming to the ThunderDome for the last two months doing Main Event. I think people have been taking a look at me and seeing if I’m ready. I was hoping this day would come. A member of the production team on Monday came to me, shook my hand, and said, “Hey, welcome to the team.” I can’t tell you how happy that made me.
When did you feel everything just clicked for you as a performer?
It was right around when the pandemic happened and the match against Dolph Ziggler at Super ShowDown [in February 2020]. I had all these hopes and aspirations, but the pandemic kind of shut that down. I remember a three or four-month period where I was doing nothing. It’s kind of like Ramadan, this month we are celebrating where we have to fast until sundown. You can’t drink water or eat. Then, when you have this feast with your family, it’s because of that lack of something [that] you appreciate what you have. When I got to wrestle and train again, I was like a man possessed. It was a whole new level of desire.
Triple H has been a big supporter of yours and responded positively to your Raw arrival. What did that mean to you?
Having his support means the world. I’m an indicator of how successful the Performance Center can be. I had some experience before joining WWE [but] being in this company and on live television, it’s a whole new ball game. You learn how to be a wrestler before coming here. Then you come here, you learn how to become a WWE superstar. They are two sides of the same coin, but also completely different. I’ve spoken to [Triple H] a few times and every time I feel like I’ve learned something.
You built a 49-0 win streak while you were wrestling on the other WWE shows. Tell me about that experience.
I was having those matches on 205 Live and felt I was getting momentum. Then someone pointed out [that] if I include the NXT live events in Florida before the pandemic I would be on a 25-match win streak. I had no idea. I didn’t want to put too much attention to it because I didn’t want to brag. I wanted to keep my head down, work, and be humble. Then it got to 45 and people started to report about it. I was hoping it didn’t end anticlimactically. The thing about the undefeated streak I learned was [that] momentum is key. Wins can really build and bring the best out of my opponents.
You did have this inconclusive match with Sheamus. What do you think is next?
Sheamus was an excellent opponent to start with, a trial by fire. He is the hardest-hitting, toughest guy in the company — I think a lot of people know that. It was a way for me to prove I did belong and can take a beating and still get up. When you are a WWE superstar, you want to go for a title. I want to take on Humberto, Sheamus. Outside of that, there are guys like Mustafa Ali, Ricochet, so many talented people. Randy Orton is a legend I’ve always wanted to share a ring with. Hopefully, one day I’ll be defending the United States championship.
As the first WWE superstar from Saudi Arabia, do you feel any added pressure to represent the country?
I’m so incredibly proud of what I get to do for people like me. As a kid, I would watch WWE and wouldn’t be able to see how I fit. When I told my father I wanted to be a WWE superstar, of course, he loves me and supports me. At the same time he told me, “Mansoor, you know people like us don’t get to be anything like that. When have we not been a joke or evil stereotype?” For a little bit of time, I wondered if that were true. Then I thought, “Well, then why don’t I be the first to disprove that?” There are other guys like Sami Zayn and Mustafa Ali who have proven to me that your background and heritage can be a part of who you are and your identity. At the same time, your personality and experience as an individual can shine through. You don’t have to be the stereotype or someone who is seen as evil. You can be loved and cheered and supported.
You certainly made an immediate connection with the fans over there.
Just from the reaction and support I’ve gotten from Saudi Arabia, I still don’t feel that much pressure. A lot of them say they are proud of me no matter what. Just the fact I’m here is an inspiration to them. I got to meet kids from Saudi Arabia … you can see the light in their eyes. It inspires me to do more and be better.
What has the transition been like moving to the U.S.?
I moved to America at age 10, but when I first got here it was that I was too Saudi to be American. And [now] sometimes I feel like people may think I’m too American to be Saudi. I think it’s important for me to understand I can have my home and where I come from and home where I am. Both of these places can be home, especially I’m building a home with my wife. We have a home and want to build a family, that’s my biggest accomplishment. I appreciate so much what this company has done for me in the sense it has provided me the platform and the ability to provide for my family the same way my father was able to do it for us. What was really great about being the Saudi representative of WWE is paid trips to the home country. Every single time I’ve [gone] back, I got tickets for my family to come. For my father’s first pro wrestling show, I have a video of him getting on his feet and clapping and cheering. That made it all worth it.
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