WrestlingObserver.com’s Dave Meltzer is reporting that UPN has told WWE in advance that it does not want the Hassan character on Smackdown this week, due to the recent negative press, including a link to a story on Variety.com from the high-traffic Web site DrudgeReport.com and a story on NYPost.com. WWE was planning a storyline change for the character.
Also, the following was posted on WWE.com today, along with the below stories from the NY Post and Daily Variety about Muhammed Hassan’s post-match attack on The Undertaker during last week’s Smackdown:
Media reacts to Muhammad Hassan
July 12, 2005
Several media sources, including the New York Post and Variety, have reacted to SmackDown! Superstar Muhammad Hassan’s recent on-air actions. Below are columns that have been posted by the New York Post and Variety. Hassan has promised to respond to the negative press right here on WWE.com. Check back here as more information becomes available.
New York Post Online Edition
‘Terrorist’ wrestles after bombing
By Don Kaplan
July 12, 2005 — UPN’s “Smackdown” aired what appeared to be terror-themed hijinks last Thursday ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â the same day as terrorist bombings in London killed more than 50 people.
The sketch was edited out of a U.K. edition of “Smackdown,” which aired that same night.
The sketch included images of Arabs in ski masks carrying a fallen Arab wrestler over their heads after he had “sacrificed” himself, evoking imagery similar to a suicide bomber’s funeral.
“We’re very proud of our product,” says “Smackdown” executive producer Kevin Dunn.
“We try and be sensitive with everything we portray, but there’s got to be protagonists and antagonists on our TV shows.
“We just happen to reflect the politics of the world sometimes ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â especially with these Arab-American characters.”
A WWE spokesman added that it was “unfortunate” that the sketch aired the same day as the attacks.
“If we had any idea that something like [the London attacks] might happen, obviously you wouldn’t try to do that segment on that day,” he said.
But the show was taped July 5 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â two days before the telecast.
After the bombings took place last Thursday, WWE execs gave broadcasters carrying the show a heads-up about the sketch.
It was edited out in Europe, but aired on UPN here with a discretionary crawl along the bottom of the screen that said: “In light of today’s tragic events in London, parental discretion is advised in viewing tonight’s episode.”
WWE’s Dunn says, “We are firmly in the entertainment business,” and that the plot, as edgy as it might have been, should be taken tongue-in-cheek.
On last Thursday’s show, an Arab-American wrestler who fights under the stage name Daivari was beaten by The Undertaker.
After the bout, a second Arab wrestler, Hassan, knelt near the ring and prayed while five masked men attacked The Undertaker and choked him into unconsciousness.
All five then knelt into praying positions and Hassan lifted The Undertaker’s head up for the camera in a scene that looked eerily like a beheading.
The group then left the ring carrying the unconscious Daivari over their heads.
Inside Move: ‘Smackdown’ takes it on the chin
WWE, UPN under attack for offensive match
By Michael Schneider
World Wrestling Entertainment and UPN have heard from several concerned viewers following last Thursday’s “WWE Smackdown,” which depicted a terrorist-like attack involving a group of Arab-Americans and a wrestling opponent.
The episode aired the same day as the subway and bus bombings in London; UPN ran a crawl on its screen four times through the broadcast, noting that, “In light of today’s tragic events in London, parental discretion is advised in viewing this episode.”
That wasn’t enough of a warning for some viewers, who took offense at the depiction of Arab-American wrestlers Daivari and Muhammad Hassan — who was shown in the episode praying while five men wearing ski masks rushed the ring and choked the “good guy,” longtime WWE wrestler the Undertaker.
WWE and UPN said they were unable to alter the episode, due to the tight timeframe between the show’s taping earlier in the week and its Thursday night timeslot.
“We all feel bad about the timing of the segment,” said WWE spokesman Gary Davis, who said the show wasn’t attempting to depict a terrorist attack — although he said he understood how some viewers might construe it as such. “People will see what happens this week (as the storyline) gets straightened out.”
The Hassan character recently joined “Smackdown,” moving over from Spike TV’s “WWE Raw” show.
UPN spokeswoman Joanna Lowry said the network reserves the right to preempt “Smackdown” but didn’t think it was necessary last Thursday.
“Due to the tragic events in London, we took the added measure of running an advisory four times throughout the broadcast so that viewers could make the appropriate viewing decision for their household,” the network said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation involving this character and storyline.”