FOX did not take too kindly to one WWE group apparently aping Antifa on their network when Retribution came to SmackDown.
Led by Mustafa Ali, Mace, T-BAR, Slapjack, Reckoning, and for two weeks, Retaliation comprised Retribution as they brought their own brand of vigilante justice to WWE. All while wearing vaguely bizarre masks.
Ultimately the group flopped and all those involved went their own way with Slapjack (Shane Haste), Retaliation (Mercedes Martinez), Mustafa Ali, and Mace (Mason Madden) since leaving WWE altogether. Mia Yim (Reckoning) did leave WWE after her spell in the group but has since returned and T-BAR reverted to being Dijak in NXT.
Speaking to Steve Fall of WrestlingNews.co, Mace discussed the Retribution storyline and how he ended up in the group somewhat accidentally as WWE didn’t know where the storyline was going:
The thought was and as I understood it, they weren’t sure where they were going. But the initial thought when they had the little guys — that’s actually how I ended up in Retribution was they had the little guys with the ski masks on making a mess. And then everybody bragged on it, because they were like, ‘Look at how small these guys are, Drew McIntyre would kill these guys.’
So the next week, they said, ‘Vince said get some bigger guys.’ So they actually got some Performance Center guys, and I managed to sneak my way in as an extra long enough to get unmasked, and actually get called up.
FOX Told WWE To Stop After Anitfa Comparisons
However, the waters became muddied as the group was meant to be WWE’s answer to Antifa, something that FOX was none too pleased with:
But as I understand it, we were meant to be Antifa. When FOX, because it was on SmackDown, found out that there was an Antifa angle on Smackdown on their FOX program. They said, ‘Hey, stop.’ So confusion happened.
They were like, how do we pivot this because they had already dedicated a decent amount of time to this angle. And then they gave us supervillain masks. And I’m like, Cool. Let’s lean into being – I really wanted to be like Power Rangers. Yeah, I wanted to be Puddies…we looked crazy, but like, I feel like there’s a vibe for that.
Ultimately, Retribution died a quick death with Mace adding that he thinks it came as a combination of those in the group not wanting to be part of it and WWE never really getting behind it – although he notes things might have been different if the whole storyline hadn’t happened during the ThunderDome era:
Yeah, but they just, it never really got back on track. Some people didn’t want to do it. And then they ended up – it kind of just lost steam, and they lost interest in it. And when they lose interest in it, you don’t win. And the only way things work is if you have momentum, and we never had momentum at any point, but it’s funny to hear that you liked it because I get it all the time when I go out and I do things people are like, ‘Oh, we loved Retribution’ and it’s so interesting, because that entire period of my career was in the Thunderdome. So we had no live crowd.
I was never Retribution in front of an audience. So we had no idea how the audience was reacting to it. We’d obviously look on Twitter and Twitter’s you know, notoriously more negative. It would have been really fascinating to know how the audience would have reacted to the Retribution angle, just because that lets you pivot, you know, like, if they’re like, Oh, these guys are actually scary, then play into that.. Oh, these guys are kind of ironically goofy, play into that. But we’ll never know. It’s an alternate universe.
Despite the failure of Retribution, things seem to have worked out well for its former leader Mustafa Ali since leaving WWE. Mustafa Ali is being credited with an effect in wrestling not seen in years as he embarks on a world tour of the indies.
SmackDown will leave FOX in late 2024 as the blue brand moves to a new home and WWE ends its partnership with the broadcaster.