JEDDAH: Sometimes all it takes to hit big time is just one chance. For 21 year-old Abdulmalik Ali AlMuwizri, a fresh college graduate from Saudi Arabia’s Al-Kharj city, that chance came two years ago. From a super fan writing reviews of wrestling shows, he has leapfrogged to become the personal graphic designer to “one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time,” Chris Jericho.
AlMuwizri was designing posters for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) matchups and dream matches in 2017 when news leaked in May of a full match card of tour shows in Japan. Two of his favorite professional wrestlers, American-born Canadian Jericho and the host country’s Hideo Itami, were going to be there.
Despite knowing that neither star reposted fan art, AlMuwizri decided to design a fan poster. With a mixture of anticipation and hesitation, he uploading one of his posters and instantly received a lot of love from his followers. But a far bigger surprise awaited him on Instagram.
“I received a notification that said ‘Chris Jericho has followed you’ and I was like ‘come on, not another fake’. The notification scared me because it had happened to me before — fake wrestlers accounts following me,” AlMuwizri told Arab News.
“So I checked if it was real or not, and it was in fact the real Chris Jericho who had begun to follow me. I was so happy and excited, I was geeking out or — like how we say in the wrestling world — ‘marking out’.”
Jericho, who is also into music, writing and acting, sent a direct message to AlMuwizri via Instagram saying he loved the poster but wanted it to be lightened up a little bit so that he could post it. “That was so incredibly thrilling, I can’t even put my feeling in words. I knew something special had just happened but I didn’t realize it fully at that time.”
The thrill remained palpable as Jericho requested announcement posters for his band FOZZY’s famous hit “Judas” as well as for his tours. He then asked AlMuwizri to create an official Jericho vs Kenny Omega NJPW official announcement graphic. It was becoming clear that AlMuwizri’s life would not be the same again.
The next day, the announcement was made formally: Chris Jericho had a new personal graphic designer by the name of Abdulmalik Ali AlMuwizri.
“He (Jericho) told me a day before anyone else in the world knew! That’s insane! Especially looking back at how that match changed the landscape of wrestling today! So that’s basically how he placed trust in me to make graphics for him every time he needed to promote something.”
AlMuwizri’s fascination with WWE began at the age of 14 when he developed a habit of posting match reviews on a popular Saudi online forum, “Eqla3.” Every review had to have fact-based takes on the pay-per-view (PPV) show and the wrestlers with a well-designed image, a suitable background and match cards. He found the forum ideal of sharing his reviews of the events.
“I didn’t know anyone who would do it (design posters) for me, so I had to learn from scratch with the help of my brother. I learned the basics and have loved it since then,” AlMuwizri told Arab News.
“A few years later people started to gravitate away from online forums and into social-media outlets like Twitter and Instagram, so I Ieft Eqla3 to start my Instagram account called ‘wrestlingparty’. It was simply to post wrestling photos, clips and some of my opinions.
“When I ran out of new photos or clips to post, I began to post some of my old designs just as fillers and was pleasantly surprised to receive a lot of positive feedback.
“The more I posted my designs, the more positive feedback I got. That’s when I knew I needed to focus on this because that’s where a bright future perhaps awaited. And that’s what I did in 2016-2017.”
It wasn’t enough, though, to just simply design posters for match reviews. AlMuwizri needed to step up his game. He started designing graphics for rumored dream matches in the hope that they would go viral and get noticed. In October of 2016, he designed a graphic for a rumored AJ Styles vs Shawn Michaels match.
“As soon as I posted it, it got a massive response and went viral very quickly. It was easily the most amount of feedback I had received at the time,” he said. “AJ Styles then reposted it on Twitter and it got about 10,000 retweets. Everyone in the wrestling world was talking about it.
“A few months later, AJ and Shawn Michaels talked about the graphic on the WWE Network show ‘Table for 3’. They showed it too on the show. That was big for me. I had some doubts then that maybe I can’t make it in this field,. But this was a big sign that anything is possible when you put in the work. So I kept slogging away.”
AlMuwizri is fluent in the lexicon of WWE wrestling. He considers himself a major fan, having viewed every weekly PPV show since he was a kid. He was hooked on the sport from the get-go, he says, recalling the days when he watched the matchups of the 1990s and early 2000s on his older brothers’ VHS tapes.
One of AlMuwizri’s proudest moments so far was when he signed a piece of artwork for the first ever women’s match in history in the Middle East, held in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi in 2017.
“This is Hope” was about sending a powerful message to all young girls in the region that anything is possible. On reaching Dubai for an interview, AlMuwizri was stunned to see his artwork displayed prominently. Soon afterwards, he was told that one of the biggest names in female WWE wrestling was going to meet him in person.
“I was so excited and nervous at the same time because she’s a hero of mine and arguably the greatest woman’s wrestler ever. She was so nice and so humble. And I was so glad she loved the artwork. It was such an emotionally magical moment, you had to be there to feel it! I will never forget it.”
AlMuwizri continued: “I want to thank WWE for making that happen and especially Adam Bigwood and Carlo Nohra. Without them, none of this would have happened and they deserve credit for it.”
As for Jericho, he may have appointed AlMuwizri his personal graphic designer, but it was not until the WWE came to Jeddah last year that the two finally got a chance to meet face to face. The encounter felt “crazy” because it had been a year since the young Saudi had begun working for Jericho.
“So you’re real then!” was Jericho’s first reaction,” AlMuwizri recalled, saying he was “humbled” by the exchange. “I was so glad that I was able to thank him in person for everything he did and still does for me. He’s such an amazing guy. I will do him proud Inshallah.”
AlMuwizri describes the opportunity to work with Jericho “an absolute honor,” adding that “he is not just one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, he is also humble and down to earth.”
Turning philosophical, the WWE super fan turned personal graphic designer said: “I always get emotional talking about how Jericho gave me — a stranger on the Internet — a chance that day when he followed me on Instagram. Just imagine what if he had not happened to see the poster that day? Or what if he had decided not to repost it?“
“It’s crazy how things work.”