At Smackdown Live’s Backlash 2017 PPV, Jinder Mahal, with the help of the Singh Brothers, formerly the Bollywood Boyz, defeated Randy Orton to become the 50th WWE World Heavyweight Champion!
A wide spectrum of WWE Superstars praised Jinder Mahal on social media, not out of corporate duty, but in acknowledgement of Mahal’s hardwork and 7-year trek to the top of the WWE mountain.
At the same time, many members of the WWE Universe posted racist responses to his win including references to Islam pointed to the Punjabi-Canadian WWE Champion.
If anyone was reading the tea leaves before the Backlash 2017, Mahal was always going to win the championship at the PPV. Orton doesn’t need the title as he’s an established main-eventer while the rub of the championship belt and defeating the legend killer helps Jinder Mahal immensely. Plus, WWE needs new fresh feuds in the main event and new stars.
Even former WWE Superstar Ryback, with jealously clearly lacing his stealth racist critiques of Mahal, first by “authoritatively” stating that Jinder Mahal was on some kind of performance enhancers or steroids due to how Mahal’s nipples look – really that was Ryback’s steroid “tell” – and then, second, dismissing India as a country that WWE should be investing any effort in because despite their huge social media support of the WWE most Indians are poor.
Now, WWE knows that there is a large vein of fans in the WWE Universe to which racism is acceptable and seen as the norm and not racist at all. That is in a very small way why the WWE pushed Mahal as a good chunk of his heat is legit racism while the rest while the rest is a mix of some fans not thinking the former jobber was ready for the main event or, more likely, fans reacting to Mahal’s strong “heel” work.
I see Mahal’s mid-career push as similar to Brock Lesnar’s early-career push. Some fans think both were/are well built, but no one accused Lesnar at the time of steroid use, yet that is what Mahal gets. And, no one said WWE wanted to put the strap on the young Lesnar to win more fans in the mid-west, yet many see Mahal’s win as not legit because they believe it’s just WWE trying to capitalize and deepen the strong WWE support from India. The real reason Lesnar was pushed early in his career and why Mahal is now being pushed is in part because they look like champions and, more importantly, WWE needs more new main event stars.
There have been many unexpected champions in WWE history including Sheamus, who no one ever said had the strap to win over Irish fans, or The Miz, Jack Swagger and even JBL at the beginning. In some cases it worked in creating new main-event stars, such as JBL, and in other cases it didn’t, it failed, like with Swagger. One would argue that any first time champion is a gamble like in the case of Randy Orton or John Cena when they got their first WWE Championships.
Will Jinder Mahal turn out to be a perennial main-eventer and repeat champion like JBL or an afterthought like Swagger? Time will tell, but Mahal is not an overnight sensation, but a known quantity who was repackaged, in part through his own healthy efforts, and in part with the support of the WWE machine, creating a stable around him, etc.
The WWE brand split requires new stars particularly top freshen up the main event. They can’t all be NXT or indy darlings. But, if it makes you feel better, Jinder Mahal is a NXT alumnus.
If you’re uncomfortable with Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion it may well be because you have a hang-up or (unknown?) bias and not because Mahal isn’t deserving; he is deserving. Mahal may succeed or fail with the pressure of the spotlight, but we owe him the time to see which it will be.
Tags: Backlash, Backlash 2017, Jinder Mahal, smackdown live, wwe champion, WWE World Championship