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On May 21st 2017, WWE provided us with a wrestling quiz question that can be used for generations to come to catch out the part time fans.
Who was the 50th wrestler ever to win the WWE Championship?
Not John Cena, not Triple H, not The Undertaker but Jinder Mahal, and nothing (bar perhaps a TARDIS) can change that piece of history. That may be amusing as a novelty piece of trivia in the future, but the wrestling fan inside of me can’t help but feel a little embarrassed by it.
Now, to get things clear, I am not going to spend this whole article berating Jinder, but, there are a few factors of this situation which just don’t sit right with me.
Damaging The Prestige of The Title?
The WWE Championship should represent the best wrestler in the company at a given time right? Whoever you see with the belt, your going to assume that means they are the best in the business at this point. However, the reason WWE has given Jinder the title isn’t because they think he is the best wrestler in the company. WWE are seeking to increase their presence in the Indian market, and so have put the title on Jinder because of his Indian background, with the idea this will increase interest in India, and therefore increase merchandise sales and drive WWE Network subscriptions. In this circumstance, the belt isn’t being used for entertainment purposes or to reward the best wrestlers, it is essentially being used as a marketing tool, and that feels wrong.
To make the push seem more believable they slapped SmackDown’s “land of opportunity” strapline on it, and used it to sell the idea that anyone can win the Championship on any given day and that it acts as a sign of hope for
Although there are certainly worse wrestlers out there, it’s a bit hard to believe Jinder Mahal is the best when there’s guys like AJ Styles and Kevin Owens on the same roster, who have put on stellar matches over the last year. Even when you look towards the mid card, and some of the individuals currently in the tag division, there are still wrestlers which you would probably say that are better overall. Jinder’s sudden rise to the top is being portrayed on screen as a result of SmackDown being the land of opportunity and that those currently struggling to shine in WWE can look to him for inspiration to keep trying and someday become an unlikely WWE Champion. However, even this is false as we know he’s not been given the championship because of his capabilities as a wrestling, more his origins.
This is what I mean when I say it’s a little bit embarrassing. Imagine someone who hasn’t watched wrestling for a few years asks you who the WWE Champion is at the moment. When you tell them it’s Jinder Mahal and they likely don’t know who you’re talking about, you can’t even say he’s some new big star who has risen through the ranks, he was basically an enhancement talent at the start of the year. It’s embarrassing to have to explain to people that the Championship is being used this way and makes the belt and the profession feel a bit false and empty.
The frustration of this is intensified by the fact that Jinder Mahal isn’t even an Indian. His actual place of birth was Calgary, Canada – not India. Sure, he has Indian origin’s, but he is a Canadian. So in short, WWE are pushing into the Indian market by having a Canadian portraying an Indian character win the WWE Championship to increase interest in that market. That is a lot to risk and sacrifice for the sake of a business experiment, which at the minute is failing, as WWE Network subscriptions in India are falling rather than rising.
His Literally Unbelievable Body Transformation
Since returning to WWE Jinder has faced many accusations of steroid use from fans which have only intensified since he has been put more in the spotlight. The size and speed of his transformation is staggering, but for many, is too staggering to believe that it is entirely all just down to hard work. They aren’t completely unfounded accusations either, with many making the link (including former WWE star Ryback) that the swelling of breast tissues and increase in acne (lovely stuff) are often signs of steroid abuse. However people don’t know he has been taking steroids for sure, and as WWE has a strict wellness policy, you would think he would have been caught before now if he had been doing so. Although this certainly wouldn’t be the first time WWE swept something like this under the carpet to protect their star, given that Roman Reigns – one of WWE’s most cherished assets – was last year suspended for a violation of the policy while holding the title, it’s unlikely that they would let Jinder off the hook. This a pretty serious accusation as well, so until we know otherwise, really credit has to go to Jinder for putting in the work and majorly bulking up.
A Refreshing Change?
Jinder was pushed to the top at a supersonic pace. He went from enhancement talent to WWE Champion in a matter of weeks, without any build up. He didn’t really have a character and he didn’t even have any merchandise. Many have argued that if he was given even a slightly more gradual climb to the top, he would have been able to develop a real personality and character that would give fans a reason to care about him and buy into him more.
However this would of made his title win less of a surprise, as it would’ve been easier to telegraph from having seen the amount of momentum and effort WWE had been putting into him. This would kill the shock factor they were looking for and perhaps of made it less of a talking point, which some people have enjoyed. There are some out there who enjoyed being hit with something they didn’t see coming, and that it is a change to see someone who hasn’t been given a chance to shine a run with the title, rather than the same stars. However this run has all happened primarily because WWE wanted to get into the Indian market, not because WWE wanted to shock and surprise us and give us a refreshing change at the top.
Damaging The Show?
Ultimately wrestling is entertainment, so really this whole thing boils down to – is this entertaining? And debatably – it is. It’s got everyone talking and in that respect it has been interesting, whether it is for the right reasons or not.
When your the champion, you are essentially carrying the show. You need to be what the audience primarily tune in to see every week. Although Jinder has had few chances to prove otherwise, but I’m not convinced he is up to main event standard. He isn’t a bad wrestler, but are you going to wait till the end of the night to watch his matches? The worst part of this is that it means many of the show’s main eventer stars are now wrestling in the mid-card, which means they are having to hold back their best work to prevent from overshadowing the main event. Better wrestlers aren’t maximising their potential, and the main event is struggling to live up to it’s potential. Not putting your best wrestlers in the main event damages the whole show as a result.
Although Jinder is still yet to really have a chance to prove himself, and although I’m still dubious that his in-ring abilities are up to the standard of a main event talent, his promo’s haven’t been too disastrous. He’s gained real momentum and legitimate heat, which is rare for a heel to come by in this era. This is partly attributable to the fact he’s currently working an anti-American gimmick, which although is old as time (or at least feels it), does generate heat.
This angle may still prove to be a successful one, and it wouldn’t be the first time WWE came out better from a huge gamble. Jinder can only get better from this point forward, he already has a significant amount of heat and it at least provides an interesting shake up to the main event scene.
However, as a fan I just can’t advocate damaging the company’s most prestigious prize just for business purposes. And once again, it may be a shock, it may be a change, but we know that this is primarily as a result of WWE wanting to push into India, not to provide a shock or a change to the main event scene.
Jinder really needs to show how good he can be in the ring to show he truly deserved his push for more than just increasing Indian merchandise sales and WWE network subscriptions. The novelty factor in his reign will diminish over time, so he needs to begin showing his worth sooner rather than later.
What are your thoughts on Jinder Mahal being the WWE Champion? Have you enjoyed his run? Let us know in the comments below and if you liked the article give us a like and a share – it does us a world of good!