The shocking move to make Jinder Mahal the No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship has to be just the start of a sustained rebuilding process.
Mahal entered the Six-Pack Challenge on Tuesday’s SmackDown as a long shot to win. He had previously been a pushover in the comedy stable 3MB. Defeat was a regular occurrence for him as WWE used him primarily as everyone else’s punching bag.
But Mahal stunned the SmackDown crowd by pinning Sami Zayn to earn a WWE title match at the Backlash pay-per-view on May 21. Even when WWE champion Randy Orton came out to confront him, the result didn’t feel real.
WWE’s job is to rewrite Mahal’s narrative. If the company is intent on showcasing The Maharajah, it has to do it right.
Mahal’s character, win-loss record and list of opponents will be key elements in the effort to turn him into a viable threat to The Viper.
When Mahal stared down Orton on Tuesday’s SmackDown, it didn’t feel like a meeting of peers. This was a magpie stepping up to a condor.
Mahal’s win surprised many because he had been a bottom-tier talent for so long. His sudden rise elicited more laughter than WWE would have liked.
Kyle Fowle of the A.V. Club joked about the situation:
Kyle Fowle @kylefowle
US Title picture: Owens, Styles, Corbin.
WWE Championship picture: Randy Orton, Jinder Mahal.
4/19/2017, 3:03:58 PM
You can’t blame him. Per CageMatch.net, Mahal is 5-14-1 in the 20 bouts before Tuesday’s win. That’s not the record of a contender.
If WWE wants fans to take Mahal seriously, his winning percentage has to go up in a hurry. The Maharajah needs victories. Lots of them.
Over the next few weeks, Mahal has to take down the likes of Zayn, Luke Harper and the man who beat him twice recently, Mojo Rawley. Cheating to achieve those results are fine. WWE just has to create images of Mahal celebrating.
Ditch Diversity Angle
After Mahal’s big win, he told the crowd they didn’t like him because they couldn’t handle diversity. He talked of his education, background and the fact that he can speak multiple languages.
WWE Universe @WWEUniverse
“You people boo ME? You want to boo the MAHARAJA?…Is it because of my higher education?” – @JinderMahal #1Contender #SDLive https://t.co/7CD7S1gG9X
4/19/2017, 12:39:33 AM
The “you hate me because I’m a foreigner” route is the wrong way to go here.
Making diversity a heel characteristic is a mistake. And there are more interesting elements of his character to focus on.
Mahal should instead play an arrogant man of wealth. If WWE wants to use Mahal as a means to do better numbers in India, his Indianness isn’t going to create any heel heat there. It’s easier to hate a self-righteous, pompous man who rubs his money in people’s faces.
In the tradition of Alberto Del Rio and Ted DiBiase, Mahal could be the next wrestling aristocrat.
Utilize His Goons
Mahal had ample help in winning his contender spot. The Bollywood Boyz (of the Cruiserweight Classic tournament fame) held down Zayn’s legs to clear a path for The Maharajah’s victory.
Adding Gurv Sihra and Harv Sihra will bring a welcome dynamic to Mahal’s act.
The stooges have to be a major part of his story moving forward. He can abuse them verbally to show off how heartless he is. The Sihra brothers can be his ace in the hole during matches, landing cheap shots to his opponents.
It makes Mahal look more important if he has a posse, much the way WWE did for John “Bradshaw” Layfield by surrounding him with a cabinet in 2004.
Joshua Gagnon of Wrestling Inc suggested WWE create a full-on stable with 205 Live’s Ariya Daivari:
Joshua Gagnon @HeelDoors
Jinder Mahal talking about being wealthy, Bollywood Boyz helping him out and dressing fancier. Daivari showing up in style. Just sayin’… https://t.co/TDYvq2Dsxo
4/19/2017, 5:10:23 PM
Being the frontman for a group of rich punks would be big for Mahal.
This will give WWE’s writers increased options for Mahal. It will be easier to round out his character. And it will be easier to buy into him going on a winning streak if he has a loyal posse to aid him each night.
Climb Over Zayn
Zayn fans won’t want to hear this, but The Underdog from the Underground is an ideal stepping stone for Mahal.
As one of the most popular stars, Zayn’s losses affect the audience. Those rooting for him are bound to aim their frustrations over his failures at the wrestler scripted to beat him.
Mahal should take out Zayn in consecutive singles matches and follow those up with a tag team bout or two involving The Bollywood Boyz.
Throw in some backstage beatdowns and suddenly Mahal will have an audience angry at him, and he will look like a more credible contender along the way.
As a bonus, Zayn is among the top options on the roster to get the best matches out of The Maharajah.
Zayn produces against just about anybody. And he makes his opponent’s offense look devastating with his punch-drunk body language.
The path to Mahal going from punch line to premier heel has to include his victimizing Zayn as well as borrowing from WWE’s previous smug bluebloods.