10/7/2018: I’m sharing this post again in light of our recent Sunday Sermon discussion on Ring the Damn Bell. We discuss whether the WWE Title still means as much as it used to. It’s a good read and I recommend checking it out and then revisiting my position on Jinder Mahal’s reign.
Now that I have your attention….
Looking down the list of WWE Champions, Jinder Mahal and Vince McMahon may be the most surprising names on the list. Surprising does not mean bad. You have so many people today that will say he wasn’t “ready” or that he can’t wrestle. Newsflash: some of the most beloved figures and champions of all-time could not wrestle.
Hulk Hogan, who literally WAS wrestling in the 1980s, could not wrestle. Ultimate Warrior could not wrestle. Why do these guys get a pass? It’s because the fans want to dictate how everything will go now instead of sit back and be entertained. In the 1980s and most of the 1990s, people couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Now, it’s oh great, I know this guy I don’t like is going to win so WWE sucks. Let’s go there and boo and tell them how much they suck. It’s preconceived notions and immediate gratification.
The largest vocal majority of fans today reacted in disbelief when Jinder Mahal won the six-pack challenge to become the number-one contender to Randy Orton’s WWE Championship. He’s not the person they wanted to win nor the person they wanted to see get a push, so they turned on him not because he is a heel who is trying to be booed, but because they had a storyline already planned out in their heads, and this didn’t fit into it. And then Jinder committed the cardinal sin of winning the WWE Championship. How did he do it? He used his lackeys to distract Orton and steal the championship with a dirty win.
So let’s see how this has gone: a foreign heel who shit-talks America and uses two lackeys to do his dirty work takes shortcuts to wins and steals the championship from a popular face. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like pretty textbook storytelling and booking to me. Of course with today’s audience, WWE creative used their mentality to their advantage, continuously giving Mahal cheap wins and dragging out his reign until AJ Styles would defeat him for it 170 days later. These people would tell you that Jinder was a terrible champion and never should have held the belt. But why?
Jinder is a beast. He’s 6’6 and ripped to shreds. So he has the look. He’s storyline Indian (actually from Canada), so he has the anti-America sentiment. He has the personality and the facial expressions that make you hate him. There’s the makings of a good heel. He’s not going to hit a springboard 450 splash or really do anything flashy in the ring. But guess what: THAT’S A NORMAL HEEL STYLE ANYWAY! A heel generally uses rest holds and submission and tries to grind down and ground a usually-faster and more explosive face. Watch any Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan match and dare to tell me I’m wrong. People couldn’t accept that Jinder Mahal could go from 3MB to a championship (but they LOVE Drew McIntyre?).
Why was he a great champion? Because in addition to fitting the mold of a heel champion for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, people wanted to see him lose the title more than any champion I can remember in recent history. Maybe Brock Lesnar is passing that, but the other recent heels champions got nowhere near the heat that Jinder did. Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Randy Orton, going back as far as CM Punk, none of them got the crowd venom that Jinder did. Sure he got the boos from the people who hated the position he was in, but that’s not the only heat he got. He was terrific at making himself hated, he never got at least some cheers the way those other heel champions did, and AJ Styles’ win was bigger because of it.
Jinder is the first true heel champion that I can remember since Triple H. If I’m wrong, tell me why.