Jinder Mahal's recent rise on SmackDown Live is one of the most surprising events in recent memory. WWE fans are accustomed to the usual players being featured every week on TV, and that's indeed been the case for quite some time.
The main event spotlight has been shared by AJ Styles, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Randy Orton, and Chris Jericho. Bray Wyatt was included in that rotation, and Dean Ambrose can be used any time the company needs him. But the introduction of Mahal to the scene adds even more value to the blue brand.
The reason for that has to do with the fans' perception of what SmackDown Live really is. Living up to the example that Monday Night Raw has set was never an easy task, so the company emphasized that fact.
SmackDown was labeled an underdog, and underdogs typically fight for every ounce of respect they can get. They also have nothing to lose, which means they go for broke every time out.
That's precisely what SmackDown has done, and a good portion of the WWE faithful hold the program in very high regard. Indeed, many feel that Tuesdays provide a much better product than Mondays. Shane McMahon's "land of opportunity" mantra has been repeated so often that it's now become what SmackDown is known for.
Enter Jinder Mahal, who had virtually no chance of ever doing anything past the mid-card. Fans knew who he was, and tolerated him to a point, but he's never really had any sort of value after his run with The 3 Man Band. Mahal was a great example of a guy that seemed to be doing all the right things, but just couldn't connect.
WWE's expansion into India has been rumored to be the reason for Mahal's elevation on SmackDown, but that may not be the point. The most important aspect of his sudden rise is that the company now has a new main event talent. It's different, it's fresh, and SmackDown has been known for going outside the norm.
The chances of Mahal actually becoming the next WWE champion may be slim but at this point, fans may not be so quick to assume it's impossible. The company has once again proven that anything can happen, so all the pressure now falls on Mahal's shoulders.
Is he capable of finally connecting as a great heel and does he pose a viable threat to the WWE Championship? Randy Orton will likely win over Bray Wyatt at Payback, which means he and Mahal will probably face off at Backlash on May 21.
Mahal may not be starting off in the right direction however. His match with Finn Balor on Raw may have resulted in the Irish born Superstar suffering a concussion. If that is the case, then WWE could have a problem down the road.
From a kayfabe standpoint, it's a great thing for Mahal. He's certainly never had more heat than he has now, and that could translate to his upcoming feud with Orton. From a business standpoint of course, it's never a good thing when top guys are not protected in the ring.
But if Mahal is booked in the right way, and if he makes the best of every moment he has on TV, then fans could perhaps begin to take him seriously. WWE can only take him so far; it's up to Mahal to make it work. If he can do that, then his match with Orton won't be a throw-away bout.
It could be the start of something important for Mahal, and for the brand that's constantly fighting to prove its worth.