Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship run has been tumultuous to say the least. That’s no secret of course, as many fans have enjoyed his elevation in the ranks; it is a new day for talent in Vince McMahon’s company after all.
But for every fan that’s spoken out in support of Mahal’s rise, there have been twice as many that have done nothing but criticize it. That’s no secret either, as The Modern Day Maharajah has definitely had his fair share of bad booking.
In fact his booking has been nothing short of abysmal. However it did not have to be this way.
This seemed to be a fairly easy project. All WWE had to do was put Mahal over, and then fully establish his new main event run. Of course it rarely goes that easily for anyone in the company, but Mahal had a clean slate when it came to the big stage.
He was a guy going nowhere and that had really been the case from the very beginning. So when he was first inserted into the title picture, WWE basically had a blank canvas to worth with. It began well enough; Mahal not only fit the part, he also began to grow in it.
All he had to do was hate and he did that very well. But he had to believe everything he said as well and he certainly seemed to. When fans listened to Mahal, it wasn’t as if he was cutting a promo, it was as if he was truly hell-bent on getting his message across. He felt less like a pro wrestling heel and more like a villain from an Expendables film.
But he wasn’t so stereotypical that fans didn’t find him interesting. Mahal played on the racism that’s prevalent in the world around him, forcing the crowd to question if what he was saying actually had any merit. Mahal was a new kind of antagonist for a new era. He had old school elements, but with a modern day twist.
His ring work improved with time, making many wonder why he even needed the assist of The Singh Brothers. Sunil and Samir are great heaters and their alliance with Mahal is a logical fit. They unintentionally provide the comic relief as they’re tossed around like rag dolls. They are the distraction that allows Mahal to continue as WWE champion.
Fans hate that. They do nothing but criticize it. But then again, they’re supposed to; that’s how it works.
However even though Mahal had his ups and downs along the way, it’s his current feud with Shinsuke Nakamura that’s really caused a downward spiral. The King of Strong Style can bring out the best in anyone he works and he typically always has. When a guy gets into the ring with Nakamura, he’s not just entering into a wrestling match; he’s entering into another level of performance art.
Nakamura is one of the finest storytellers between the ropes and he can elevate Mahal even higher than he is now. But so far, Mahal has been ridiculous at best. Week in and week out, he and The Singh Brothers stand in the SmackDown Live ring and laugh at jokes that aren’t funny. They make insults that aren’t insulting and they generate zero heat in the process.
They have become caricatures of themselves and it’s not helped Mahal’s cause at all. Now instead of being a guy that’s in the process of earning his main event spot, Mahal is floundering with a title he shouldn’t have. The WWE Championship means so little now that fans are wondering why he even still has it.
But the problem with Mahal losing it to Nakamura is twofold.
On one hand, a Nakamura title win at Hell in a Cell would be the perfect move because finally Mahal would be out of that spot. If anyone should have a run at the top, it’s definitely Nakamura. But who is Nakamura actually beating? Is he beating the hardworking Superstar that finally caught a break, or is he beating the lame duck champion that’s just been a failed experiment?
Mahal has no momentum, he has no heat and he has no reputation. He’s keeping the belt warm for the next guy when he should have grown into his role and earned his title. “Anyone but Mahal” is understandable, but it doesn’t give Nakamura much to run with. Would he only be a short term champion as well?
On the other hand, a Mahal victory at Hell in a Cell would harm Nakamura’s positioning in the company. The King of Strong Style went from zero to the main event overnight, as he himself had also been the victim of bad booking. Losing to Mahal would put him right back where he was before and there would be no guarantee that Mahal’s booking would then improve after the fact.
Ultimately it will be Nakamura versus AJ Styles and that match will likely happen at WrestleMania 34. But whether or not the WWE Championship will be in the mix is unclear and it’s a long way until April 8, 2018.
So while WWE moves the chess pieces into place, Mahal’s current situation must be dealt with.
He has the ability to excel and become a legitimate main event presence, or he can continue to stall until he loses the title. There’s still time to right the ship but whether or not WWE plans to is another matter altogether.
WWE is in the business of creating stars. It’s the method by which the company has grown since the 1980’s and it’s the weapon that was used to defeat WCW during the Monday Night Wars. Without new and fresh stars to carry WWE forward, there can be no evolution.
Jinder Mahal can be part of that evolution or it can pass him by. The decision is in the hands of WWE.