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31 Days of Wrestling (12/9/17): Jinder Mahal Wins the WWE Championship


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2017 produced for us.


Where were you when Jinder Mahal won the WWE Championship at Backlash?




I was at home, shaking my head out of sheer disbelief, my face buried deep into my palm. The shock I felt wasn’t the feel-good kind. I was unable to fathom (and honestly, I still can’t) how a jabroni who was jobbing for the likes of Finn Balor months ago had suddenly reached the pinnacle of sports entertainment by becoming the 50th and the first world champion of Indian descent in WWE history without any acceptable transition whatsoever. It only took him weeks to achieve what others took years to do. It’s almost inspiring until you realize how lame and uncharismatic this guy used to be.

Prior to his Backlash victory, Jinder Mahal had just been transferred to the Blue Brand via the Superstar Shake-Up. No one really cared that much. He feuded with Mojo Rawley for a while before winning a six-pack challenge to become the number one contender for the WWE Championship. Everyone was expecting his co-transferee Sami Zayn to win and finally take his rightful spot in the main event scene. Jinder won for the sake of swerving the fans, but I honestly thought it was a good swerve. He was an interesting choice, and his win reinforced the SmackDown Live’s reputation as the Land of Opportunity.


Creative also backed up Mahal’s push by awarding him a string of convincing victories. He even beat AJ Styles! WWE was really serious about erasing Jinder Mahal’s losing streak in an attempt to help elevate his career as WWE genuinely saw how he worked his ass off to be better attempt dominate the Indian market. They even gave him some loyal enforcers in the Bollywood Boyz Singh Brothers. Clearly, his push was legit. All they needed to do was to develop his character for a few more months, even a year, and then award him a midcard title just to test how he would improve as a performer. Place him in important storylines and back him up with solid and consistent writing, perhaps.


Flash forward to Backlash. Despite the recent push Jinder Mahal received, no one really thought he was going to win. The crowd even gave him a sarcastic “Let’s go Jinder!” chant because crowds are assholes. The matchup seemed really dull on paper, but it was actually a good match. Jinder, despite not being a crowd favorite, managed to look like an imposing threat to Randy Orton’s reign. It was a highly physical match from the get-go, complete with heel shenanigans, ring psychology, and Orton respecting JBL’s hat.




After Orton murdered the Singh Brothers at ringside—almost ending Samir’s career with a botched backbreaker through the table—Mahal capitalized and caught Orton with a Khalass for the shocking victory. And the rest, as they say, is history. *shudder*


Through the entirety of his run, the WWE Championship wasn’t really featured as a main storyline. He did have a great showing at Battleground when he pulled out a trump card in the form of the Great Khali, but Creative didn’t really use it to further the idea that Jinder is a brains-for-brawn type of fella. To be fair, Jinder didn’t take his push lightly. He carried himself like a true world champion and added more aggression to his moveset. Yes, his promo delivery sucked, but he clearly wasn’t being dormant either. His recent segments were noticeably better and he seemed to have regained his normal speaking voice, so that’s good.




Regardless of our opinions of the guy, Jinder Mahal conquered the WWE in 2017, and that’s something to talk about on a year-ender column like this one. His sudden rise to the top speaks volume about how innovative SmackDown Live’s storytelling can be. You won’t see this shit on RAW! The Blue Brand had the balls to present us new faces on our wrestling and give the spotlight to guys not named Roman Reigns. His push also gave us a glimpse of hope that WWE is actually willing to give anyone a chance to break the ceiling, as long as it fits their own long-term plans.


WWE should’ve learned their lesson by now—you can’t just slap someone a world title and expect him to be the biggest attraction overnight. They spared no expense in making us forget that Jinder Mahal once lost to El Torito; I just wish they exerted more effort building him up like a true star. Here’s hoping that 2018 will be a better year for the modern-day Maharajah. I really love that moniker. Has a nice ring to it.

*****

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