Don’t Hinder Jinder
– Chris O’Mealy 8/6/17 – 10:45Pm
Did Jinder Mahal’s title reign truly fail, or was he a victim of bad circumstance?
It’s August, which means SummerSlam is rapidly approaching. WWE has taken steps in recent years to make SummerSlam as big as WrestleMania. SummerSlam has always been treated as WWE’s #2 big PPV event, so this makes sense. The August annual PPV now runs four hours and has a huge pre-show. A bit excessive yes, but it does create a big fight feel for an event that historically wasn’t always that great.
WWE booked a blockbuster Fatal Four Way for the WWE Universal Championship, with Brock Lesnar defending his title against the likes of Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman. Smackdown countered by having the insanely popular international superstar Shinsuke Nakamura defeat John Cena on Smackdown clean to earn a shot at Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship. The rumor mill is brewing that Nakamura will be victorious, and we may also see a cash-in from Mr. Money in the Bank, Baron Corbin. This seems to signal that Corbin or Shinsuke will leave the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as the WWE Champion. The odds of Jinder Mahal still being on top after SummerSlam are currently slim at best.
The popular story making the rounds is that the Jinder experiment is coming to an end. It has been said that Jinder Mahal is failing as a draw for the company. Hard numbers don’t lie, as Jinder’s run as champion hasn’t netted WWE a single sellout for a Smackdown live show, and even the Battleground PPV featuring the Punjabi Prison still has seats available. Due to Jinder’s lack of putting butts in seats, the decision is likely being made to take the belt off of him and give someone else a shot.
So was Jinder Mahal truly a failure as the WWE Champion, or were other circumstances to play here? I’m personally not a fan of Jinder, as I (and many other fans) see him as that guy who was a jobber since his return last year, only to suddenly be thrust into the spotlight and made a credible champion overnight, which to us wasn’t believable. I think that’s a big factor as to why Jinder isn’t drawing, but I think there are three main points that need to be examined.
First off, keeping Jinder Mahal as a heel during his championship run was a mistake. The entire point of Jinder Mahal’s rehiring to the WWE, and subsequent push to the top, was to get exposure in his native India, a market WWE wants to corner. The former TNA Wrestling, GFW, has had successful runs in India, proving that live wrestling is something the Indian fans would love to see. If Jinder was supposed to appeal to them, why was he booked as the lazy foreign heel who hates America for so long? Not only was Jinder showcased as the bad guy on an American television program trying to cater to Indian fans, but he was shown to be the champion who needed help to win all his matches. Jinder always had the Bollywood Boyz (now called the Singh Brothers) in his corner, and their interference kept him on the winning side of matches for the majority of his title run. So not only was Jinder booked to be evil simply because of his heritage (something that surely couldn’t backfire to a foreign market) he was booked to look weak and incompetent while doing so.
The second big factor holding Jinder back was the fact that his title reign didn’t branch out to anyone but Randy Orton. No disrespect to Orton, as I feel he’s a fine worker, but he’s not the right type of opponent who can carry someone to a series of good matches. Jinder could’ve used a program with any of Smackdown’s better workers (and talkers) to help give him some credibility. Sami Zayn, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the recently returning John Cena would’ve all been great babyface foils for Jinder, who could carry him to good matches and even some good promos. Heck, turn Jinder babyface and put him up with Dolph Ziggler or Kevin Owens. He could have used any of those talents to have gotten over. Unfortunately, the slow-talking, and often slow-walking, Randy Orton was the best WWE could give him. After three months of feuding with Randy Orton and failing to sell out arenas, Jinder is now labeled as the failure. Sorry, but programs require two people to fault when they don’t work. Randy Orton, while he has had some very successful matches and feuds in the past, simply isn’t someone that fans will latch onto as a top babyface.
All that said, there’s a third and very important aspect of Jinder title run we have to look at. Let’s say that yes, Jinder isn’t a draw and it’s time to take the championship off of him. At least WWE gave him a shot! How many other talents have come through the WWE ranks, where the powers that be have refused to even consider them as a top guy because they aren’t convinced they will be any good? WWE can honestly say they at least tried with Jinder Mahal! Maybe not as well as they should have, but Jinder got a spot in the record books. WWE helps back so many people for so long that they missed countless opportunities in the making. Daniel Bryan could have been the top WWE guy for a long time, but WWE held him back for so long that when he finally did get through, injuries saddled him and forced him to retire. WWE did the same thing with CM Punk, leading to a boiling hot amount of frustration that caused Punk to walk out on them. Even a legend like Sting, who the fans were excited to see, got put in a lame anti-WCW feud with Triple H instead of the dream match with the Undertaker the fans wanted. Now it’s too late for both of them.
WWE gave Jinder the ball, and while they certainly fumbled a bit, they can at least say they tried. Maybe now they can try with other talents too! Why not let a guy like Shinsuke Nakamura or Sami Zayn run as the top guy in WWE? Give them three months and see what happens. If you’re not convinced, you take the belt off of them and try with somebody else. It really doesn’t seem that hard!
Jinder Mahal may not have been the best choice, and I still don’t see his title reign as something we’ll look back on fondly in five years. But he got a title run, and nobody can take that away from him.
I have to ask. How is this guy passing their drug tests? I refuse to believe he didn’t juice at some point. A back full of acne doesn’t just happen.
Question and answer
Thank you to all my fans over at the Club Kayfabe WrestleTalk community who continue to support me each and every week! I am happy to answer your questions!
Q: We have seen a LOT of crazy gimmick matches in the last 30 years of professional wrestling. Which gimmick match would you like to see brought back, which should be removed, and are there any new gimmick matches (or new takes on old gimmick matches) you would like to see? (Russell from http://www.prayforaiden.com)
A: I’ve touched on this before, but I want to see WWE bring back War Games and burn the Punjabi Prison once and for all. War Games is such a great concept, and WWE owns everything about WCW, so they should just get over themselves and use it. The Punjabi Prison is an awful match concept, and has failed three times now. It needs to go away for good. I’m a huge fan of the Aztec Warfare match from Lucha Underground, which is a 20-man Royal Rumble but eliminations happen via pinfall of submission. I’d like to see that on a bigger scale, like in WWE. If booked right, it could be even more exciting than a regular Rumble. And I’ll keep saying this until it happens: a women’s Royal Rumble. In January 2018. BOOK IT!
Q: If the brand shakeup is indeed true, who would you like to see go where, and in particular, who would do well by being sent to NXT? (@DestroyerMoyer on Twitter)
A: This is hard to answer, because I’d like to see certain talents switch brands to work with other specific talents, but no one in particular really comes to mind. I’d like to get all Four Horsewomen on the same show and make a run with them. As for NXT, I think Bobby Roode and Asuka are ready for their runs on the main roster. Let Drew McIntyre and Ember Moon get their long title reigns, and bring those two up before the year’s end. I also think Sanity would do extremely well on the main roster, as would the Iconic Duo of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay.
Q: With the successes of Dwayne Johnson, Hulk Hogan and John Cena to name a few, are there any wrestlers that has that Hollywood crossover It Factor? (Matt H from pollinracingpodcast.podomatic.com)
A: Not really. I have no problems with wrestlers going into acting, because some of them are naturals at it, like John Cena, even though he’s often stuck with lame scripts to work with. Nobody on the current roster sticks out to me as someone who I’d immediately go “I gotta see that movie” with, but I’m certainly open to possibilities. Just not WWE Films products. Also, was Hulk Hogan actually successful in acting? Mr. Nanny won an Oscar, right?
Q: Why keep cancelling shows that are successful? They will lose their audience because if we know they are gonna just cancel the shows then why bother getting excited about it or even watch it? (Mickey via Facebook)
A: That seems to be a major issue with the WWE Network as of late. They’re cancelling original programming for budget cuts, and a lot of people I know aren’t happy about it. I know they can track how many hits certain programs get, so I assume they’re cutting a combination of the stuff that gets limited views and is expensive to produce. I can understand a gimmick heavy program like Edge & Christian’s show being hurt by this (despite my objections to its cancellation) but I really don’t get how a show like Ride Along is affected. I think they should make cuts elsewhere, but I don’t work there, so my opinion doesn’t matter. Still, this can make people feel like they’re losing value in their network subscriptions, and that isn’t good.
Q: Given the recent speculation regarding migrating all programming exclusively to the WWE Network, do you consider this to be inevitable, and if so, how do you see this panning out long term? (Randy via Facebook)
A: I think Raw and Smackdown coming to the Network is a great way to cut the cord, so to speak. WWE has plenty of advertisers, and could still run commercials on their network for whatever they want, so running those shows on the Network is a great way to get new subscribers and cut contract costs. Of course, this could also backfire on them, depending on how much potential revenue they could lose too. I’m no expert, but I think it’ll happen as a slow burn. They’ll start putting content on there like they do with Hulu (a day late) and then slowly migrate to being the only way to watch. It would certainly keep me subscribing, even if they did up the price, because I could easily cut my cable and still get all of my wrestling. But again, I’m no expert on how these things work, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Chris O’Mealy is a former indy wrestling promoter, ring announcer, manager and referee. Clearly, he is a big pro wrestling fan. He is the founder and moderator of the Club Kayfabe Creative Community, which you can like on Facebook and follow on Twitter. He hosts three podcasts (Club Kayfabe WrestleTalk, Talkin’ Talkies, and The Jersey Rain Hour) which can all be found on Facebook and Podomatic. He also writes for his own blog which you can read at http://comealy17.wordpress.com. He can be reached on Twitter @chrisomealy or emailed directly at email@example.com. You may also contact him on Facebook (facebook.com/chrisomealy), but he will only accept a friend request if you introduce yourself to him first.