Can the success of Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship reign be judged now that it’s over fifty days old, or is it still too early to tell?
On May 21, we witnessed one of the most shocking championship victories in WWE history, as Jinder Mahal pinned Randy Orton to win the WWE Championship.
The man, who holds a record of 87-5-383 within the WWE’s storied squared circle as of this writing, had managed to climb through the ranks and claim the Holy Grail of Sports Entertainment in a matter of weeks. As you’d expect, this is easily the most controversial booking decision WWE has made this year, at the very least.
With a sea of superior talent in the likes of AJ Styles, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens all standing as suitable candidates to fly the flag for SmackDown Live, the decision to make somebody like Jinder Mahal the WWE Champion was a head-scratcher.
You can argue that the shock value of such an event managed to throw back to the days of old when the WWE exuded unpredictability, but the fact remains that when you essentially add a “nobody” to the long list of legends to have carried the WWE Championship, there’s a chance you’re going to sully its great history.
After all, the title doesn’t make the man, the man makes the title.
That being said, you’re never going to enjoy professional wrestling if you dwell too long in pessimism. You have to accept that sometimes decisions are made that you may not agree with, and sit in wait as you see whether or not they actually pan out.
WWE history is wrought with bad booking decisions, and none of them have forced the company to close its doors so far.
WWE history is wrought with bad booking decisions, and none of them have forced the company to close its doors so far. Some even turned out for the better, as we saw with Daniel Bryan’s incredible victory at WrestleMania XXX coming as a direct result of the fans’ disdain for Batista winning the 2014 Royal Rumble match.
Some questionable decisions can often turn out for the better, and that could very well be the case with the self-proclaimed “Modern Day Maharaja”.
The record books are set in stone, and we’ll never be able to erase the words “WWE Champion” from Jinder Mahal’s brief list of accolades between the ropes, but what we can do is look at how the man has done in his newfound role thus far.
As it stands, if Jinder Mahal was to lose the title this coming Sunday at WWE Battleground, would it be deemed a success or a resounding failure?
Well, this is somewhat subjective.
For a start, it may depend on the reasoning behind the push in the first place.
If they put the title on him for shock value and to shake things up, they certainly succeeded. If it was to hammer home the idea that SmackDown Live is “the land of opportunity”, then Jinder Mahal’s championship victory is a clear-cut success.
You look at the list of talent that has come out of their shell on SmackDown Live and that list is topped by none other than Jinder Mahal. The fact that he went from getting beaten by Finn Bálor on Raw to defeating Randy Orton as a member of SmackDown Live just goes to show the impact that anyone can have on team blue.
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The biggest assumption surrounding the idea behind Jinder’s push has been the WWE’s aim to increase its image and WWE Network subscriptions in India.
Given that the country has a huge population of online users and that the WWE is constantly trying to increase its network usage, it makes sense that they would harness that online presence to its full potential by sweetening the deal with a man of Indian descent becoming one of their biggest stars today.
Now, whether or not the company’s subscriber projections were met following Backlash is for them to know and us to find out, but surely the longer they keep the strap on Mahal, the better their chances are.
With that in mind, we could be in for a lengthy reign.
Jinder Mahal’s success as champion may be dependent on the justification for the run, but whether or not the company gets much financial revenue from this development, there’s nobody who’s benefited more from this than Mahal himself.
That may go without saying, but the transition that Jinder Mahal has undergone has undeniably turned the man into a star – or at least someone who looks like a star. The entrance, the Singh brothers and the scowl on his face as he walks to the ring all serve to make Jinder Mahal look the part as he attempts to prove himself.
His promos may seem monotonous and repetitive, with a growing theme of bigotry, intolerance and xenophobia present each time he addresses the WWE’s American audiences. But hey, it gets the man some serious heat with every crowd.
To some, it may seem cheap to rely on “USA!” chants to get a babyface over, but given that Mahal is the first descendant from India to claim the WWE Championship, it’s a natural angle to go down that magnifies the significance of his title reign.
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Ultimately, every attempt to gauge Mahal’s progress is all up to personal opinion.
It’s difficult to compare the benefits of creating a major heel in Mahal and the monetary value of having an Indian champion, to the disadvantage of having the WWE title lose some of its image while the U.S. Championship sees a boost in stock.
What will really tell the tale when all is said and done, though, is how WWE proceeds with Jinder Mahal when he inevitably loses the title. Should he dip down the card once again and go back to taking on mid-carders like Mojo Rawley, or stay on a steady track as he faces off against huge names like Cena and Styles?
The answer to that question may determine the true success of Jinder Mahal’s reign as WWE Champion – and whether he’ll be remembered for his time with the strap or if he’ll be looked back upon as nothing more than a paper champion.
What do you think? Has Jinder Mahal’s WWE title reign already proven to be a success? Or will only time tell whether the man will be remembered as champion?