The WWE Championship, recognised widely as the most historic championship to come from the company, has been the most prestigious prize wanted by any competitor in sports entertainment.
Described by Michael Cole as the ‘Holy Grail’ of WWE, the illustrious and revered title has defined the careers of many.
First awarded to Buddy Rogers in 1963 after he defeated Antonino Rocca in the finals of a tournament, the title since then has been won by 51 different men. Some men saw their careers made by the title, but some were not so successful even after reaching the supposed highest point.
Out of those 51 men, Jinder Mahal had a 170-day reign starting in May 2017 which was met with much criticism. But it cannot be ignored that the reign by the ‘Modern Day Maharaja’ was a truly a historic one – not only was it a huge shock for the fans but he was also the first wrestler of Indian descent to win the WWE Championship. Once only seen on the undercard and as an enhancement talent, he was shot straight to the main event. It wasn’t a short stint either – Mahal was able to successfully defend the title on four separate pay-per-view events.
Here are the reasons why I think Jinder Mahal wasn’t a bad WWE Champion, and why his reign wasn’t a waste.
A Real Heel
What makes Mahal’s reign so memorable is the fact that he served the role of a much needed heel champion. Even though we did get numerous heel champs on SmackDown, they did not receive the type of heat a ‘real’ heel should get. Someone that everyone actually loves to hate. We had Bray Wyatt and AJ Styles as heel champs before Mahal – but it doesn’t even need to be said how much support and how many cheers and chants both got.
Jinder Mahal arrived at the right time and proved to be the best choice for WWE. Sure, he wasn’t the greatest heel of all time, but he did his job and played his role well for the climate of the time. It was a nice change of scenery for everyone, as Triple H most aptly described Mahal’s reign in an interview.
Out Of Nowhere
Jinder Mahal reached the main event scene in the WWE by becoming the number one contender to then-champion Randy Orton’s WWE title. He did so by winning a six-man match to determine who will face Orton.
From being a comedic wrestler as part of 3MB to being used as an enhancement talent on shows like WWE Main Event and Superstars – Mahal was never positioned as a star. He was let go in 2014 and was re-hired back in 2016 and nothing changed for him.
So it’s understandable why Mahal becoming the number one contender and then subsequently winning the title was a shocker; he was shot straight to the top with no foreshadowing by the company whatsoever. It was a rare twist and a truly unexpected moment from the company.
A ‘Never Say Never’ Story
When Jinder Mahal rejoined the WWE back in 2016, you could count the number of wins he had on your hands before his big win a year later. If you’d asked someone if they believed Mahal could be champ, they would laugh and scoff at you. But Mahal did what was unimaginable.
But his return had something different about him. Mahal went through a physical transformation and soon became a wrestler with one of the best bodies on the roster. He put the work in, and he worked really hard. It’s the story of a man who did whatever he could do to achieve his dreams.
Not only was Mahal doing good in the looks department, after becoming champion it was pretty evident how much he tried to do his best to carry the title and play his role faithfully. Mahal gave us some great heel promos and consistently improved his mic skills and persona.
The relatable story of a “jobber” or an underachiever who was never going to amount to anything realising his dreams was perhaps one of the best stories told on WWE television that year. He lived the true dream of every WWE star by making the most of an opportunity to showcase his ability.
You may have not liked his reign, but I am sure there are many that got some newfound respect for Mahal. He did whatever he could in the ‘land of opportunity’ and succeeded.
You can find me on Twitter @Rayan_Sayyed. Thanks for reading.