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Should Jinder Mahal Challenge for the WWE Title?

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A few weeks ago on Smackdown, Jinder Mahal won the number one contender spot seemingly out of nowhere, and as a result, there continues to be much criticism towards the upcoming Backlash pay-per-view.

The criticism will remain, and that’s partially understandable, mostly because Jinder wasn’t presented as a star in any form prior to suddenly winning the next title shot. In fact, since Mahal returned after the brand extension last year, he only won a few matches on the main roster shows. If there was a steady push for him, or at least a few big wins to give the fans some type of impression that they should care what he does then maybe this title match wouldn’t have garnered such a lackluster reaction.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLETY-ME_l4&w=560&h=315]

Quite frankly, Jinder Mahal, who was released in 2014 after a four-year run with the company, isn’t currently a star. WWE brass can’t expect the audience to take him seriously as a threat to Randy Orton’s championship on such a short notice. That being said, any discontent with Jinder Mahal doesn’t really matter.

The logic behind Mahal’s push extents far beyond a particular pay-per-view or even network subscriptions for a specific month. Reportedly, WWE has major plans to expand into India, a major population center, and a market that showed potential in recent years. In fact, India is one of the very few places where TNA’s TV generates revenue so at the very least, it’s worth testing the market. However, population numbers and some success for the genre doesn’t necessarily guarantee a productive or successful expansion. Long-term success in the Indian market has yet to be determined. Sports entertainment is relatively new to that demographic and a fresh option could be merely a novelty act so it will take time to find out if the sport will become a major draw within the culture.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f67TEcL_kY&w=560&h=315]

If the Indian expansion takes off, there’s a huge upside to boost network numbers, which is why the Mahal/Orton main event won’t affect those that already subscribe to the streaming service. Are fans going to cancel because Jinder Mahal is working the main event? The reality is that the WWE network didn’t just change the distribution of pay-per-view, but also completely changed the dynamic around the events.

Before the digital platform, management really had to “sell” the show and essentially give the viewers a reason to spend $40 to see the results. Along with the reduced price of $9.99, the standard of what justifies a proper PPV main event is also naturally lowered, simply because the selling point of the network isn’t a specific event, but rather the entire service, including the extensive video library. Again, a consumer will purchase a subscription based on all the content offered, not just a particular pay-per-view main event.

Does that indirectly lower expectations or unintentional lower the quality of some of the less historic events? Possibly, but unless there’s a wave on cancellations based on the month Jinder Mahal worked the main event, does it really matter? Will certain fans continue to complain? Sure, but as long as they also continue to pay for a network subscription, what’s the difference?

At 30, Jinder Mahal is in the prime of his career, and his previous experience on the roster theoretically makes him more prepared for the spotlight. Granted, this whole thing could be a temporary push just to give Orton an opponent until the rumored Baron Corbin feud for Summer Slam, but assuming it’s not, does Mahal have the skills to be a main event talent?

As I mentioned earlier, if Jinder had a proper push instead of going from jobber to title challenger in the span of a week, the perception of this feud might be very different. Keep in mind, prior to his release, Jinder was a member of 3MB, a stable that would’ve doomed the career of most, but the trio made it work so Mahal is a versatile competitor. That said, the release was a necessary restart for him because the two years outside of the company gave him a fresh star when he returned. He looks the part, something that prompted rumors of steroid use, and he certainly does look drastically different than his original WWE run, but he had two years to work on it, and hasn’t failed a wellness test so it’s unfair to automatically assume anything without proof of steroids.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bfksXv7cRo&w=560&h=315]

While there aren’t many stellar Jinder matches to discuss, he wasn’t exactly in a spot on the card to steal the show either. The match with Orton at Backlash could determine the direction he goes following the pay-per-view. Mahal presents himself like a heel and has decent promo skills, but the premise of this angle might actually limit how effective it is toward his credibility as a threat to the championship. In theory, the entire point of a title match is the possibility that the belt might change hands, but that’s a tough sell if there isn’t a believability that the challenger could win the championship.

Obviously, the anti-USA gimmick was used many times before, but considering the evolution of society, is that really a main event angle now? Granted, Bruno battling the foreign villains in the 60s was the top program, but the heel foreign became more of a mid card act in the years that followed. Plus, with as much as WWE brass tries to work toward sponsors, is this the type of angle that’s worth the possible negative feedback? Anyone remember the disastrous Muhammad Hassan angle?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZvlEU9qzvo&w=560&h=315]

That’s not to say that certain elements can’t be used to get heat, but if this angle is only “the foreign heel” then it will be one dimensional and lack substance, which will limit Jinder’s main event run. The bottom line is, the potential revenue of the India expansion is more important than complains on social media. The WWE network is an entire service, not just pay-per-view events, and until it affects revenue, there’s no reason for the WWE not to book an angle to attempt to draw a new market.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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