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Jinder Mahal vows to become ‘the new American Dream’ - how will his push play, in the U.S. and abroad?

To say there’s been a strong reaction to Jinder Mahal’s surprising status as #1 contender for SmackDown’s WWE World title would be an understatement.

If, as we’ve been told so often by WWE, the goal is to get a response - any response - mission accomplished. The question is, will it last? And the follow-up, is it the “right kind of heat” (along with arguments about what that means, if the term is being used correctly, etc, etc)?

Jinder’s first interview as a main eventer on Talking Smack last night (April 18) might provide some clues - or at least debate fodder. In refusing to acknowledge the contributions of the Singh brothers, aka the Bollywood Boyz, to his pinning Sami Zayn in the Six-Pack Challenge earlier in the evening, he demonstrated a solid grasp of heel basics:

Mahal: I did defeat five of SmackDown Live’s very best, and I did it all by myself and I will go on to become heavyweight champion - all by myself, with my hard work...

Young: Jinder, come on. You did have a little bit of help out there. I mean you were going out there, looking to become #1 contender to the WWE championship - a huge opportunity for you...

Mahal: Listen, Renee, don’t try to cut me down. This is a big accomplishment for me. Like I said, I’m gonna become champion here, SmackDown is the land of opportunity - thank you guys very much...

Oddly enough, commissioner Shane McMahon sided with Mahal and brushed off an attempt by Young to push the issue. That provided Jinder with a chance to build on another element of his in-ring promo, where he taunted the Louisville crowd about Americans “not accepting diversity, but having no choice but to accept” him as champ:

Let’s focus on what I said after the match. Despite everyody in the building booing me... it felt horrible, Renee. People should give me the respect and, you know what? I’m gonna get the respect, because when I become World heavyweight champion I’m going to become the new American Dream. I will prove to everybody, despite everybody hating you, nobody giving you opportunities, earning opportunities, you rise to the occassion and become a champion here in WWE. So when I become champion it’s gonna be Jinder “The New American Dream” Mahal.

It’s a very 2017 take on the heel “foreigner”, but it’s playing on the live audience’s tendancy/desire to jeer the “other” nonetheless.

That tack is especially interesting considering the persistent rumor Mahal’s push is part of WWE’s corporate plans for India - but it could be a smart one in that regard. Will Jinder and the Singh’s play as heroes in the second-most populous country on Earth (and others who are finding the United States might not be the land where their dreams come true), standing up to what non-Americans perceive the U.S. to represent in the age of Trump? Do the boos from crowds in the States confirm those perceptions?

With more than a month until his title shot at Backlash, WWE has given themselves some time to see how this experiment plays out - at home and in growth markets around the globe.

And that means we’ll have plenty of time to debate all aspects of SmackDown’s “New American Dream”.

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