Some were enraged, others ironically, hipster pumped, and a select few legitimately happy. The range of emotions and reactions to Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship victory over Randy Orton last night in Chicago certainly spanned the spectrum. My own reaction wasn’t disgust, but it wasn’t elation either. Generally, I just watched a wrestling angle take place and watched a promotion decide to push someone unexpected.
But, this has been a possibility since the surprising SmackDown Live victory that made Mahal the number one contender to the gold. The why is easy, as WWE’s expansion and desire to make big money in India means they need a marketable star representing that portion of the world. We won’t talk about Jinder’s upbringing in Canada, because the descent is correct, and the available names for that spot included Mahal and precisely no one else.
Here’s the down and dirty about professional wrestling. While you’ll read many words and listen to many “experts” that will decry this as an atrocity, there’s something everyone needs to remember about this business.
Vince McMahon or any other promoter can choose to make a star out of virtually anybody. The fans might reject it, but if it’s built well, it’s tough to completely botch. For instance, for all the vitriol sent Jinder’s way, how many Lex Luger title matches mesmerized you in the mid-90s in WWE? How many Kevin Nash matches changed your life? Kane is a multi-time champ. The list goes on and on, and no, Jinder Mahal isn’t Steve Austin or Ric Flair, but WWE made a decision.
Was it a good one? It’s too early to tell. I shrugged my shoulders, and I wasn’t thrilled about it, because the guy isn’t ready for this role and wasn’t properly “made” before the company handed him the crown. His match with Orton was perfectly fine, and was Randy’s best PPV work since before WrestleMania. The crowd was into it, even if it was artificial and not genuine, and the show did end with something newsworthy. I’m trying to find the good in this situation.
Jinder Mahal is the guy they picked at this time to be in this spot, win this Championship, and get this push. What matters now is how they follow it up, and of course whether people tune in to watch it or not. The finish of the Backlash main event wasn’t earth shattering or game changing, and it’s level of importance will likely be vastly overstated. In a business where wins and losses don’t matter, at least within WWE, who gives a damn? That’s part of the problem today. We don’t care about the victors, except for some insane reason when Roman Reigns ends up on top.
We live in an era where people attend shows just to have experiences, with no care of the legitimacy of what they’re watching. We can see comedy in the middle of death matches, just as one example. Some of the guys that entertain like no other do spots that make absolutely no sense and can’t be explained with actual physics or science. This is a fake business, which is why I enjoyed Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne so much on Saturday night. I bought everything those two guys did, from the strikes to the holds to the suplexes to the bigger spots. Everything felt real to me, and that’s why I watch.
I also realize it’s not why everybody else watches. My tastes didn’t match up with The Final Deletion, but I begrudged no one who loved every second of it. Certain styles work for certain fans, and as someone who grew up on Jim Crockett Promotions and then worked in wrestling in the southeast, I’m more built for that brand of storytelling and work. There’s room for anything in pro wrestling, because it’s a completely absurd business to begin with, and it’s historically been littered with over-the-top camp.
So, I ask myself why anyone would lose their minds over one guy beating another guy? It comes down to the history of this particular individual, and a lack of anything that stands out about him as a performer, except for the obvious enhancement drugs in his system. Sorry to call him out, but his back is enough evidence to put him away in court. No jury would let him off on PED charges.
In the ring, he’s adequate, but that’s really about it. His promos aren’t anything special, though the way he stared into the camera last night made his essence more effective, even if his words didn’t elevate him any further. He’s just a guy with a crazy physique that happens to be in the right place at the right time. He appears to be well-liked and he got lucky.
Again, it’s pro wrestling. If the writing and the push sync properly, it has a chance to work. We’ll have to wait and see how it actually progresses, but it’s unfair to shun WWE for a simple creative decision. That goes for any creative decision. Sometimes the movie just sucks, but it doesn’t mean we’re never going to see another film Paramount or Miramax releases. Each situation is independent of everything else. Did Jinder Mahal deserve that title? No, but who really does? Someone says “You’re going to be my Champion.” You aren’t winning anything.
There was a moment where Tim Burton and his casting director decided Michael Keaton was right for the role of Beetlejuice. Was he the best person for that character? Who the hell knows. Was Britney Spears the most talented singer in the world when she broke out? No, but she had a hell of a midriff. And it clicked.
Jinder Mahal has a midriff that WWE likes right now, both literally and figuratively.
Now, I have no idea if he can belt out “Baby One More Time,” but it’s possible. So they’re going to try this, and if it fails, they’ll do something else. Any title can move at any time, and we’ve already seen many new champs in 2017. I just can’t bring myself to get too high or too low about this result. Sure, I rolled my eyes, because I’d like to see someone else - specifically Rusev - given this spot. But it’s not the end of the world. Far bigger mistakes have been made, if you consider this to be one.
House of Horrors is a thing that happened just a few weeks ago. How soon we forget. It could always be worse.
Nobody on SmackDown is drawing big money. Hell, no regular performer in WWE is drawing big money. Let’s just slow our collective roll and see what’s in store. If it stinks, we’ll tell them so. I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t have done it, but if I had been Morgan Freeman, I would have said “No” to Dreamcatcher.
That dude’s still got a career.
Thus, a heel winning a title in a company that loves to forget its history whenever convenient doesn’t leave me shaking on the carpet or rushing to cancel my WWE Network subscription.
Truthfully, there’s not that much to see here. Good for him. I hope it works out. There’s nothing to be gained by rooting against someone trying to make a living. Plus, I’d rather not waste my time watching bad television, so I hope for the best.
So should you, even if you’re pissed off today.