This week's episode of SmackDown Live may have finally given us the definitive reason to despise the Jinder Mahal character. That is if we can stomach it.
Mahal has been hammering the rasicm button for some time, as a victim of it, even if only by perception. The fans, in their own way, were happy to play the part. Booing an old woman singing a national anthem is hard to justify, no matter your feelings for the guy who arranged it.
Mahal, who, again, has built his entire WWE championship run on the idea that everyone is against him because of where he comes from, used every stereotype imaginable against his next opponent, Shinsuke Nakamura. He was, to be blunt, racist.
This, of course, is, in its way, the perfect turn for his character. OF COURSE he would say these things and expose himself to be a hypocrite. It's deplorable behavior that should be rejected in the strongest possible terms. This only works if fans respond with righteous indignation and a desire to see him get a comeuppance he now absolutely deserves. The goal is to ensure we no longer want him to be our champion and, instead, want Nakamura, a much purer symbol of diversity, to hold the most prestigious title in the promotion.
The issue is whether or not fans can look past the racism to get to that point. It sure didn't seem that way to the live crowd in Oakland, who actually chanted "that's too far" while Mahal was spouting his stereotypes. Yes, the idea is to get heat and I tend to believe heels should be given as much leeway as possible to get it but there's a line you can cross into discomfort where the only cure is to simply walk away from it.
This felt a bit like it went over that line.
Again, this works for the story but are fans going to be receptive to it? We'll find out soon enough.
All the rest
Queen: WWE using Ric Flair's battle through medical issues to push Charlotte as a stronger babyface is smart business and we shouldn't begrudge them for it. They put together an incredibly fun Fatal 4-Way main event with most the women's division involved who put Charlotte over without hurting anyone else in the process. This was booked well, worked well, and hugely entertaining. What's more, Nattie as crazy cat lady works well and we can be reasonably sure she'll have a good match with Flair at Hell in a Cell.
Hell or Heaven: Kevin Owens laying waste to Vince McMahon was a really strong angle but one WWE was always going to have a hard time following up on. Here, we got Shane vowing revenge for his family and Owens apologizing before saying he's pretty much going to do the same to the son that he did to the father. It was fine, it's just hard to draw interest in a match where the outcome seems obvious, or at least it should be. Then again, McMahon had one hell of a match with AJ Styles at WrestleMania. Maybe they'll surprise us here.
D-Generation Z: I love this Dolph Ziggler stuff so much, I hope it never ends. It's always cringe worthy when wrestlers refer to "performing," as it's a little too inside baseball for my tastes, but it works for Ziggler because he just hates it so very, very much that no one loves him. I'm legitimately hoping they push this as far as possible. Let Ziggler have a straight up mental breakdown and start begging for the adoration he so desperately craves. I'm certain he would make it riveting television.
Hype Bros: Is anyone else a huge fan of Serious Mojo Rawley? He is a genuinely compelling presence when he drops the "hype" gimmick nonsense and gets "real" with it. Same for Zack Ryder, who was as interesting as ever simply by looking distraught at his team's lack of success while Rawley explained they were hitting a breaking point and something has to change. Don't look now but the Hype Bros are one of the most intriguing acts on this show!
Fashion Files: WHERE THE HELL DID IT GO I WANT IT BACK THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE WWE BRING IT BACK NOW PLEASE.
US title: I didn't necessarily mind Tye Dillinger busting in and screwing up Baron Corbin's US title shot, considering it fits the character motivation within the story and all that. But I was actually looking forward to an AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin match and was disappointed it wasn't delivered on. What are they trying to accomplish here?
The greatest: Rusev truly is number one and you're wrong if you think otherwise. Everything about his showing up, gaining a match with Randy Orton, and using an assist from a just beaten Aiden English to win before acting like he completely redeemed himself in his home country for it was brilliant. He really put it over the top with both his facial expressions and the fact that he didn't know what "elated" meant when Renee Young asked him about being just that backstage. The man is a genius and should be given more time to showcase that.
This was a fun show!