In this period between Backlash and Extreme Rules, the wrestling world is still collectively focused on the surprising victory of Jinder Mahal. Some of the criticism comes from the fact that about 2 months ago, he was practically a jobber; and that the only reason he got such a giant push was to appeal toward a newly burgeoning Indian market. But what about America? What about the good old U-S-of-A? Is WWE leaving us?
And the answer is … sort of. As WWE moves forward with its global expansion, we might find ourselves with a product that’s more inclusive for other nations and less about us. It’s no coincidence that we’ve seen the first Chinese Superstar signed to WWE in the past year, as well as a big push (deservedly so) for Japanese sensation, Shinsuke Nakamura. You may have also noticed new wrestlers popping up from countries that aren’t known for their wrestling culture. A couple of weeks ago on NXT, Aleister Black from Amsterdam had a squash match against a new face from Brazil, Cezar Bononi. Along with the success of the UK Championship and the Cruiserweight Classic, this is likely the most diverse WWE roster in history. In the past, ECW and WCW brought in a lot of international talent, but we’re currently seeing a greater attempt to push these superstars.
So, at Backlash, this is why we saw the first WWE World Heavyweight Champion from… Canada. Okay, so he’s not actually from India. But he is of Indian descent! That’s close enough, right? Some fans may look at this as shamelessly pandering to an Indian fan base. Well, guess what? WWE has been shamelessly pandering to US citizens for generations. From Hulk Hogan to John Cena, there was never any shortage of absurd patriotism oozing from every pore of WWE. It sells. Plain and simple. Pro wrestling is all about selling tickets. Americans have already bought in. We’re hooked. So, let’s give another country a hit of this sweet drug of sports entertainment.
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The real question is if Jinder Mahal is talented enough to stay on top. At the moment, Creative seems to be on the right track and Jinder’s mic and ring work are slowly improving. He at least has the benefit of being so fresh of a character that they have a blank canvas to work with. They’re safe from rehashing the same old Jinder storylines, unless they decide to bring back the 3 Man Band. But I think we can all agree that his current counterparts, the Singh Brothers is a better trajectory.
Formerly The Bollywood Boyz (In wrestling, you use a “z” to pluralize “boy”), the Singh Brothers are enjoying being in the right place at the right time. If WWE hadn’t decided to push Jinder, this Cruiserweight tag team might still be putting over new talent on NXT. But suddenly, they have become the most prominently featured talent to come out of the Cruiserweight Classic. Once again, these two weren’t the most talented duo on the roster, but sometimes the Creative Gods work in mysterious ways. As long as they hitch their wagon to The Maharaja, these two will remain on television; unless Randy Orton accidentally breaks them.
The shock of the WWE Universe when Jinder won the title was a little comical. The crowd’s reaction was akin to when Brock Lesnar ended The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. But in this case, it was disbelief that WWE let a jobber become Champion. Mahal had to be at least a tad offended by that; to look out into the audience and see that so many people thought that his success was beyond belief. But Randy Orton was an appropriate choice for this scenario. The Legend Killer has always been one of those guys who was never engaging enough to really be the face of the company. While his work is generally highly satisfactory, he has had some trouble of reaching that highest level of talent. Since his mic skills have always been a bit lacking, this made Jinder Mahal look that much more charismatic by comparison. Jinder’s character was really the one driving that feud, as Orton was coming off the momentum of a highly criticized feud with Bray Wyatt. After a very over-the-top Bray Wyatt story arc (which, for the record, I enjoyed), slowing down to the pace of putting over Jinder Mahal might seem like a challenge. But alas, this made Mahal’s win that much more of a Shyamalan-ian twist.
So now, we’ll watch to find out if Jinder can run with this baton. At the moment, it appears he’s also not that next level of talent to really stay in the top spot. But as we observe his improvements through upcoming weeks, we should all remember that you can’t hinder Jinder.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston. He hosts the comedy podcast, “So Now I’m the Asshole” on Fans.FM and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke