I’m not trying to steal my friend and fellow wrestling write Tom Clark’s thunder, but the move to put the WWE World Title around the waist of Jinder Mahal is what’s best for business. If WWE is going to usher in this New Era with pomp and circumstance, take chances along the way, the new Maharajah, as he calls himself, is the perfect storm for today’s company.
While the IWC continues to show its disapproval for the move to take the belt off Randy Orton and give it to an upstart, a mid-carder who has worked his ass off in the gym and in the ring of late, this shows WWE’s commitment to creating a new path of success.
Mahal, for all his detractors, is ready to ascend to the apex of the company’s ladder.
WWE Backlash may not have been the pay-per-view we all wanted, with many matches missing the mark, slowly developed and a lack of pop from the fans in attendance, the image of Mahal beating Orton clean and raising the WWE belt over his head will become a benchmark moment this year.
This also gives SmackDown Live new material to work with and new feuds to develop.
I spoke earlier in the week about Mahal becoming a transitional champion, the way WWF used both Ivan Koloff and The Iron Sheik. It appears this won’t happen with Mahal. As Clark points out in his story on sportskeeda.com, Mahal isn’t the “favorite choice” because he essentially came from nowhere to claim the company’s top strap.
“But things are different when it comes to Mahal. He was never pegged as the heir apparent to John Cena as Reigns was. He was also never booked on a path to the top as many other world champions before him had been,” Clark writes. “Mahal didn’t come from out of nowhere in terms of being new to the company, but he may as well have been.
“Fans are looking at Mahal as if he didn’t deserve the win because he didn’t work his way up. It’s that simple. Had he begun on a road to the main event in May and won the WWE title at SummerSlam in August, then fans would likely have not had a problem with it. Fans understand how the system is meant to work, and how it’s always worked in the past.”
Maybe in this New Era the idea of taking a chance on something unknown is the way to go. Reigns, Bryan, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels – they were anointed as the next big thing. Did anyone think Mahal would move a needle or two after losing the Andre The Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33 and then giving Finn Balor a concussion two weeks later? This makes too much sense, that frankly I am shocked WWE flipped the switch on this path to begin with.
Tuesday night begins the biggest night in SmackDown Live’s short existence. Not because of it being the show after Backlash. Many fans have already forgotten about the Sunday night show.
Yes, it was that memorable.
What makes this so damn important is the statement WWE is making by featuring Mahal as “the guy” when Orton, Dolph Ziggler, Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are all one step above the current champion. It’s brilliant in its approach. It gutsy. It may not be sexy, but a bad ass foreign heel champion is just what this company and this brand needs.
Everything changes Tuesday night. Like Clark and other wrestling loyalists, I think it’s a change for the better.