Tonight’s SmackDown Live features a Six-Pack Challenge for tonight’s show to determine who will become the Number 1 contender for the WWE Championship after Payback on 4/30. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Sami Zayn, Jinder Mahal, Mojo Rawley and Dolph Zigger are the participants in the six-man match.
General Manager Daniel Bryan booked the match where the winner would face either Randy Orton or Bray Wyatt following their rematch for the WWE World Title. It is assumed Orton will retain since Watt has been sent to Monday Night Raw as part of the Superstar Shakeup.
I usually don’t get excited about these kinds of matches as I think they lose some importance. For some reason, however, I will watch with anticipation. Is this the night the company throws its weight behind a push for Mahal as a title contender? If you have been following Mahal’s return and how he looked prior to WrestleMania 33 and in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal Tournament, followed by his match with Finn Balor, it goes without saying Mahal is an improved wrestler.
But is he worthy of carrying the banner for the Blur Team?
Mahal showed he could hold his own in a match last week with Finn Balor that resulted in Balor’s concussion. Mahal his looked strong and ripped and ready to shake the bad taste of being in 3MB. On a roster that needs more storylines and heavy heels, Mahal could be the breakthrough performer SmackDown Live needs.
It also presents a great opportunity for WWE to bring back a familiar storyline the business has made famous for years.
When Vince McMahon, Sr. was owner of the WWWF, Bruno Sammartino was the hero of the Italian fan. Pedro Morales represented the Hispanic population. Ivan Koloff was one of the greatest heel characters of all time, playing on his “Russian Bear” persona. When Vinnie Mac bought the company, he gave fans characters like The Iron Sheik who helped usher in Hulkamania. He used Nikolai Vokoff as a Russian heel. He also played up the Canadian side of wrestling with the Hart Family and used the success of Eddie and Chavo Guerrero to bring back the Latino population.
In today’s professional wrestling, Mahal is perfect for the climate and would add yet another top heel to the roster.
I’m not sure Mahal wins tonight because the idea of him facing Orton after Fastlane makes no sense. I assume someone like Harper or even Sami Zayn get the nod. But after watching Mahal the past few weeks and seeing how WWE needs another foreigner for fans to throw heat, it just may work. Rusev is out of action. The League of Nations failed. Kevin Owens is promoting the Canadian heel in the company. It would be a popular (or unpopular) pick to throw Mahal in the mix and see what happens.
Regardless of how tonight’s main event turns out, Mahal has earned the chance to take a step forward. It may not mean a title right off. But it does mean he has to be considered a building block to work with. It also means WWE is willing to take a successful gimmick of the past and play it to the hilt and hope the company creates magic.