wrestling / Columns

Jinder Mahal Experiment A Short-Term Failure

December 14, 2017 | Posted by Jeremy Lambert
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The Jinder Mahal experiment began on May 21 when Mahal defeated Randy Orton for the WWE title. It came out of nowhere based on Mahal’s previous standing on the card, but I was willing to give it a chance. WWE was trying something different, the title had been already been devalued by the Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt feud, and the goal was to increase their appeal in India. It was a risk, but it was a risk with a big reward if they were able to monetize the product in a new market.

They did not.

On Dec. 9, Triple H defeated Jinder Mahal in India. WWE cut one of the India shows due to poor ticket sales. Their reason was that they wanted to “deliver the biggest main event in India history and combine two-nights of action into a one-night supershow.” Because, you know, WWE always tries to shorten events in order to make them more action packed.

Triple H’s victory was the final dirt on the coffin for Mahal. Yeah, he kicked out of a pedigree, but everyone kicks out of at least one finish in a big match. Following the defeat, Mahal bowed to the King.

Here’s a review of the match from the Indian Express:

“A stellar designer robe and billing from Punjab notwithstanding, the applause for Mahal was regularly drowned out by the cheers for his opponent — a 14-time champion. And then, in a head-scratcher, Mahal lost.

In a moment of unintended irony, Triple H pinned Mahal in New Delhi and then told the crowd, ‘India is in good hands.'”

Had the Mahal experiment worked, they don’t sacrifice him to a 48-year-old who wrestles twice a year. Ok, who am I kidding, they likely still sacrifice him to Triple H. Despite increasing YouTube views and, ummmm, why else did people think Jinder was a success? Mahal failed on every level.

On-screen, he carried himself like a champion. He had the look of a star, but that’s about it. His promo work left a lot to be desired. In fairness to him, the material did him no favors. They had no trust that he could carry a promo on his own. Instead of giving him more freedom on the mic, they reduced him to a generic “foreign heel” who made fun of other countries and nationalities, while wanting everyone to love his country.

In the ring, he was passable at best. He certainly didn’t raise his game despite being allowed to work longer matches with better workers. Once again, in the interest of fairness, Randy Orton clearly had no desire to make him look good. And Shinsuke Nakamura is infamous for mailing in matches that he doesn’t deem as important. While a match at SummerSlam for the WWE title should be important, given who he was working with and the storyline that got them to the match, one could see why he didn’t feel it to be a big deal.

But Mahal was never given the title for his on-screen or in-ring prowess. He was given the belt to help break into the India market.

One show doesn’t constitute a success. In 2002, they were able to run a three show loop. In January 2016, they ran two shows in Neu-Delhi. Creating a star perceived to be from India and failing to run a second show, something they accomplished less than two years ago, says plenty of things.

First, the product isn’t as hot today as it was January 2016. The declining ratings and attendance numbers certainly make that out to be true.

Second, they misjudged the audience in India. Sonjay Dutt told Fightful, “I think the big problem that’s going to happen in India is getting this fanbase to spend their dollars. It’s an emerging economy, the middle class is growing more than ever, but to re-work their brains to think they have to pay for this entertainment that’s not Bollywood and that’s not Cricket. That’s going to be a tough sell.”

Finally, Mahal failed in the short-term. Had they created an actual star and not a Canadian billed from India, they could have run two shows. Instead, Triple H got the bigger reaction because WWE has presented Triple H as a star for the last twenty years. Two decades from now, if Mahal continues at his current level, they can probably go to India and run three stadium shows in three nights.

But don’t count on that happening.

article topics :

Jinder Mahal, WWE, Jeremy Lambert