At the 2:45-mark of the video above, Jinder Mahal pinned Sami Zayn to win a six-man no. 1 contender match for SmackDown’s WWE World Heavyweight championship belt at Backlash next month. As someone who already paid $95 for a ticket to that event, this was an irksome development for me. The paying audience in Louisville felt the same way.
“You people boo me?” Mahal said to Renee Young after the match, as he was getting booed vociferously. “You wanna boo the Marahaja? You boo me because I don’t fit your stereotype about for the All-American. Or is it because of my family’s wealth? Is it because of my higher education? Or is it the fact that I speak two languages? The fact is you Americans don’t accept diversity, but you will have no choice to accept Jinder Mahal.”
For what it’s worth, the wrestler he pinned, Sami Zayn, is of Syrian descent and the crowd would have gone gangbusters if he had won. While Jinder’s appearance is more transparently brown, WWE fans would embrace him if he were interesting.
WWE has a long history of using the foreigner (or the guy who looks like a foreigner) as a heel, but what Jinder said really had nothing to do with why everybody was so pissed off that he won. The fact of the matter is, Jinder has not accomplished anything within the parlance of the genre since he returned to WWE last August.
Even though everybody knows the outcomes are scripted, it’s supposed to be a meritocracy. The wrestlers who do the best job are supposed to be rewarded with championship opportunities. Jinder Mahal has gotten pinned by just about everybody he has faced the last 8 months, and his most notable moment came when he tossed beer on Gronk and got bodied for his efforts.
Beyond that, Mahal has undergone an, um, dramatically radical transformation since his return to WWE. This comparison was posted by wrestling reporter Ryan Satin in January:
Earlier this month, Mahal responded to commentary, whispers, and a general skepticism amongst viewers that he is using steroids by writing on Instagram that “of course I’ll get a hundred ‘steroid’ or ‘wellness’ comments …. I’ve been tested multiple times since coming back, and have never once in over 6 years with WWE had any issues. Follow my IG stories or my SnapChat and you can see that no one is out-training me, and no one is out-dieting me.”
Whether or not he’s using PEDs, the fact remains that he fits the muscles on top of muscles archetype that WWE fans have rebelled against Vince McMahon’s infatuation for, and there was no cohesive build to his title shot. He lost a bunch for 8 months, switched from Raw to SmackDown, got thrown into the contender match without “earning it,” won, and cut a promo that would have belonged in 1985.
Of course the fans were pissed, but in an era where the artful heels are appreciated by the audience this is the only way for WWE to really stir up our emotions and make us want to see someone get his ass whipped.