Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Heel Turns: Jinder Mahal’s surprising rise

Posted by Achilles Heel On May 14

Achilles HeelThe Greek God of Wrestling is squeezing this edition of Heel Turns while basking in the luxury of his European vacation, which coincides nicely with WWE’s European tour. As I started doing last month, I will offer my expert analysis of various wrestlers during weeks when there aren’t major events.

This week Achilles Heel will shed some light on Jinder Mahal. Who is Mahal? How did he find his way into the spotlight, challenging Randy Orton for the WWE Championship next weekend at Backlash?

Until this championship opportunity, Mahal had a relatively undistinguished career. This does not mean that he was bad. It means he had not earned his way into a featured feud.

Mahal had mid-card feuds with the Great Khali. He also confronted “bigger” stars, claiming he – and other wrestlers – had not been given enough opportunity from WWE. One of those stars was Randy Orton, who dropped him with an RKO. (The Greek God of Wrestling is surprised we haven’t seen that clip yet on Smackdown.)

Mahal’s highest-profile role during his first run with WWE came as a member of Three-Man Band (3MB), along with Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre. 3MB was entertaining, but, after some initial success, was generally portrayed as a comedy act rather than as a serious threat to win a championship.

After being released by WWE in 2014, Mahal appeared for promotions around the world. He wrestled in Japan, India and Qatar, as well as in North America.

There wasn’t much complaining from fans – or the Greek God of Wrestling – when Mahal was released in 2014, and there wasn’t much of a clamor to bring him back. When Mahal was brought back to WWE last summer, there wasn’t much fanfare. Mahal was required to earn a place on the Raw roster by defeating Heath Slater.

It was obvious that Mahal returned in tremendous physical condition. But he still toiled in the midcard and below. His highest profile role was in an ill-fated alliance with Rusev.

The first sign that perhaps bigger things were in Mahal’s future was WrestleMania 33, when he was runner-up in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Mahal was involved in the match-ending angle with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowsi, which allowed Mojo Rawley to prevail.

After being drafted to Smackdown, Mahal lost to Rawley, with Gronkowski again being involved in the finish. There weren’t any signs that Mahal was about to be elevated into a championship feud.

On April 18, one week after his loss to Rawley, Mahal won a six-pack challenge on Smackdown to become the surprising No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship. The Singh brothers, the former Bollywood Boys from the Cruiserweight Classic, helped Singh achieve that victory.

One week later, Singh attacked Orton on Smackdown and took his championship belt. Singh used that belt at “Payback,” interfering at the end of Orton’s “House of Horrors” match with Bray Wyatt, costing him the victory. On last week’s Smackdown, Mahal pinned Orton to help his team win a six-man tag team match featuring the participants in the top three matches at Backlash.

Why has Mahal received such a big push? The fact that WWE is making its own big push in India can’t be discounted as a factor. India is the second most-populated country in the world. Kofi Kingston and Big E just did a promotional tour in India. It doesn’t hurt WWE’s profile to have an Indian wrestler – Mahal was actually born in Canada, but is ethnically Indian (Punjabi Sikh, to be specific) – in the championship picture.

The push into India is certainly a contributing factor, but Mahal deserves some credit for earning his push. As the Greek God of Wrestling stated earlier, Mahal returned in tremendous shape. Since returning to WWE, he has done a good job with every role he has been given.

Will WWE pull the trigger and make Mahal the champion at Backlash? It’s possible.

Despite his raised profile, Achilles Heel would not make Mahal champion. He does not have the credibility with the fans yet to be WWE champion; however, a short run as champion could elevate his profile further, even if he quickly loses the championship back to Orton.


WAR OF WORLDS IN PHILLY: As the Greek God of Wrestling writes Heel Turns, there are still standing room only tickets remaning for Sunday’s War of the Worlds stop at 2300 Arena (6 p.m.).

After successfully defending the Ring of Honor World Television Championship against Matt Sydal on Friday at the War of the Worlds pay-per-view event in Manhattan, Marty Scurll defends the title against Kushida. Other matches in Philadelphia include Cody Rhodes vs. Frankie Kazarian, “The Product” David Starr against top prospect tournament winner Josh “The Goods” Woods, and an eight-man tag team match pitting Bully Ray, the Briscoe brothers and Castle against Naito, Evil, Sanada and Bushi.

Also scheduled to appear Sunday, which is the final stop of the four-city War of the Worlds tour, are Ring of Honor world champion Christopher Daniels, Ring of Honor world tag team champions the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), Hiroshi Tanahashi, Will Ospreay, Jay Lethal, Hirooki Goto and Gedo.

Don’t forget about the meet-and-greet autograph session at 2300 Arena 90 minutes before the show. There will be a mix of Ring of Honor and New Japan Wrestling stars, including Adam Cole, Jay Lethal, the Young Bucks, Tanahashi, Goto, Surll and Bully Ray.


WAR RESULTS: There were some major developments at Ring of Honor’s War of the Worlds pay-per-view Friday at the Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom. Christopher Daniels successfully defended the Ring of Honor World Championship. As mentioned in the previous note, Marty Scurll retained the Ring of Honor World Television Championship against Matt Sydal. The Young Bucks beat Tetsuya Naito and Bushi to retain the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championships, and Mark and Jay Briscoe and Bully Ray retained the Ring of Honor World Six-Man Tag Team Championship against Hirooki Goto and Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Trent Beretta).

The biggest developments, however, didn’t involve championships. Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated former two-time Ring of Honor champion Adam Cole. After the match, the Young Bucks came to the ring and hugged Cole (more on Cole in the next item). Kenny Omega appeared on the screen and fired Cole from Bullet Club. Scurll was with Omega. The lights went out. When they came back on, Scurll was in the ring. The Young Bucks suprkicked Cole and Scurll hit Cole with a Bullet Club Umbrella. In other action, Will Ospreay’s victory over Jay White was something special.


COLE’S FUTURE: The post-match developments Friday following Hiroshi Tanahashi’s victory over Adam Cole (preceding note) seem to indicate that Cole’s tremendous run in Ring of Honor may be over. The Greek God of Wrestling wrote a year or two ago that Cole seemed like a good fit for WWE. Don’t be surprised if Cole ends up in WWE or NXT.


ALBERTO WINS GOLD: Alberto El Patron defeated Magnus on Impact Wrestling to win the Global Force Wrestling World Championship. This should set up a champion vs. champion match with Bobby Lashley.


BACKLASH BUILDUP: Backlash appears to keep getting better. A six-woman tag team match, pitting Smackdown Women’s champion Naomi, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch against Natalya, Carmella and Tamina has been added to the card. If given time, this could be an excellent match. There also should be developments, probably on the babyface side, which will indicate who will be the next challenger for Naomi’s title.

The rest of the announced card for Smackdown’s first pay-per-view since WrestleMania, which will take place next Sunday (May 21) in Chicago, already looks tremendous. The Backlash main event features Randy Orton defending the WWE Championship against Jinder Mahal. A.J. Styles will challenge Kevin Owens for the United States Championship, and Shinsuke Nakamura will make his Smackdown in-ring debut (at least on television) against Dolph Ziggler. The Owens-Styles and Ziggler-Nakamura matches have the potential to be tremendous. Jimmy and Jey Uso will defend the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against Tyler Breeze and Fandango.


BACKLASH FLASHBACK: It was 13 years ago that Randy Orton, who defends the WWE Championship at this year’s Backlash, defended the Intercontinental Championship against Cactus Jack in a memorable hardcore match. Mick Foley has called this match, won by Orton, as his favorite match in his long and storied career.


NXT TAKES OVER CHICAGO: One night before Backlash, NXT will present NXT Takeover: Chicago (8 p.m.). In the main event, Bobby Roode defends the NXT Championship against Hideo Itami, who defeated Roderick Strong in a No. 1 contenders match.

Other matches include The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) defending the NXT Tag Team Championship against Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in a ladder match, Asuka defending the NXT Women’s Championship in a triple threat match with Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot, and Tyler Bate defending the WWE United Kingdom Championship against Pete Dunne.


UK ON NETWORK: The WWE Network will be televising matches taped in the United Kingdom this Thursday (8 p.m.). Jim Ross and Nigel McGuinness will be the broadcasters, which creates an added incentive to watch.


NEW TITLE: Before the War of the Worlds pay-per-view event Friday, New Japan Wrestling announced that it will host a two-day round-robin tournament in Long Beach, Calif,, on July 1-2 to crown the inaugural IWGP United States champion. This seems to indicate an increased presence for New Japan in the United States during the upcoming years.


UNDERUTILIZED: The Greek God of Wrestling doesn’t usually get caught up in wins and losses, but he was disappointed to see Luke Harper lose to Erick Rowan last week on Smackdown. I understand the value of giving Rowan a victory to add some juice to this rivalry, but the talented Harper has been underutilized by WWE. He deserves a higher role on the roster.


NO SACRIFICE: Due to the time differences between Europe and U.S., no results for Combat Zone Wrestling’s “Sacrifices” were available as this edition of Heel Turns is being written. No apology is necessary, but Achilles Heel will try to put the results in the next edition of Heel Turns.


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