The internet wrestling community is an interesting monster; in most cases, if seemingly everyone dislikes something, you will inevitably and immediately see a pocket of fans rise up in support of that same item, if for no other reason than to be counter-culture and play devil’s advocate to the majority. In some small way, maybe it makes fans feel like they’re railing against authority, completing their own small slice of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin legend. However, recently, we’ve seen a champion on SmackDown Live who has almost universally rallied the entire WWE Universe against him, as it seems even those who seek to support him cannot do so without stifling their laughter. However, it’s time to face what may be a painful truth for most: Jinder Mahal should retain his WWE Championship at Battleground this Sunday, and not only that, he should hold that Championship past SummerSlam as well in a long and healthy reign.
Now I’ll admit, it’s difficult in a vacuum to argue for Jinder’s title reign when you list the other potential candidates that are available on the blue brand, as detractors can list names such as Styles, Cena, Orton, Owens, Nakamura and more as better options than “The Maharaja”. However, if we truly analyze these options, are they really ones you’re willing to go all-in on? Remove Styles from the conversation, because there’s no point in arguing against him as an option – he’s a world champion option at all times, and nobody would bat an eye if he won the title tomorrow. However, moving past Styles, was Randy Orton’s victory at WrestleMania and his Championship reign in the weeks after really that exciting, enough so that we need to go back to that now? I’m as big of a Kevin Owens fan as any, but after his run as Universal Champion on RAW, it’s probably not a bad idea for him to spend a bit of time in the mid-card restoring a bit of his reputation. And while Nakamura is amazing, he’s also still basically brand new to the main roster, and needs to focus on avoiding the NXT trap, where call-ups depend on their NXT history and forget to build on their character. A few more feuds with Baron Corbin-types will pay off in the end for the “King of Strong Style”. Oh, and you’re really going to sit there and argue with me that you’re dying for a John Cena title reign? Believe me, you’ll all be breaking your keyboards the minute the leader of the Cenation wins SmackDown’s biggest prize again.
Now, don’t think that I’m supporting Jinder simply because of the lack of a better option, quite the contrary. Jinder Mahal is the best option on the SmackDown roster to carry the Championship at this time, if for no other reason than he is the only member of the roster who is able to illicit a 99.9% negative reaction. If Kevin Owens won the title, every title defense would see a considerable section of the crowd supporting Owens, counter to the desired goal. And while I agree with the sentiment that fans are welcome to cheer for anyone they want, that doesn’t change the fact that the biggest bump an ascending fan favorite can receive is to vanquish a truly hated villain. With every title defense and PPV victory, Jinder Mahal is setting the foundation for a celebration when he’s finally toppled as WWE Champion.
His placement on SmackDown Live is a bit ironic, because since the win which netted him the Championship, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that Mahal reminds me of another truly nefarious SmackDown villain – JBL. John Bradshaw Layfield was seen as nothing more than a tag team wrestler with a bland personality when he began on SmackDown, but was instantly hated when he managed to defeat the beloved Eddie Guerrero for the world title. From there, JBL won by employing every trick in the book, to the point where he won a steel cage match by being chokeslammed through the ring and crawling out from below. He was utterably detestable, and throughout his record-setting reign, all his detractors could focus on was how he “didn’t deserve it”. The simple fact was, however, was he was the #1 villain on SmackDown, and could tell a great story every month within that role, all the while building to the moment when a young John Cena would finally defeat him at WrestleMania. This is the same path Jinder Mahal should follow, whether it ends at Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, or beyond. Jinder has an opportunity to seriously catapult the next hero on the SDLive brand, and I simply hope that WWE doesn’t short-circuit that result by catering to social media pressure and returning to the safety of a bland Randy Orton title reign.