WWE fans should brace themselves for a major push that is sure to turn some heads.
According to Paul Davis of WrestlingNews.co, former WWE Champion Jinder Mahal is in line for a massive push on Monday Night Raw. Davis writes, “In March 2020, WWE and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) announced a five-year extension. As part of the deal, SPN will get rights to Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown and NXT. The deal also includes all pay-per-view events and rights to WWE Network content which will be available on SonyLIV, the OTT platform for SPN. This is the reason behind his recent push.”
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Mahal’s upcoming push, however, is that he will be portrayed as a babyface.
Davis says, “Previously, when he won the WWE Title Mahal was still a heel in the United States but a babyface when he wrestled in India. This time he will be portrayed as a babyface to their entire fanbase. Also, as part of the deal, WWE will return to India at some point when travel restrictions are lifted and the idea is to have Mahal headline those shows.” Mahal just returned to Raw a few weeks ago, and on his first night back on the red brand, he squashed the babyface Akira Tozawa, making it seem like he would settle right back into his heel role. WWE, however, quickly did a 180.
The next time we heard from Mahal, “The Modern Day Maharajah” said that his rise to the top of WWE would be different this time around: It would be a “hero’s journey” rather than the villainous one we saw three years ago. Whether fans will actually react to his mega-push any differently, however, is a completely different story.
Chances are that you remember the 2017 push of Mahal that, well, came out of nowhere. Even Mahal himself said that his surprising push and WWE title reign was part of WWE’s efforts to expand in India, but the fact that his random push came without any build didn’t really sit well with fans at the time. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, Mahal went from forgotten lower card performer to WWE Champion and then he actually held that title for a staggering six months during a reign that was widely deemed to be one of the worst world title reigns in WWE history while critics said his feud with Randy Orton “ruined” both performers.
Indeed, Mahal was a target of widespread criticism for generating “go away” during his reign that spanned half a year, one that ultimately resulted in the once terrific SmackDown taking a noticeable nosedive in terms of overall quality. Quite simply, Mahal never clicked with the WWE audience the way the company would have hoped, and even to this day, fans mostly remember Mahal for his awful championship reign more so than anything else. Will things turn out differently for Mahal as a babyface? Well, it sure doesn’t seem that way.
Mahal has at least a few things working against him in terms of his quest to succeed as a babyface. One, he isn’t particularly great on the microphone. Two, he doesn’t have a larger-than-life presence or superstar charisma. Three, he is below average in the ring. Four, he doesn’t possess the natural likability that has helped catapult babyfaces like Daniel Bryan and Drew McIntyre to the top of the card. For those reasons—and so many more—a babyface Mahal is an experiment that seems destined to fail even before it begins, especially if Mahal suddenly leapfrogs popular fan favorites like Rey Mysterio, Aleister Black, Kevin Owens, etc. on Raw’s babyface pecking order when all of those stars are so well-liked.
This isn’t to say that Mahal has zero chance of succeeding as a fan favorite for the first time as a singles star, but WWE will undoubtedly be fighting an uphill battle as Mahal gets pushed to the moon at a time when the product is struggling and fans are already tuning out in droves.