If you watched “Smackdown Live” this week, you saw Jinder Mahal become the new #1 contender to Randy Orton’s Smackdown World Title. Let me repeat that: Mahal is going to be facing Orton for a World Title at “Backlash 2017” in what will likely be one of the main events if not the entire show. While I know this might be a step below R-Truth challenging John Cena for the WWE Championship at “Capitol Punishment”, this isn’t the worst thing in the world. Today we’re going to look at the decision to make Mahal the #1 contender and why it might actually be a good idea.

Let’s get this out of the way first: this is going to be a long shot. To say Mahal isn’t the biggest deal in the world is a massive understatement as prior to this, his career highlights were being the second funniest member of a Three Man Band and being the first person to ever lose an NXT Championship match. While that doesn’t sound like much, it does bring up the first point in his favor: he’s a fresh name near the top of the card.

We’ve seen the same people over and over again near the top of the card. I mean, Orton is now a thirteen time World Champion and he’s only thirty seven years old. With that many titles, he’s only second on the roster in World Title reigns after Cena’s sixteen. It’s not just these two either as it’s a problem throughout the entire roster.

John Cena vs. AJ Styles - WWE Title Match: Royal Rumble 2017

At the moment, excluding tag teams and counting injured wrestlers, there are nineteen male wrestlers on the “Smackdown Live” roster. Of those nineteen, six of them are former World Champions. That’s thirty one percent of the roster who are former World Champions, making it really hard to put together a top feud that doesn’t involve some fresh blood. At this point “Smackdown Live” (and WWE in general for that matter) is REALLY needing some new names near the top.

Here’s the thing: assuming Mahal doesn’t win (which I’d call a safe bet), I’d much rather this one off shot go to someone like him rather than say, Baron Corbin or Sami Zayn, both of whom could be something very important someday. Why have them lose their first major World Title shot when they could be saved for something later on? It’s a case of where you go from the loss, which is where Mahal has another point in his favor.

Very simply put, Mahal has nothing to lose. It’s not like anyone is expecting Orton to pull a miracle off here or anything so let’s have him see what he can do. If the match with Mahal is even a decent one, the whole thing is going to completely exceed its expectations and be seen as a minor miracle. While I don’t think Mahal has any real chance of winning the title, this is going to be the biggest match of his career and maybe it can help turn him into a player. Even if it just gives us a new midcarder on “Smackdown Live”, it’s a step up for both Mahal and the roster.

Sami Zayn vs AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin - US Title #1 Contender's Match: SmackDown LIVE, Apr 11, 2017

Compare that to someone like Zayn or Corbin. If they lose, it’s a big mark against them with either guy looking much more like a choker or someone who has to build themselves back up again to even get back to the upper midcard. Let someone start from the bottom and hope to upgrade themselves rather than take a huge hit and drop them right back down after a quick build.

Consider what just happened to Bray Wyatt. After winning the Smackdown World Title in February, he dropped it just over a month later. Now where is Wyatt at the moment? Other than on “Monday Night Raw” that is. Instead of being higher up on the card, Wyatt is stuck waiting on a rematch with Orton that he doesn’t seem to have a chance of winning (unless we’re setting up Wyatt vs. Mahal, which sounds like an Impact Wrestling main event ten years from now) and sounding more desperate for attention than anything else.

That’s simply not going to be an issue for Mahal. How much further down the totem pole will a loss put him? As you might have guessed, the answer would be not very far, as it’s not like he has much further to fall. Mahal has been a jobber to the stars for almost his entire WWE career, though this isn’t exactly out of the blue. If you paid enough attention, Mahal has actually been pushed ever so slightly in the last few months.

Big Cass vs. Rusev & Jinder Mahal - 2-on-1 Handicap Match: Raw, Jan. 2, 2017

Remember his time teaming with Rusev? I mean, I know it wasn’t much but they were in fact associated and it even got Mahal a pay per view singles match, the first of his entire WWE career. While it does seem like there isn’t much there to back this up (because there isn’t), it’s not someone getting the first major push of the WWE career and becoming World Champion is out of the question. It worked for Sheamus so maybe it can work for Mahal as well.

Then there’s the “screw the competition” theory, which might possibly be the most important. Remember the Great Khali? I mean, I know you do but think about this for a second. Back in 2007, Great Khali won the World Heavyweight Championship in what might have been a way to appease the Indian television markets. Is it possible that it’s the same story now?

Add in the fact that Impact Wrestling has been talking about running a tour in India to bolster its high TV ratings over there and would this really be the biggest stretch in the world? It’s not like WWE hasn’t done things like this in the past and it’s not like it would be a shock to see them do it again here.

I don’t think Mahal is going to win the Smackdown World Title at “Backlash 2017” (nor am I entirely convinced that the match isn’t held before then in case WWE realizes that having Mahal headline a pay per view might be business suicide) but there’s always a chance that WWE could lose their minds and pull the trigger. Even if they don’t though, there are a lot of positives that could come from putting him in this spot.

20-Man Battle Royal for the vacant World Heavyweight Title: SmackDown, July 20, 2007

What it comes down to is giving the fans what they ask for. How many times have you heard the fans complain about being stuck watching the same people over and over again? Well now they’ve been given someone fresh near the top of the card and of course that means it’s time to complain all over again. As is almost always the case, wrestling fans are given what they asked for in the first place and still manage to complain about it because that’s what they do almost by default.

Mahal isn’t likely to be the next big thing in WWE but there’s a chance that he could be an asset to the “Smackdown Live” roster. There are so many former World Champions on the roster already that it’s going to get tiresome watching them fight each other at some point. They need to develop someone new for a change and that’s what they’ve done here. Maybe it’s going to blow up in their faces (and you can guarantee that Ryback, Bad News Barrett and Cody Rhodes will be crying into their pillows tonight) or maybe it’s a good idea but at least they’re trying, which is something they haven’t seemed to do in a long time.


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