Interview: Jinder Mahal on facing The Rock, Undertaker's retirement, a former rival's WWE return, incident with Braun Strowman and more
From a comedic act to being the 50th WWE Champion in history, Jinder Mahal’s exponential rise has been nothing short of phenomenal. In hindsight, inspirational would be a better word to describe the Indo-Canadian’s journey ever since he made his WWE debut back in 2011.
We caught up with the Modern Day Maharaja himself days before he defends his WWE title for the first time against Randy Orton in the Viper’s hometown in St. Louis, Missouri.
The hottest property in the WWE spoke about a host of topics such as the potential returns of The Undertaker and Great Khali, Live Events in India, his pick for the Women’s MITB match and his dream opponent among other things.
Q: As we all know Undertaker apparently retired at WrestleMania. What are your thoughts on that and do you think there is another chapter left in the Deadman’s storied career?
A: I believe there is another chapter left but that’s the thing about the WWE, that’s the thing with Undertaker, he’s so mysterious, he’s so unpredictable, you don’t know what that chapter’s going to be.
You know he can pop up anytime, he can pop on RAW or on SmackDown. He can pop up at WrestleMania, you just never know, but I believe that he still has something left. But that’s just my opinion. Even if he’s done, he’ll go down as one of the greatest of all time.
Q: Congratulations on a solid title reign thus far, however, short it may seem. You were released from the WWE 3 years back and now you’re the world Champion. Can you walk us through the process of how you developed outside of the WWE and how it has helped you in your successful run currently?
A: Yeah I just kept myself busy. I just kept wrestling and kept improving myself. Like when I was in 3MB before I left, I was kind of stuck in the rut. I had lost my confidence. Like I wasn’t having long matches, I wasn’t the main focal point of the show.
So when I went away to the independents, a lot of times I was in the main events, you know I was wrestling for 20 minutes and literally built my confidence back.
I was able to grow as a person both inside and outside of the ring and you know to get more mature. All these things helped me to get more focused and you know to regain the drive that I used to have, which I kind of lost and became complacent which you can never do in the WWE.
I had to go through that to live that. Now it’s about giving my 100% every day and I’ll continue to do so as long as I’m in the WWE.
Q: Who is responsible for the sudden ascent of Jinder Mahal. As in who has helped you the most backstage?
A: Ultimately I believe that I’m responsible for my own success because it's me who’s putting in all the hard work. Being there every night, you know giving it a 100% and leaving it all in the ring. Vince McMahon has luckily been really hands on with me which I’ve been very fortunate about as he is one the great minds of the business.
He has made WWE into a global phenomenon. Ultimately it’s my hard work but also I’m really thankful to Vince for being such a great boss and really hands on with me and also for the great advice he gives me.
Q: You spoke about the well-documented relationship with the Great Khali on Talk Is Jericho. What are the chances of ever seeing Khali back in the WWE and if he were to return, what role would you like to see hm in?
A: Yeah I would love to see Great Khali back to the WWE. I think it would be awesome when WWE comes back to India you know, maybe I and Khali can tag together. It would be fun to be a tag team together you know against whoever; Roman Reigns, John Cena, Randy Orton.
You know I think that would be great because I look up to Khali like an older brother. A lot of times I get advice from Khali and I talk to him on the phone quite often.
I would love to see him back in the WWE but I know he’s doing his own thing. He has his own academy but I look forward to the next generation of Indian WWE Superstars. You know Great Khali is awesome but let’s look to the future.
I know he has an academy and many students. I look forward to working with the next generation, you know let’s find the next Indian Superstar for the WWE and the next Indian WWE Champion.
Q: So you’ve shown interest in facing both Brock Lesnar and John Cena with an added desire of wanting to defeat the greats of the business. So if there was one WWE legend you’d love to have a programme with, who would it be and why?
A: I think The Rock would be my perfect pick just because he’s such a huge Superstar and growing up he was one of my favourites, you know he was my idol. Just everything – from the way he spoke to his fashion sense to his style in the ring – you know he was a very fierce competitor.
He was very strong and was always in tremendous shape and great on the microphone, very entertaining. So that would be my dream opponent of all time, to work a programme with the Rock.
You know I think it’s still possible and can happen one day. He likes to come back to the WWE every once in a while. I think it’s a real chance that the opportunity can come to fruition.
Q: What are your thoughts on the women’s division and the upcoming Women’s Money in the Bank match? Who do you think will create history to become the first women’s MITB briefcase holder?
A: I think it’s a great opportunity for the women. You know WWE is very progressive and the women’s division is moving forward. They have a match just like the WWE male Superstars are having and it’s tremendous.
It shows equality, which I know WWE is very proud about. It’s a chance to showcase the Women’s division because I do believe they are tremendous, tremendous athletes. They hold their own against any of the matches that the men are having.
As far as winning, I’m going to say, Carmella. We haven’t seen a lot of her, she’s unpredictable and is kind of the dark horse. I would like to see her win.
Q: There have been rumours of WWE coming to India. Any idea when that may happen and what the Indian fans can expect from it?
A: I actually don’t for sure know the date yet but there is something in the works. WWE is working very hard to have WWE live events in India. WWE recognises that India is such a huge market where the fans are very passionate and I know they’re working the hardest to make it happen.
You know it will happen soon I’m very confident, it’s in the works right now and is being organised.
I look forward to being WWE champion at that moment when we return. I look forward to defeating Randy Orton at Money In The Bank and any challenger that comes after that and even successfully defending the WWE Championship on Indian soil.
I know it’s going to be huge when WWE comes back and it will be even bigger with me as WWE Champion.
Q: Who are your best friends backstage in the WWE. Any memorable backstage or road story you would like to share with us?
A: So at the moment The Singh brothers are my best friends as I ride with them every week. Outside of the ring and inside of it, they got my back, which I appreciate and it feels great.
They ensure I remain WWE Champion and they do their best, they understand their job. In the past (I’ve) driven with Fandango, Great Khali is my good friend and I rode with him for a long time. Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre are two other names that come to mind.
As far as stories go (chuckles). Yeah one time, you know when I was riding with Braun Strowman couple of months ago we hit a deer in the middle of the highway with no civilisation anywhere near us.
Luckily some of the boys were behind us, so we just left the rental car on the side of the road and called them and said, “hey this is the rental car, it’s 20 miles outside of this smokehouse, come get it.” I left the key under the mat and I jumped in with the other boys.
They were like, ‘oh yeah we’ll get there in a couple of hours’ and we had to wrestle the next day and still drive a couple of hours. So we just had to leave the car there and Braun jumped into one car and I jumped in with Gallows and Anderson, luckily they had a little bit of room for me.
Q: Finally a message for your fans in India and all around the world as Money in the Bank approaches.
A: Yeah my message is please tune into MITB because I’m going to defeat Randy Orton, remain WWE Champion for a long long time, take on all challengers and go down as one of the all-time greats. I would like to thank everybody for the support, the WWE for playing a big part and I’m very thankful to the WWE Universe because they allowed me to live my dream.
I look forward to visiting not only India but all the other countries around the world. That’s one of the great things that we the WWE stars look forward to such as the international tours and to feel the passion in all these countries. So I just want to say thank you.
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