Is Jinder Mahal the most underrated WWE Champion of all time?
Love him or hate him, he is the chosen one.
Now that the sun has set on the "Modern Day Maharaja" and his first title reign, it's time for a little reflection. Specifically, where he stands with all those that came before him.
Few WWE fans could believe their eyes when Jinder Mahal lifted the WWE championship from Randy Orton only a few weeks after Orton won the belt at Wrestlemania. It was a marvel to behold, that someone who in pervious years had been languishing in booking obscurity could rise to the top of the mountain so dramatically and unexpectedly.
Of course, instantaneous criticism began to dominate the online wrestling stratosphere, with the obvious intention of WWE to appeal to the massive Indian fan base. There were, however, a select number of WWE faithful who welcomed the move. They had grown tired of the same old rigmarole of so-called 'popular' and established stars becoming champions for the ten-thousandth time. Honestly, who can blame them? That's why for myself and thousands of others, this was so refreshing to see.
The main concern when Jinder won the championship was that his wrestling ability, or lack thereof, would become all too obvious if he were to be put in the ring with a superstar of superior quality. Especially considering just a few months prior to his victory he almost cost Finn Balor months of his career, ailing him with a legitimate concussion in an attack gone wrong. Despite this, it was obvious since his return to WWE that he had entirely dedicated himself to his profession. His muscle-bound physique was a testament to this alone. Plus, it is important to mention that, while he may still have been below the usual standard one would consider champion-worthy, he was a much better performer than during his Three Man Band phase.
Even those who were happy to see Jinder be given the opportunity of a lifetime didn't expect him to hang onto the belt for very long. But, here we are, as Jinder stands as the longest reigning WWE champion of the modern era.
But, does the longevity of his title reign offer it more legitimacy? I argue that it should.
Let's face it. Nowadays it's rare to see a champion hold onto a title for so long. I don't include Brock Lesnar in this discussion, though, as he was clearly only ever due to make brief appearances and even fewer title defences, as things still go. In allowing the Indian/Canadian to maintain his winning streak as champion WWE creative (specifically Vince McMahon) have displayed their faith in, not only his ability to rile up a crowd but also his in-ring ability.
When compared to all the WWE champions in recent years, Jinder is definitely a throwback to a time forgotten. A time when the big guys used power and brute strength to out-do their opponents and, if they were a heel, a little help from ringside was always in play. When viewed from this standpoint, his reign hasn't been all that bad. In fact, it's been downright enjoyable. Especially, when it came to his work on the microphone.
Some might say using a country of origin as a source of heat is an outdated notion (think The Iron Sheik) but I argue it was due for a comeback, and who better to continue the tradition than the self-proclaimed "Modern Day Maharaja"?
To appreciate Jinder as a performer you need to throw out any pre-conceived notions of what and who you consider to be a good and worthy WWE champion and to enter this realm with an open mind.
Is he as talented a wrestler as Kurt Angle? No. Is he as good on the microphone as CM Punk? No. Does he possess the eye-catching acrobatics of Rey Mysterio? Absolutely not. But that doesn't make him a poor champion. It makes him different.
If nothing else, he is by far the most improved WWE champion of all time. No question.
I can happily sit back and revel in Jinder and The Singh Brothers' antics as they scratch and claw to keep hold of the coveted WWE title, much like I can revile at my favourite villains on television dramas or films. Jinder played a character as WWE champion and, to his credit, he played it better than anybody expected him to. That, in itself, is a monumental achievement.
Is he the greatest of all time? That question is so Ludacris, I dare not utter it. But, he is the very best at being the best version of Jinder Mahal. Right now, that's what WWE wants and he's giving it to them in spades.
Besides, if rumours are true, it won't be long before we see gold around his waist again. Love him or hate him. Personally? I'm looking forward to where his story goes next.