What’s the story?
Jinder Mahal, the man who shocked the wrestling world by becoming WWE Champion in 2017, was recently voted the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Most Overrated Wrestler for 2017.
In case you didn’t know…
The award for Most Overrated Wrestler is usually given to that wrestler that, in a given year, is given the most significant push while failing to live up to the expectations brought on by said push. In other words, it usually goes to the person that’s placed in the most prominent position on the card despite not deserving it in many fans’ eyes.
This can be interpreted as a wrestler being pushed either for backstage political reasons or as a wrestler being prominent and featuring in marquee matches despite not performing at a standard expected of someone main-eventing shows.
Some of the previous multi-time winners of this award include Kevin Nash (won twice), Kane (won three times), Triple H (won four times), and Hulk Hogan (won seven times). Other wrestlers to have won this award once include Roman Reigns, Ryback, Randy Orton, The Great Khali, Vladimir Kozlov, Batista, and even The Undertaker (2001 wasn’t a good year for him).
The heart of the matter
Based on the information that’s available on the subject at this time, Jinder Mahal won the award for Most Overrated Wrestler of 2017, with Roman Reigns coming in second place. The other runners-up on the list, however, make for an interesting story.
Baron Corbin comes in third place, which makes sense given how his booking has been on SmackDown throughout 2017. Cody had the fourth highest number of votes, which is interesting given that his story with the Bullet Club over the past few months – which began in mid-to-late 2017, has been very intriguing.
The fifth place spot is actually a tie between The Miz and Bray Wyatt, both of whom – in my opinion – do not deserve this award, albeit for different reasons. Miz doesn’t because he’s actually entertaining as a speaker and as a performer, while Wyatt can’t really be called overrated because he spent most of the year in WWE’s midcard without much of a direction.
Finally, the results also show a sizable number of people naming Braun Strowman as most overrated wrestler. That one could be based on how WWE are booking him like a bearded Brock Lesnar, in that he has short, repetitive matches with only a handful of actual moves used.
Jinder Mahal recently attacked new U.S. Champion Randy Orton after the champion successfully defended his title against former champion Bobby Roode. This suggests that these two men will reignite the feud they had throughout much of 2017, and could also lead to a match between them at WrestleMania 34.
If we define a wrestler being ‘overrated’ as one that gets a major push or is placed in a prominent position without really earning it, then Mahal clearly qualifies. While his body transformation has indeed been shocking (and actually praiseworthy, as many people have noted that he did it completely naturally), it’s his creative direction that made him overrated.
At WrestleMania 33, Mahal was the last man eliminated in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, yet he was the one to win a subsequent elimination match to determine the new #1 contender for the WWE Championship.
In the span of less than a month, fans were expected to believe that Mahal had obtained enough credibility to go from jobbing to Mojo Rawley to being capable of defeating Randy Orton, a multi-time world champion who came from one of wrestling’s most renowned families and who had wrestled against some of the best wrestlers in WWE history.
It was so unrealistic that suspending disbelief, in this case, was virtually impossible. As a result, a large number of people began suspecting that the sole reason for his push was to appeal to WWE fans in India.
Now, I understand the line of thinking in booking a wrestler of Indian descent to cater to that kind of demographic. However, a lot of things worked against Mahal in this case.
First, his main event run came out of nowhere and thus wasn’t believable. Had he gone on a winning streak at first and beaten some high-profile top stars on SmackDown first, then his title match against Orton would’ve had a greater degree of intrigue and believability to it.
Secondly, Mahal wasn’t anywhere near the best worker on SmackDown at the time, and this was seen in his matches throughout the 2017 year. He was underwhelming as a wrestler and had a boring finisher, both of which are reasons even those fans most open to a new direction couldn’t really get behind him.
Add to this the fact that WWE kept putting him in handicap matches and over-the-top gimmick matches to conceal his weaknesses spoke volumes to his shortcomings as a top draw.
Third, from many reports, Jinder Mahal wasn’t having as much of an impact on the Indian fan market as the company had hoped. Ticket and merchandise sales in India weren’t reported to have reached their expected higher targets, and more fans in that part of the world seemed more interested in wrestlers like Roman Reigns than a man pretending to be one of their fellow countrymen.
It’s believed that this failure to make as big of an impact is what led to Mahal losing the WWE title in the first place.
All in all, WWE really created a booking failure with Jinder Mahal. They put him into a position that many fans thought he wasn’t ready for, and they booked him to win the most prestigious title on SmackDown so suddenly and without any major momentum behind him.
With suspension of disbelief still being a central aspect to booking proper wrestling, it’s no wonder that Mahal was considered so overrated by so many people.