Jinder Mahal Becomes Champion After Defeating Randy Orton At WWE ‘Backlash’
Jinder Mahal, a Canadian-born wrestler of Indian descent, became WWE’s SmackDown champion Sunday night after defeating Randy Orton during WWE’s Backlash show. Mahal’s win comes during a push by WWE to market their brand more heavily in India.
While Mahal has spent the majority of his professional wrestling career as a minor wrestling figure, he recently has undergone a body transformation – his much stronger and more toned – and was quickly rewarded with the championship. His turn around comes after being cut from the WWE in 2014.
Orton, who is a 13-time World Champion, is currently one of the highest paid wrestlers in the WWE and has been for the past several years. His popularity adds to the shocking nature of Mahal’s win, however short lived it may be – the title may not be held for that long, as the next title event will take place on June 18.
Mahal – and his in-ring friends, the Singh Brothers (Gurvinder and Harvinder Sihra) – present a great opportunity for WWE’s expansion in India. Recently, WWE launched the first WWE shop in India and named a new Vice President and General Manager to look over their Indian operations.
India, a country of 1.3 billion people, already offers a large audience to WWE but the wrestling organization feels they aren’t profiting as much as they could be. They have beefed up their online presence in India, starting a YouTube campaign with videos aided by Hindi commentary. Ed Wells, the Vice President of WWE International, has also personally gone to India to scout potential talent.
WWE’s Backlash show, which took place in the Allstate Arena outside of Chicago, saw several former champions also crowned but Mahal was the only champion to be crowned for the first time.
After winning, Mahal took on a villainous role and spoke about the hate and shock he would inevitably receive after being crowned champion.
“Chicago is full of haters. America is full of hatters. You people take one look at me, and hate me. You hate me for who you think I am. You hate me because of the way I look. You hate me because of the way I talk. I’m going to take all of that hatred and turn it into goodness,” Mahal said. “Turning it into something positive, something spiritual, something almost holy.”
WWE SmackDown‘s next title event, “Money in the Bank,” will take place in St. Louis on Sunday, June 18. Mahal will defend his title at the event.