SmackDown LIVE proved to live up to its moniker as the land of opportunity on Tuesday night, as Jinder Mahal emerged victorious from the six-pack challenge to become the new number one contender for the WWE Championship.
With Randy Orton’s House of Horrors match against Bray Wyatt at Payback not a title match, this means The Maharaja gets his championship opportunity at the SmackDown-exclusive Backlash pay-per-view.
It came as a shock to many, and you could see that by the reaction from the fans in attendance when the brothers formerly known as the Bollywood Boyz hindered Sami Zayn’s chances of winning by grabbing a hold of his legs, allowing another new SmackDown recruit to get the job done.
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It’s being claimed that WWE officials are very impressed with the work Mahal has been doing in recent weeks, and his move to the blue brand could be paying off big time, especially since what many thought would be a big mid-card push could now lead to an even bigger main event push.
While it’s also being claimed that this is being done as WWE continues to expand in India, Dave Meltzer has speculated on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that despite the outcome and what may follow in the aftermath of the shocking result, Mahal might not have been their first option.
Meltzer speculated that there’s a chance WWE moved forward with having Mahal win because of the injury sustained by another new SmackDown LIVE star, Rusev, and that Mahal may have taken what was initially planned for The Bulgarian Brute.
He went on to add that this is because of Vince McMahon’s thought process, and that he clearly feels the need that his company needs a top, anti-American heel and with Rusev out, it makes sense to go with somebody with foreign roots – even though he’s from Canada.
Due to this, the planned storyline and WWE Championship match between The Viper and Baron Corbin has been pushed back to take place on a much bigger than event than Backlash, which allows Mahal to have his moment in the limelight, win or lose.
It makes sense because we’ve seen WWE use the anti-American gimmick for years, and Rusev successfully played one with Lana by his side as they talked up Russian president Vladimir Putin on a weekly basis.
It’s perhaps riskier with Mahal as this will be new territory for him, while many will also claim that Rusev has done more to earn this spot – but if he’s out with injury, what more can the company do?
Despite that, it’s clear that the anti-American is now a stale act as we’ve seen it recycled over and over again, so hopefully, Rusev can return as a top heel without needing to bash the United States, much like Mahal will do in the coming weeks.
Do you think this role was initially created for Rusev? Have YOUR say in the comments section below and the second episode of GiveMeSport’s WWE podcast is here! Check out the inside info from our coverage in Orlando. https://soundcloud.com/user-818579649/givemesport-inside-wrestlemania-33
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