WWE is the biggest wrestling promotion on the planet right now. I could safely say that a majority of wrestling fans here in India got their first experience of wrestling by watching the promotion. In fact, one could even argue that WWE was an integral part of our childhoods and the subject of many playground debates.
At the eve of the launch of WWE 2K22, I had the chance to talk to former WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal. We talked about his rise in the WWE, his finisher, and more. Here’s how it panned out.
Digit: In 2017, you won Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s ‘Most Hated Wrestler’ and ‘Most Improved Wrestler’ awards, which is a very impressive achievement. How does that make you feel to know that the fans not only applauded your heel character but also appreciated your hard work toward improving your abilities as a wrestling performer?
Jinder Mahal: Yeah, 2017 was my breakout year. I was unfortunately released from the WWE in 2014, and I came back in 2016. So It’s never been done before that someone came back after being released and within 10 months I was WWE Champion. It was awesome, and a lot of hard work event into it and I’m glad that my efforts got recognised. Being voted the Most Improved Wrestler, not just in the WWE, but I believe the entire industry, goes hand-in-hand with being voted Most Hated. Maybe because I improved so much, everybody was jealous (laughs). But that’s awesome.
As a heel, the reward is the boos from the crowd. That’s the best part. Going out there, and just having fun interacting with the WWE universe. The Thunderdome was a bit of a challenge. It’s a unique environment where you’re not getting that feedback. So now that we’re back in front of the WWE Universe again, I can feel that passion, I can feel those boos. So it’s amazing and I was honoured to win those awards.
You, somehow, haven’t yet won the Tag Team Championship yet. If you could team up with any wrestler past or present to win it, who would it be?
So for the past, I would say, Razor Ramon. Just because I used to love his charisma. He was oozing machismo and he is in the video game (WWE 2K22). So we can make it happen. I believe we would compliment each other as we have a similar style, similar size, height, everything.
Currently, I would have to go with Shanky, because he is my tag team partner. And it is really, honestly, my goal to win the Tag Team Championship. Not only that, but also the Intercontinental Championship, so that I can be a Grand Slam Champion. And I would love to win the Tag Team Gold with Shanky, Veer, or anyone else and be the first-ever Indian Tag Team Champions. That would be an honour as well.
While it is pretty apt, What’s the story behind picking the name ‘Khallas’ for your finisher? What other names did you consider?
Actually, the name was given to the move very fast. Basically, they were just calling it the Cobra Clutch Slam, and before that, I just used a Full Nelson Slam. So, around the time I was just about to have my feud with Randy Orton, one of the lead producers came up to me and said that we need a name. Sunil Singh (of The Bollywood Boyz and The Singh Brothers) had suggested it. And as soon as he said it, i knew that was it and I could not come up with a better name. So credit goes to Sunil Singh who came up with the name on the spot, on very very short notice. But what a perfect name.
What is the funniest backstage story you can share with us? Bonus points if it has something to do with Indian food.
There are not really any funny stories about Indian food, but the Great Khali has like a Rolodex of Indian Restaurants all across America and they’re all his friends. So when you travel with the Great Khali, you are going to Indian Restaurants. Speaking of the Great Khali, a funny story is one time we got pulled over by the police. We were probably going too fast and the police officer looks over and sees Khali right next to me. For some reason, he asks us to step out of the car and when Khali steps out, he (the officer) looks all the way up at him. Thankfully, the officer lets us go with just a warning.
Another funny story, I was with the Singh Brothers and they were driving. Maybe we took a wrong turn or something, and we got pulled over by the police. We told him that we are sorry, that we were travelling from city to city and that we wrestle for the WWE. He asks us, “what’s your wrestling name?” and I say, Jinder Mahal. So he goes to his walkie-talkie and asks another officer, “hey, you know Jinder Mahal?” The other officer says “yes”, and instructs him to keep me there. The other officer comes, who is a huge wrestling fan and asks if I had the belt with me. So, we’re on the side of the highway, in the middle of the night, taking pictures with the officers. In the end, they just let us off with a warning.
Main Image courtesy of WWE.com