Former WWE Championship Jinder Mahal is set to return after a lengthy injury layoff at WWE Superstar Spectacle, a two-hour special show airing on January 26 in India. Mahal has been the face of WWE for India’s WWE fan base for a few years - after the exit of the Great Khali - and the Indian-origin Superstar believes the one-off special show is just the beginning of WWE’s grand plan for the Indian market.
“It is going to be an awesome event, a family event and you are going to see Indian talent and this show is going to be the first of many to come,” Mahal told News18.com.
While WWE’s India live event in 2017 held in Delhi was centred on Mahal as the WWE Champion, there was not much in terms of Indian talent barring the tag-team duo of the Bollywood Boyz and Indian recruits Jeet Rama and Kishan Raftar. However, The WWE Superstar Spectacle is built around Indian talents that the company recruited during their largest-ever try-out - outside of USA – in India couple of years back, including to 7 footers in Dilsher Shanky and Giant Zanjeer, and Mahal has high hopes from the new recruits.
“During my time away from WWE - after I was released in 2014 - I went to India to wrestle for The Great Khali and I met Dilsher Shanky, Guru Raaj and Kavita Devi - they were trainees at that time,” Mahal said, adding, “So, I have seen them progress and come up, sign with WWE, move to the United States and some of them will be making their debuts. I look at someone like Giant Zanjeer and he is so impressive, same size as the Great Khali and has a lot of potential.”
Mahal’s career trajectory in WWE has been nothing less than a roller coaster and when he joined the company for the first time as blue-chip prospect, he made his main roster debut in less than a year. When WWE’s developmental program was rebranded as NXT, Mahal was one of the finalist of the Gold Rush Tournament to decide the inaugural NXT Championship – the other and the eventual winner being a certain Seth Rollins. Soon Mahal found himself in the mid-card scrum as part of the comic group 3MB and was later released, only to make a comeback and become the 50th WWE Champion, holding the title for nearly a year.
Mahal was paired with The Great Khali at the beginning of his WWE run and the Indian giant was Mahal’s mentor during his early days. And now, Mahal feels the onus is on him to take care of the new recruits as they ply their trade in the WWE.
“I have been in WWE for several years now and all these guys know that they can contact me any time for any advice. We Indian talents like to stick together and we help each other out, just like our Indian culture and we all are very proud and very happy and looking to represent India at a global stage and we are going to bring something special,” said Mahal.
Since the Pandemic started, WWE has been running their weekly shows and specials without crowds and after performing initially in empty arenas, WWE came up with the WWE Thunderdome, giving fans a virtual experience of the shows and Mahal, because of his knee surgeries is yet to compete in the Thunderdome, a prospect he is looking forward to at the WWE Superstar Spectacle.
“I am very excited. I have seen the Thunderdome on television only and not yet in person, but I think it is spectacular. It is the next best thing to having a live crowd there; the scale of it, size of it is so impressive.
“This will be first time for me at the Thunderdome and for January 26 it will be very different – there will be a bit of Bollywood spice and flavour to it. WWE never stops surprising me, they always pull something special and I don’t know what they are going to pull off this time, but as the name suggests, it is going to be a spectacle,” he added.
Talking briefly about the challenges of performing and organising events during the pandemic, Mahal praised WWE effort to keep the showing going.
“WWE has done a great job of keeping all of its athletes safe, we get tested every week, all the employees – I am very proud to say that WWE has not missed a weekly show since the pandemic and I believe it is going to pass soon and I cannot wait to start performing in front of live crowds and coming back to India very soon.” he added.