Lavalle’s Blog: Wait, is Jinder Mahal actually a babyface?

By April Lavalle

Jinder Mahal stunned the pro wrestling world when his meteoric rise through the roster culminated in his winning the WWE Championship from Randy Orton at WWE Backlash in Chicago on May 21. A 6’5” bundle of angular muscles with a snarling face and imposing voice (well, if he doesn’t lose it), Mahal makes a perfect heel, continuing the WWE’s longstanding (and frankly shitty) tradition of making brown people villains.

So sure, on paper, Mahal is the perfect heel. But is he really?

A decade after The Great Khali held the World Heavyweight Championship, Mahal became the first Indian WWE Champion, thus beginning the reign of the Modern Day Maharajah. When Mahal entered the WWE (the first time, before he was fired and eventually rehired), he was a forgettable mid-carder operating under “The Man Who Comes in Peace” gimmick. It didn’t work. Perhaps because a Ghandi-like character makes absolutely no sense in the world of professional wrestling, perhaps because it is lame to think that Indian people come in two stereotypical flavors: peaceful yogi and evil foreigner, perhaps because Mahal was just..not..good. Maybe a combination of all of those things? Anyway, it was bad.

What Mahal has going on now is certainly more interesting. Most of Mahal’s promos have the same few themes. 1) he has worked hard to become champion. 2) he is great/the best/all that typical shit. 3) and most importantly: he is vastly misunderstood. He often talks about how Americans are “intolerant” and “ignorant,” and how he is judged solely on the way he looks. Comments like these are usually met with a chorus of “Boos!” and “U-S-A” chants as if the crowd is saying “F— you, Jinder. We are woke as hell and you know nothing.” In a time when people are pressed to take hard, long looks at their privileges, Jinder’s championship run is certainly timely, if not totally opportunistic.

So why are we booing Jinder, a man who is merely standing before millions asked to be understood? Well, we are supposed to boo the heel, so that is one thing. And sure, Jinder does have some heel-y moments— he literally stole the belt at one point. But his writing is certainly inconsistent with the typical heel dialog. Instead of lusting to pulverize an opponent, like fellow Smackdown heel Baron Corbin, or calling for near sociopathic righteousness and compliance the program’s top heel, Kevin Owens, Mahal usually just wants American’s to respect his culture. Is that really what makes him the ultimate bad guy?

Jinder’s story outside the ring also has “face” written all over it. According to a recent interview with FOX Sports, Mahal debuted at 24 and was way over his head. After being released by the WWE, going on a bit of a decline with alcohol and drugs, Jinder rose from the ashes. What is more babyface than a good comeback story? And though I’d like to pretend that kayfabe is the only thing that matters, let’s not pretend that the personal life of wrestlers don’t contribute to their in-ring personas. Admit it, you may think John Cena is totally lame, but you can’t completely hate the guy because of his charitable work.

While one Canadian gets to play the “Face of America” without making WWE’s audience feel like their patriotism is questioned, another Canadian is designated to the role of the heel with distinctly un-heel-like dialog, and faces U-S-A chants while wrestling mostly white wrestlers. No matter how deeply Mahal descends into “heeldom” through his reign as WWE Champion, he is an undeniable hero to the valuable Indian market, which is probably why Mahal was put on top on the first place.

If nothing else, Jinder Mahal’s championship run holds a mirror up to the American audience. The question is, will anyone even bother to look?

April Lavalle is the newest addition to the Prowrestling.net staff. Follow her online at Twitter.com/imatoofbrush and visit Aprillavalle.com.



The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features ODB discussing the fire that destroyed her food truck, the fundraising drive to help her buy a new truck, her appearance on the latest Impact Wrestling television show, Triple H telling her to go to TNA, and much more...


Readers Comments (7)

  1. A lot of what you said is worth considering, but is a guy who flaunts his wealth and has two dudes helping him out at literally just about every turn really a babyface?

    • Juggalo Steve May 31, 2017 @ 7:03 pm

      No, he’s not really a babyface. It’s just that now we’ve got this in addition to the other SJW turning this site into some weird wrestling site that doesn’t seem to like wrestling.

    • The REAL reason you’re supposed to hate him is because he’s an arrogant jerk who relies on others to win matches. He’s just using the diversity-thing as a weak excuse because HE’S A HEEL.

      They COULD have done an effective double turn after Jinder won the title, mentioning the whole journey that he’s traveled and turn him into a sympathetic character that the crowd can get behind. They COULD have had Randy crash that celebration and destroy Jinder so utterly that he went back to his old heel persona. But, like they have done many times before and will undoubtedly do many times in the future, WWE wasted an opportunity for a good thing. That’s also part of being a wrestling fan.

  2. Congrats april, i will not read your articles after just the first read. that’s a new record.

  3. Horrible. Just absolutely horrible, snowflake, lib written article.

  4. An interesting and well written opinion piece that attempts to raise questions about the psyche and attitudes of the WWE fans based on their reactions to the ‘Jinder experiment’. The writer takes a multicultural perspective to argue that Jinder presents himself as a good guy- someone who claims to be hard working (therefore deserving of living the American Dream) and is misunderstood. In other words, he is looking for acceptance from the “dominant” (white) culture. Looked at it this way, he is indeed a sympathetic character. This analysis is nevertheless incomplete. It places too much emphasis on what he says while ignoring the manner in which he says it. In fact, he looks at the WWE audience with disdain (as a Maharaja or King would) and is appalled that they don’t pay homage to him. His actions in the ring couldn’t be more heelish (always relies on cheating to win). It is essentially of a person who can’t get the job done in the ring so relies heavily on outside interference from his stooges. In others words, there isn’t anything meritocratic about him to claim the American Dream (which, incidentally, mirrors fan perception of him in real life as a mediocre talent). Based on all this, I don’t see why he should be perceived as face even in India (at least in Kayfabe terms). Moreover, kayfabewise, why would Indian WWE fans want their heroes to be depicted as cowardly and aristocratic.

  5. “Is that really what makes him the ultimate bad guy?”

    You’re missing the point. Jinder Mahal is booed for crying over imagined grievances. He bellyaches over the audience disrespecting him when the audience couldn’t care less about him. So he gets booed for pouting. Jumping to the “it’s jingoism” conclusion is just a wee bit too SJW-y, with all due respect.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.