Why should we care about Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal?
This past week on SmackDown Live, WWE Champion Jinder Mahal laid out a challenge to the Univeral Champion, Brock Lesnar. The rumors had been brewing since the end of last week that this potential match would take place at Survivor Series in Houston at the Toyota Center.
I mean, it’s Champion vs. Champion. Who doesn’t want to see a match like that? It’s not like we haven’t seen that match multiple times on Raw and SmackDown during the previous brand extension, and even when the roster merged into one again with two champions. Of course, this was before the two titles were unified to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Now that we’re a year and change into the second official brand extension, we’ve got two World Champions that couldn’t have had more polar opposite careers. Brock Lesnar has been Universal Champion since April 2, and Jinder Mahal captured the WWE Championship from Randy Orton on May 21 — so both of these guys have been champion for quite a while. One would think the wrestling world would be clamoring for a Champion vs. Champion match, right?
OK, well maybe not the whole wrestling world. But even in 2017, and even in pro wrestling, there’s still some type of fascination with a Champion vs. Champion match — especially when they’re World Champions. And, for whatever reason other than that, WWE is looking to have a Lesnar vs. Mahal main event at Survivor Series on November 19.
Mahal officially made his challenge this past week, so there’s about a month to build this match. Lesnar supposedly will answer Mahal’s challenge this coming Monday on Raw [I actually think he’ll deny the challenge, and then Mahal will do something to make Lesnar accept it.]
In the lead up to the Roman Reigns vs. John Cena match at No Mercy in September, a big criticism was not giving the match enough build. I couldn’t have disagreed more with that assessment, especially considering they had more than a month to build to it and did a pretty damn good job in doing so. Cena and Reigns had traded barbs back and forth on Twitter for months, and that’s a big part of WWE’s storytelling in 2017 — when they want to use it. So I didn’t look at it as just a month of build, I looked at it as more than that. But I understand why many others didn’t. [The argument that this wasn’t at WrestleMania is still a lame argument and I’ll never agree that they should have waited.]
But this whole Lesnar vs. Mahal match has nothing going for it. The fact that both men are champions doesn’t mean anything in 2017. WWE has exhausted every possible storyline and angle when it comes to a Champion vs. Champion match. Unless the stakes are amazingly high — which it doesn’t seem like they will be as the rumored match will be non-title — this match doesn’t have any juice. No pun intended.
Now is it possible for WWE to get creative and make us really clamor for this match come November 19? Of course. There’s always a way WWE’s creative writing team can make things better. It’s the head honcho that often makes changes on the fly. As of this writing, Survivor Series is exactly one month away. It’s entirely possible that come that date, we’ll be jonesing for this match, even if it is non-title. That’s the beauty of WWE. They clearly can give the fans what they want. They can make an ordinary match seem extraordinary. That’s what I think the case with this is.
Now, how does AJ Styles fit into all this? It seems like maybe to bridge the gap between now and Survivor Series, Styles has been inserted into this story to take on both of the Singh Brothers and then Mahal on an episode of SmackDown. Could we possibly see Styles vs. Lesnar? Could we see Styles defeat Mahal for the title on an episode of SmackDown?
Highly doubtful. Although I’m sure many would love that. Myself included.
Mahal’s reign is really just starting. They’re building their entire expansion into India around him. Sure, they were already popular in India, but Mahal has champion gives the company something extra in that market.
In the United States? Not so much. Mahal’s reign has fallen flat. His matches aren’t terrible, but it has a lot to do — if not everything to do — with his previous stint as a jobber on the main roster. For years. It’s not like he was ever seriously considered as a top guy to build around, even in the midcard, during his previous roster stay. He rejoined WWE after the second brand extension and seemingly was relegated back to jobber status.
Then he won a random battle royal to determine the №1 contender for Randy Orton’s WWE Championship that he won at WrestleMania. Then, in their first match, he beat him for the title. He then beat him again and again. Once with the help from The Great Khali, which was the only sort of cool thing to see in that ridiculous Punjabi Prison match at Battleground — in which I was in attendance. Mahal hasn’t been taken seriously as champion and his matches haven’t really done enough for the majority of fans to buy him as a top guy in WWE. His reign has been met with fierce opposition and people just hoping against hope he’d lose the title. Back-to-back wins against Shinsuke Nakamura doesn’t help him in the eyes of fans, either. If anything, that storyline did a lot more to damage Nakamura than to help Mahal.
On the other hand, Lesnar has been dominant, as usual. Although his matches are seemingly cookie-cutter at this point, they’re still a hell of a lot more entertaining than most matches on any shows nowadays. His match against Samoa Joe at Great Balls of Fire and the Fatal Four Way match at SummerSlam with Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Joe were spectacular. His match against Strowman at No Mercy wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a spectacle.
Has Mahal has a spectacular match?
That’s why this proposed match is just falling flat right now. Nobody buys Mahal as a legitimate threat to Lesnar, nor should they. Which is why if this match happens, I fully believe something will happen to allow Mahal to win. He needs it way more than Lesnar does, and it actually might bode well for both guys if they do go that route.
But right now, as of this writing, it’s really hard to buy that. And I completely get it. It’s not an easy thing to have wrestling fans buy into something like this. Trust me, the first moment I heard of this match, I hated it. Earlier this week, I still hated it.
But then I started wondering how WWE could use this match for the greater good of the company and their stars. I think there’s something to be said for putting Mahal over the top — yes, even against Lesnar — at this point in time.
It could absolutely backfire — but maybe no more than it already has. Mahal over Lesnar? Would anyone really buy that? No. Which is why this match will likely end with some crazy shenanigans. And, you know what? Why the hell not? It keeps the wrestling fans talking and doesn’t exactly make it seem like the company doesn’t care about these shows, which is usually the case this time of year up to the Royal Rumble in January.
WWE has put all of its eggs into the Mahal basket. It’s pretty clear they need him to remain champion, and a top name, for the rest of the year. The company is touring India in December [live shows on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9], so having Mahal remain WWE Champion and with a win over Lesnar under his belt, they can assume business on those days could be very lucrative. And it further proves that WWE views titles as nothing more than props.
As once said by the great Jim Ross on The Straight Shooters Podcast, WWE views titles as nothing more than props. This is a perfect example. “WWE Champion Jinder Mahal” sounds a lot better than “WWE superstar Jinder Mahal.” But at this point, it may not matter what WWE does with him. He’s not having a five-star classic with Lesnar. Styles? He has a better chance at it, but I doubt it’s happening.
WWE has done some confusing things with Mahal’s reign, especially with putting him over Orton a handful of times and Nakamura. Next on the list seems to be AJ Styles, and even possibly Lesnar.
It’s all about whether WWE can save his reign. But it’s not looking good. I’m interested in seeing where this could possibly go, but I have no good feelings about it.
WWE has done nothing to make anyone excited about this potential match. Which is why it seems like they can go nowhere but up in building expectations.
But the company has really backed themselves into a corner with this match. Can it really have a winner? Mahal winning will be looked at as a joke, regardless of how it’s done. He can’t do it alone. Lesnar winning will seem like not a big deal. He’s had wins over Joe and Strowman… beating Mahal won’t seem like any kind of feat.
This match, simply put, doesn’t make sense right now. We’d have to hope WWE has something in mind to keep our attention and even make us go, “Well, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.” And that’s not a good position to be in.
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