News of the Week: Jinder Mahal and The Look; Fandango on early career struggles and Enzo Amore makes pitch to work at SI Swimsuit
Jinder Mahal’s trajectory is hard to follow, yet his path to the top of the card is not overly complicated – and it is a textbook manifestation of Vince McMahon’s ego.
McMahon still believes he can build anyone into a star, permitting that a piece of talent has the “Look.”
Mahal’s look, of course, is one of a kind in modern day WWE. He looks like a jacked up version of the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith or any other juiced wrestling star from the late 1980s. Mahal attributes his enhanced look to better training, quitting alcohol, and a more nutritious diet that includes cutting out junk food. Looking past the methods Mahal used to accomplish his improved physique, the question needs to be asked: how much do wins and losses actually matter in pro wrestling?
Goldberg built his infamous win streak, which WCW bloated to 173-0 by January of 1998, and Braun Strowman had yet to taste defeat until he was pinned by Roman Reigns this past February.
Mahal, the current WWE world heavyweight champion, has a dismal win-loss record of 80-344, courtesy of profightdb.com. Mahal was a glorified enhancement talent, and his most memorable run took place in 2013-14 as part of 3MB, which was purely a comedy act.
The “Look” has nothing to do with wrestling ability–if it did, AJ Styles would still be world champ and Roman Reigns would certainly not be cast in his current role. The “Look” has everything to do with an eye-grabbing figure, and Mahal has followed McMahon’s anti-American scripts perfectly to build some dislike among the audience.
Looks, even the “Look”, come with an expiration date. In the modern-day, internet-era of pro wrestling, the champion needs to produce in the ring to prevent fans from tuning out. Mahal is set for a rematch with Randy Orton, which does not look appealing, but his next opponent–which looks to be John Cena–is the one that can help extend his reign beyond his “Look”.
In other news…
• Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe delivered a gripping segment and physical altercation on Raw. It is interesting to note that their fight at Great Balls of Fire on July 9 occurs exactly one year after Lesnar fought Mark Hunt at UFC 200. Lesnar, who is actually retired from pro fighting despite being on suspension from the UFC (which means his suspension is currently suspended), would add immediate firepower to the UFC if he ever decided to fulfill his suspension and return.
• The “Fashion Files” are a weekly highlight of SmackDown, and have provided a rebirth for Tyler Breeze and Fandango. Fandango, who is 35-year-old Curtis Hussey, noted that he came close to quitting the business, but ultimately decided that there was no alternative but success:
“Around 2005, right before I moved down to Atlanta, I tried to get a normal job,” said Fandango. “I laid brick up here in Maine. It’s one of those things, man, it’s hard to live with regret. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life thinking what if I had just pursued it, thinking, ‘What if?’ That was always haunting me in the back of my head. I’d rather try and fail, but know that I tried, rather than not try at all. I was debating getting out of the business. It was a financial thing where I was almost paying to support my independent habit. I was driving four-five hours, and gas isn’t cheap, and you’re missing work, so it came to the point where I needed to decide if I wanted to be a normal person with a nine-to-five job and money, or if I wanted to keep chasing my dream. I gambled but it’s worked out. Without big risks in life, man, you’re not going to get big rewards.”
• Lucha Underground head writer Christopher DeJoseph spoke on this Wednesday’s brand new episode of Lucha Underground, which includes Rey Mysterio preparing for his upcoming world title match against Johnny Mundo. DeJoseph, who is a former lead WWE writer, noted that he is grateful to write for two characters like Mysterio and Mundo:
“Lucha Underground is kind of a different universe, so it’s fun to tweak their characters slightly,” said DeJoseph. “They’ve also both changed as performers, as well, so it goes with the times. You don’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over.”
The Cueto Cup begins tonight, which is a 32-man tournament with the winner earning a title shot:
“I’ve always been a fan of tournaments, and some of the guys on the [creative] team thought it would be great to do a real tournament on the wrestling show. Johnny and Rey will begin their training. There is pretty epic training footage of Johnny and Rey, and their preparations for this huge title match against one another. One thing in particular about this episode that you want to watch is one of our famous Marvel scenes will air this week, and it’s a classic.”
• In the midst of an incredibly compelling storyline between Big Cass and Enzo Amore over whomever is behind these backstage beatdowns–which I predict will lead to a heel turn for the team–Amore offered his photojournalism services for the next swimsuit edition:
“If Sports Illustrated ever needs help, I am available for the swimsuit edition,” said Amore. “I am very good at photography and I have an iPhone 7.”
• New Japan’s Dominion show exceeded expectations this past Sunday, and the Kazuchika Okada-Kenny Omega main event finished in a 60-minute draw. Okada will face Cody Rhodes during the live show in Long Beach, California on July 1, while Omega is in the 8-man tournament to crown the first-ever IWGP United States champion. The fact that Omega did not win the IWGP heavyweight title only fuels the fire that he has not signed long-term with New Japan, and that a run in WWE will be in his near future.
• Conrad Thompson’s Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard will dissect and analyze the Vince Russo era in the WWE.
“We’re going to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said Thompson. “So many focus on the bad with Russo, but we want to give a fair assessment. He won’t get a pass for the bad stuff, but we won’t just gloss over the high points, either.”
Thompson and Prichard run a guest-free podcast, but Russo is willing to appear on the show to add his side of the story. “Russo already started tweeting, mocking the idea that we’re going to do the show about him without him,” said Thompson. “He secretly loves the attention, and I’m sure he’s going to get some out of it. This will be one of our more controversial shows.”
Thompson and Prichard are bringing their talents to St. Louis for a live show this Sunday at the South Broadway Athletic Club before Money in the Bank.
“We’ve got some phenomenal stunts planned, and some really cool talking points,” said Thompson. “We’ll touch on fathers in wrestling for Father’s Day, as well as all things St. Louis. The WWE has had some big cards there over the years.”
• Money in the Bank predictions: Jinder Mahal retains the WWE championship, Randy Orton’s heel turn begins, Kevin Owens is victorious and wins the Money in the Bank contract, and Carmella wins the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match.
• Jimmy Havoc came away victorious–and somehow walked away in one piece–from this past weekend’s Tournament of Death held by Combat Zone Wrestling. The 16th edition of the tournament, which was held in Townsend, Delaware, is known for the use of light tubes, cinderblocks, barbed wire, and copious amounts of blood loss. Havoc, who is an internationally acclaimed professional, was grateful to add surviving the “Bloodiest Afternoon in Wrestling” to his list of accomplishments:
“I’ll enjoy it a little more once I get over the incredible feeling of pain from my absolute mess of a back right now,” said Havoc. “I’ve been a fan of hardcore wrestling and CZW in particular ever since I was a teenager and a friend at school lent me a tape with a load of matches on. It had always been a goal of mine to go over to compete in Tournament of Death, so when I was asked earlier in the year I was incredibly happy. To then win it, to be told I’m the best of the best at that style of wrestling, is such an incredible feeling that will stay with me forever.”
• Marty Jannetty is celebrating his 34th year in professional wrestling (“That’s like 150 regular human years,” said Jannetty). The 57-year-old Jannetty recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Shawn Michaels using his face to break a barbershop window, and he reflected on the hotel room fight in Denver, Colorado–instigated by the late Roddy Piper–that led to the ultimate demise of the Rockers:
“Shawn and I had one physical altercation in our seven years tagging together,” said Jannetty. “We went in to WWE established as the Midnight Rockers. They put a lot of teams together there, and they had a history of splitting up tag teams at the most inopportune times. We were close, we roomed together, we rode together, we ate together. Hell, we shared some of the same women. We were closer than brothers. So we shared a pretty strong bond.
“Shawn and I decided that we would split up when we were ready to split up. We also knew we’d need to be diplomatic about it, but that was a pact between Shawn and me. We wanted to take the Rockers team as far as we could take it, and we hadn’t officially held the belts when they split us up. There was still a good year-and-a-half run left for the Rockers, and holding the titles would have propelled us to the top of the tag division.”
Then came the fight, where Jannetty got the better of Michaels.
“Shawn’s arrogant and cocky ways were starting to be directed toward me, and I told him I wasn’t going to put up with it,” said Jannetty. “Then one night, Roddy Piper, who I love to death, stirred it up between Shawn and me.
“Shawn was embarrassed, quit for a day or two, and then Vince got him to come back. Koko B. Ware and the Ultimate Warrior were riding his ass pretty bad about it, and he was bothered by what he was hearing from the boys. I said to leave it alone, because it shouldn’t have happened. We were friends and brothers. Vince had us come into his office, talk it out, shake and hug. We were still the Rockers, but even with that, I think it still bothered Shawn subconsciously.
“It wasn’t until Vince called us back to the office, sat us down, and said, ‘I think the time has come to split you guys up.’ I said that splitting up was something that Shawn and I could talk about, but Shawn said right away, ‘I’m good with it.’ That’s when I realized Shawn didn’t want to tag any more. That was the real end of the Rockers. He was never OK with the fight, and he was looking to get out of the team from that point.”
• The two-year anniversary of Dusty Rhodes’ passing occurred on June 11. When the “American Dream” passed away, Sports Illustrated spoke with Bret Hart about the loss of Rhodes:
“Everybody loved Dusty,” said Hart. “I don’t know anybody who had a bad thing to say about him. Dusty was a great detail guy in wrestling and could always pinpoint some little thing you could do to improve your match. He had a real eye for the business and how to do it right.”
Hart was also asked if Rhodes could have generated as much money and notoriety for the business during the 1980s had the WWE decided to run with Rhodes as the face of their company instead of Hogan.
“I think Hogan’s draw, more specifically back in the 80’s, in 84-85, was much more in touch with kids. Dusty was more in touch with the old fans–anyone who grew up watching wrestling. He had a pretty storied history, even by then. Looking at the way Vince went, he was aiming for the young kids, and Hogan was a better option.”
Tweet of the Week
When Steve Austin was married to Jeanie “Lady Blossom” Clarke, she asked him to drink his tea before it went… stone cold.