JinderMahal is preparing to defend his WWE championship this Sunday against ShinsukeNakamura at Hell in a Cell, and the “Modern Day Maharaja” is so confident in his ability to defeat Nakamura that he already has his next opponent in mind:
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“Rob Gronkowski cost me the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and I haven’t forgot that,” said Mahal. “There is definitely unfinished business between myself and Gronkowski, and I can guarantee he’ll be getting his receipt.”
The 31-year-old Mahal, who was born Yuvraj Singh Dhesi in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, recently cut a promo on Nakamura that was criticized as racist. Mahal’s words were largely misunderstood, as the whole story in his program with Nakamura is that he is out to prove that the fans are the ones who belittle the former New Japan superstar behind his back.
“Every day in WWE is also an opportunity,” said Mahal. “I have to rise to the occasion every time I am given that opportunity, and that includes every promo on SmackDown, too.”
Mahal’s rise to prominence is one of WWE’s greatest achievements in 2017. After a release from the company in 2014, Mahal was seen as a bit player, and his 2016 return to the company was met with little to no fanfare.
“A lot of people asked if I was disappointed when I got released,” said Mahal. “Of course I was disappointed. But I also learned that you get back what you put in. Before, I wasn’t giving it 100 percent, therefore I wasn’t getting back 100 percent. I regained my focus, I regained my drive, and I’m fortunate for every day that I’m in WWE. It got taken away from me, so I know every day in WWE is a blessing.”
The path to Mahal’s run with the WWE champion,ship which he won in May over Randy Orton at Backlash to become the first-ever WWE world champ of Indian descent, was accelerated by a revamped, chiseled look and an unremitting work ethic.
“The secret to my success is persistence,” said Mahal. “You never know when the break is going to come, so you have to keep plugging away. I know that my journey motivated the rest of the locker room. Sometimes, guys are in a slump or you feel like you’re not doing anything with the company, and I felt like that for years. But it can all change. Mentally, you can’t expect positive things to start happening in your life with a negative attitude.
“There was originally no plan in place for me to become WWE champion. It felt like I became the number one contender out of nowhere. I call what I did forcing the results. I wasn’t happy with my position. I was putting in the work, but I wasn’t getting the results. I was going to force the result no matter what the cost.”
Mahal is playing a similar role as Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who was a villain in America during his heel run in 1997 but championed as a hero across the globe.
“I grew up watching Bret Hart, and I have a good relationship with Bret,” said Mahal. “He is someone that I look up to and someone I go to for advice.”
An integral aspect of Mahal’s success are the Singh Brothers, Sunil and Samir, who are certain to interfere in the title match on Sunday.
“Me and the Singh Brothers actually go back a long time, even before we were in WWE,” said Mahal. “We’re all from Canada, and we took similar paths to get here from WWE. They sacrifice their bodies, especially during the Punjabi Prison match.”
Samir Singh took a vicious bump from atop the Punjabi Prison during the main event of the Battleground pay per view in July, risking his permanent health for the chance to take the crowd’s breath away.
“I kept watching him go higher and higher when he was fighting off Randy Orton, and when I thought he’d already went too high, he went one ring even higher,” said Mahal. “Then he hit the table real, real hard. Ultimately, they’ll tell you there is no price too high to pay for the Maharaja.”