When I say the name "Jinder Mahal," what comes to mind?
Turbans? Air sitar? 3MB?
Whatever it is, I'm sure it's nothing flattering. With that said, I remember hearing that WWE used to see main event heel potential in Jinder Mahal. I quickly wrote this off as nothing, but like most of 3MB, I think there is some hidden talent in "The Funny One." Hidden talent may not always mean main event potential, but I think that Mahal could be a main event/upper-midcard heel, if angled correctly.
Let's start by taking a look at what we have to work with.
Mahal is still young at 26 years old. He has a disadvantage—his ethnicity, which the WWE has a formula for (I'll expand more later). His ring work is decidedly average.
Yet, for the few things he does do in the ring, all are done well. He's no Tyson Kidd. He's not even a Miz in the ring. I'd rank him about where Damien Sandow is in the ring. Nothing in his move set sets him apart, but nothing makes him look bad either.
On the mic, he's not bad. He has the slightest hint of an accent, but it doesn't impacts his mic work like it would Drew McIntyre. It's similar to Justin Gabriel, though Mahal's feels a few decibels higher. Overall, I'd say he's one of the best speakers of the lower midcard.
His physique is above average. He has a similar build to the prototypical superstars these days such as Daniel Bryan and Cody Rhodes. That actually works in his favor. It may be surprising to hear, but I think with the fact that superstars are practically shrinking these days, Mahal will fit in well for his size.
After looking at his base attributes, my overall grade for Mahal as a superstar is a C minus.
If he didn't have an ethnicity going for him, I wouldn't see much potential. I'd rank him about as high as I rank Zack Ryder, but because of his ethnicity, which gives him a unique look and accent, I rank him higher than the average undercard guy.
In fact, as far as 3MB goes, if anyone can make it to the main event, Mahal is that guy.
Now, let's look at what WWE has done with Mahal so far.
Things started out pretty well for him, as he was immediately thrust into a storyline involving The Great Khali and Ranjin Singh. Taking offense to how Khali was being managed and acting, Mahal asserted dominance over the giant, turning him into his muscle for a while, before management decided to turn Khali face against Mahal and end the partnership.
Following this, Mahal became a jobber to the likes of Sheamus and Randy Orton. He found some success in NXT by making it to the finals of the Gold Rush tournament to crown the first NXT champion, but he lost to former champion Seth Rollins.
Afterward, he was part Ryback's first feud but served little purpose other than to sate the hunger of Ryback. Arguably, Mahal has had his greatest success as a member of 3MB, winning matches against Team CoBro and The Usos and even challenging for the WWE tag team title, before the group collectively began jobbing.
I would grade WWE's current treatment of Mahal as a D. To start him out surprisingly well with Khali as his bodyguard only to drop the teaming for no payoff was pointless.
Another (admittedly) small gripe I have regarding Mahal is his use of the Camel Clutch. I see no reason why everyone with even the slightest hint of pigment in their skin indicative of Indian or Middle Eastern ancestry has to be given that move. It's not that I don't think it's a good move, but there are better choices for a finishing move for Mahal. It is an improvement on the Full Nelson Slam used before but not by much.
So with all this going against him, how could WWE make Mahal a main event/upper-midcard contender? Well it's very simple, and I think there's a way to go about it that even people who don't like Mahal can get behind.
It all starts with the implosion of 3MB. This, I believe, could do some good for all.
After another loss, Slater could throw a fit, provoking an argument between the three bandmates. Slater could claim he's tired of carrying the group, Drew could claim he's better than this (citing his time as The Chosen One) and Mahal could claim this is beneath him (nobility doesn't air guitar, I assume.) Once the three of them part ways, the next step of the plan would come to fruition.
With Mahal solo, WWE could advance further into the disbandment of The Rhode Scholars, with Damien Sandow turning on Cody Rhodes and turning face in the process. By this point, WWE could have Mahal rack up wins against Zack Ryder, Yoshi Tatsu and Sin Cara and maybe an upset over Kofi Kingston. This would lead to one of two things happening.
Sandow could continue feuding with Planet Funk (Sweet T and Brodus Clay) and enlist the aid of a mystery partner: Mahal. This team could erase the history of Rhode Scholars by proving capable of winning the WWE Tag Team Championship, thus giving Mahal and Sandow their first taste of gold in the WWE.
The Prime Time Players could suddenly find themselves (in kayfabe) with millions of dollars, courtesy of a mysterious benefactor, who turns out to be Mahal. While The Prime Time Players now have someone in their corner, they could assist Mahal in winning or retaining one of the midcard championships down the line. This could also facilitate an O'Neil face turn, singles run down the line, but that's an article for another time.
Regardless of which option is used, both give Mahal championship experience, and these alliances could persist for years before ending. Over that time, Mahal would improve in the ring and come into his own style, possibly developing a new finishing move. Thus would begin the final phase of making Mahal a main event star.
Regardless of whether option A or B was taken, the partnership could come to end with Mahal dissatisfied with his associates. Mahal could become fed up with The Prime Time Players (in particular, Titus' antics), or he could experience a losing streak with Sandow. The altercation could come to a head with Mahal bringing out a new hired muscle (perhaps Khali again or someone from NXT like Mason Ryan). With this new muscle behind him, the transformation would be complete.
Mahal lacks something on his own. He was at his best with Khali on his side, so the addition of another bodyguard would work wonders.
It may be a bit of a stretch to think of Mahal as a future WWE champion. Still, what I've suggested is only one way that could happen.
You never know who'll make it to the top in the WWE. I'm sure nobody thought John Cena, CM Punk or The Miz would be world champions. Who's to say Mahal isn't another story of unlikely success? It takes a good bit of thought, but anything can happen in the WWE.
So why couldn't Mahal be a world heavyweight or WWE champion?