Jinder Mahal is making the wrong kind of history as WWE champion.
His four-month reign has been bland, uninspired and forgettable. The Maharaja's matches as WWE's top titleholder haven't been special, and it's been hard to sit through his promos.
The "let's see where this goes" phase is coming to a close. It's time to start comparing Mahal to WWE's worst world champs ever.
Mahal's sudden leap from the undercard to the main event in the spring stunned the WWE fanbase. In a matter of weeks, a perennial stepping stone had become a charging freight train atop the SmackDown hierarchy. The "fun one" from the jobber faction 3MB became king at Backlash in May.
The finer points of the Mahal experiment have worked.
His swagger is befitting a top heel champ. His attitude resonates. The presentation WWE cooked up for him, from his entrance music to the digital rug that rolls out under his feet as he walks to the ring, has been excellent.
It's everything else that has flopped.
Mahal's methodical, throwback ring style hasn't produced enough top-notch bouts. Often the best parts of his matches don't actually involve him. Randy Orton manhandling the champ's cronies, The Singh Brothers, has elevated Mahal's title contests.
Overall, Mahal's matches have been fine at best.
Dave Meltzer has not had to reach deep into his bag of stars to rate The Maharaja's pay-per-view showings for Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t the Internet Wrestling Database).
- Mahal vs. Orton: Money in the Bank (3.5)
- Mahal vs. Orton: Battleground (0.75)
- Mahal vs. Nakamura: SummerSlam (2.5)
That's an average of 2.25 stars and simply not good enough in an era where we're used to seeing guys like AJ Styles, John Cena and Seth Rollins knock it out of the park regularly.
Even a TV match against Styles, who thrives against everyone, underwhelmed.
But Mahal has been better between the ropes than he has been on the mic. His promos have dragged down his title reign like a two-ton anchor.
A part of that is poor material. It's hard to imagine anyone winning over the crowd by pointing up and laughing at photos of Shinsuke Nakamura making dramatic expressions. Constipation jokes and racially charged insults haven't done him any favors.
A controversial promo on Sept. 19 had fans chanting "That's too far."
Beyond being tone deaf, the speech was simply not good TV. In a post on Sporting News, former WWE Creative member Kevin Eck called the promo "an example of cheap heat and not particularly creative nor entertaining."
To this point, Mahal hasn't managed to overcome the subpar writing. His performances with a mic in hand have been flat.
Cena's father has clearly not been impressed. He laid into Mahal in a recent interview with Boston Wrestling MWF.
"I don't think he's a good champion. I don't think he's a worthy champion," Cena Sr. said. "I don't think he's the man for the job."
It's hard to argue with him.
Mahal getting a shot at the big time after all his hard work was a feel-good story. SmackDown stepping outside of the box sure got people talking, and WWE was bolder in its booking here than it normally has been.
But the experiment hasn't worked.
It's simply not fun to watch The Maharaja reigning. He's a career-long bench player being asked to be the star of the team, and he hasn't shown he cope.
Unless he goes on a tear and truly grows into his headliner shoes, Mahal is going to rank among the worst holders of the WWE Championship. Suddenly, Sheamus' 2009 reign and The Miz's time with the belt in 2010 don't seem nearly as underwhelming.
Mahal is charging past them, one blase performance at a time.