Storyline and Feud Options for Jinder Mahal After Returning on WWE RawMay 1, 2020
After missing nearly 11 months because of injury, Jinder Mahal made his in-ring return on Monday's episode of WWE Raw with a victory over Akira Tozawa.
Mahal was lost in the crowd as a mid-carder prior to getting injured, but he was announced as a former WWE champion Monday, which means the promotion may intend on making him one of the red brand's top heels.
The Modern Day Maharaja held the WWE title for 170 days in 2017 and later went on to hold the United States Championship, which he won at WrestleMania 34.
As WWE continues to work Mahal back into the mix, here are a few potential opponents and storyline possibilities he could get involved with.
It won't happen right away, but Mahal and WWE champion Drew McIntyre seem destined to cross paths.
Mahal and McIntyre are close friends in real life, and they were both previously part of the 3MB stable. Both McIntyre and Mahal were released during that run, but each man became a main eventer upon his return.
While Mahal was the first among them to capture a world title, McIntyre had an even more impressive rise, as he won the men's Royal Rumble match in January and went on to defeat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36.
Given their history, it would make plenty of sense for Mahal to target McIntyre in the near future. If the champion retains the WWE title over Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank as expected, perhaps Mahal could step up as the Scottish Superstar's opponent at Extreme Rules or even SummerSlam.
The match may not look too appealing on paper since Mahal has limitations, but he is physically impressive and could believably stand up to McIntyre, who is as big and aggressive as they come.
Mahal probably wouldn't beat McIntyre for the title in that scenario, but if they can have an entertaining rivalry, it could set the stage Mahal to remain in the vicinity of the main event moving forward.
Mahal's first major opponent after returning depends largely on how the WWE powers that be view him, and that has yet to be determined.
A title match against McIntyre is essentially the pinnacle, but WWE could just as easily envision him in a midcard gatekeeper role, which would see him wrestle and put over some of the fastest-rising babyface Superstars.
If that is the case, then it is easy to see Mahal entering into a rivalry with Aleister Black. Since Black is on the precipice of contending for the WWE Championship in the near future, beating a former titleholder like Mahal would be a stepping stone.
Black has essentially run through several undercard and enhancement talents in recent months. He also beat Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania and then beat Austin Theory to qualify for the men's Money in the Bank ladder match.
Whether or not Black wins Money in the Bank, Mahal could be a logical holdover opponent until the time is right to push him to the top and have him vie for the title against someone like McIntyre or Rollins.
It is essentially guaranteed that Mahal wouldn't come out on the winning end in a feud with Black, but Mahal has some cachet because of his resume, and using that to aid in the building of other stars wouldn't be the worst use of him.
Although it may seem like something of a pipe dream, a match between Mahal and Lesnar could be in the cards at some point.
Mahal and Lesnar were scheduled to meet at Survivor Series in 2017, but AJ Styles beat Mahal for the WWE Championship just before the event and took his spot. As a result, Mahal never got to put his Beast Master moniker to the test.
While Lesnar has continued to dominate since then, Mahal has gone in the other direction. WWE is always looking for new opponents for Brock, though, and maybe there is a chance Mahal could be one of them if he gains enough momentum in the coming months.
Lesnar could go after McIntyre or whoever is holding the WWE Championship when he returns, presumably around SummerSlam time, but it is unclear whether WWE already has long-term plans in place for the title that don't include The Beast.
If that is the case, having Mahal bring up his missed opportunity against Lesnar and push for the chance to prove he can be a threat to Brock would be a somewhat intriguing storyline.
Mahal has the size and strength to at least be a threat to Lesnar, although it is likely that Brock would run through him without much trouble if the match were booked.
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