If you’re under the age of 20, there’s a very good chance Jinder Mahal is one of the best wrestling heels you’ve ever seen. You probably don’t realize this, but it’s true. You see, gentle reader, there was a time long ago when the pro wrestling heel actually wanted to be hated. They didn’t pimp merchandise, sign autographs, and bend over backwards to appear ”cool” to the fans. It was a time old guys like me commonly refer to as “the good ol’ days”.
One Man Gang Threatened Me With A Chain
The first live wrestling show I ever attended was in my grade school gymnasium. I was 8 years old and the Main Event that night was One Man Gang vs. my childhood hero, “The Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich. I don’t remember a thing about the rest of the show, but I remember this: One Man Gang beat Kerry bloody with a chain (in front of a sea of children), then threatened to do the same to me and a few of my friends as he left the ring. It was terrifying. It was awesome.
I saw One Man Gang at a convention a few years ago. I didn’t approach him. I’m a grown-ass man, pay all my bills, travel the world in search of adventure (and great food), and the second I saw Gang up close, I was 8 years old again.
I know times have changed regarding the manner in which professional wrestling is presented, but even as a kid I knew things were predetermined. But, you see, the magic wasn’t in One Man Gang convincing me pro wrestling is real. The magic was in him convincing me he was real.
He’s “still real to me, dammit”! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Don’t Hinder Jinder
In Jinder Mahal, you actually have someone willing to tap into something deeper within your fandom than the basic “boo/yay” culture established by WWE’s systematic dismantling of what professional wrestling once was. The problem is, far too many of you have been raised on “shades of grey”. You’re so caught up in heels acting like babyfaces and babyfaces acting like heels that you discount the greatness of a guy like Mahal, a guy working his ass off to simply be despised.
A good many of you will probably argue against this, vehemently, but as someone who actually saw (when it occurred) most of the “old school” stuff WWE now offers you on the Network, I feel secure in what I’m saying. You’ll mention things like “workrate” and “five star matches” and I’ll yawn back in your general direction and tell you Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III is still the greatest ”spot” of all time. Was is because Hulk and Andre did an amazing sequence of fast-paced moves leading up to the slam, all along no-selling every last thing that was being done to them? No, it most certainly wasn’t. It’s because we all hated Andre, we all loved Hulk, and the idea of Hogan losing to this evil giant was terrifying to us.
Hate Jinder For The Right Reasons
You might not like Jinder’s matches, but it doesn’t mean what he’s been doing the last year and a half hasn’t been great. He’s a throwback to a time people like me miss, and even though WWE no longer has any interest in catering to my age demographic, I’m all in on Jinder’s efforts. If you’re not, that’s fine, but that’s not a knock on Jinder or his abilities. It is, instead, a clear look into just how brainwashed you’ve become by sports entertainment and guys with match-rating star systems. I enjoy all those crazy highspot-intensive matches too; I just also happen to be able to appreciate a guy who understands his character so well he can make you forget he’s playing a character in the first place.
Jinder has zero desire to “put smiles on faces”, and as someone who grew up on names like Ivan Koloff, “Playboy” Gary Hart, and Stan Hansen, that plays just fine with me. He’s chasing real “heat” with fans, and those efforts deserve acknowledgement, regardless of whether he ever pulls a moonsault out of his ass or not.