The match was supposed to main event the 2017 edition of Survivor Series and be the pinnacle of the brand warfare between Raw and Smackdown, pitting WWE Champion Jinder Mahal against Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.
The match was advertised for weeks and built up as the biggest match on the card. The year before had seen Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg so this match paled in comparison to that one.
Fans were still not on board with Jinder as champion and did not believe he had a chance in hell against someone as dominating as Lesnar.
He had won the WWE Championship in controversial fashion at Payback 2017. He had barely won a match at all since his return to WWE in 2016 when he won a six-pack challenge to earn his shot at the WWE title. His win was a complete joke and fans had absolutely no faith in him beating Randy Orton. However, Vince McMahon wanted to expand into India and Mahal, with his Indian heritage, was his ticket into the area that was already known as being huge WWE fans.
He had beaten stars like Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura during his title reign, but even those immense talents could not make it interesting. Every single match was the exact same – he’d get beaten down the whole match, until the Singh Brothers (his personal valets) would interfere, before he would hit his finisher and pin them for the win. This lasted months and by the end it went from being hilarious that they’d made a jobber WWE Champion to just annoying. Jinder killed the golden era of Smackdown and made the show go from “must watch” to “must miss”.
The bright spark of his run came at Battleground 2017. It saw the return of a beloved (well, widely hated) match type named the Punjabi Prison match. It was a prison-like structure that mimicked the bamboo prisons used in areas like India and proved a formidable match type. Wrestlers had to climb over three different fences of bamboo and steel to escape and win the match, not offering a pin fall victory unlike the regular steel cage match.
The match itself was terrible. There has never been a good Punjabi Prison Match. But this one did see the long-awaited return of WWE Hall of Famer The Great Khali, who attacked Randy Orton to hand Jinder Mahal (his in-storyline brother-in-law) the victory to retain the WWE Championship. He then grabbed the title himself, posed with it upside down and carried it to the back, never to be seen again. It was hilarious and exactly fitting in with Khali’s character in the WWE.
So, when Jinder was set to face Lesnar, most fans were wondering why WWE were wasting the limited matches The Beast wrestled on a jobber who lucked into a belt. As luck would have it, a week before the match in England, AJ Styles would face Mahal for the WWE Championship, in a match fans were praying to go his way.
Luckily for all, AJ Styles defeated Mahal to become the WWE Champion in the Manchester Arena in England, for the second time and set up a dream match with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. Sadly, Jinder would be catapulted down the card where he would remain for the rest his career, with only a sole United States Championship reign to boast for the rest of his run (so far).
However, the reason why Jinder Mahal vs Brock Lesnar did not take place was not to facilitate the dream match. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter confirmed that Brock Lesnar refused the match, wielding his backstage power to get it changed and the WWE Championship taken off the Canadian-Indian star.
“You know why they did that? Because Brock did not want to work with him [Jinder Mahal],
However, former WWE Tag Team Champion and WWE Executive disagreed with Brock’s apprehension about Jinder Mahal. He thought that the title run was “great television” and that it was a “bit of an experiment that actually proved okay”, despite most people disagreeing with him.
“And so we follow those directions and whether it was a business decision, novel idea here, that’s what business people do is make business decisions that were the facts, [they] don’t give a poop about your feelings and they make business decisions. If this was one of those situations. Why is it [wrong], what is wrong with that? Like why wouldn’t you do that?”
“I don’t know that to be the situation and I’m being dead honest with you, I have no idea. I do think it was a bit of an experiment that actually proved okay. Like it was, it wasn’t the end of the world. It was and I love the unit, the package, the discreet package of like I said The Bollywood Boys and Jinder, I don’t know man. I loved it. I thought we did great television around his championship title reign. And I’d argue that with anybody.”
Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship reign ended at 170 days, totally nearly six months. However he has not featured as a main event talent on TV since then and has barely appeared on Raw and Smackdown for the majority of 2022.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.