The current WWE Champion – at least where SmackDown Live is concerned – is Jinder Mahal. Born Yuvraj Singh Dhesi on July 19th, 1986, 'The Modern-Day Maharaja' is causing all kinds of waves – both good and bad – recently due to the fact that he surprisingly defeated Randy Orton at this year’s Backlash PPV back in May.
To anyone who’s even vaguely followed the WWE product over the past decade, you’ll be well aware that Jinder was previously featured as the proverbial jobber during his initial 2011 – 2014 stint on the main roster. Hell, even upon re-signing with Vince McMahon’s wrestling juggernaut last year, he was still treated as an enhancement talent for a good stint of time. And then, as if a magic bean exploded in Vince’s brain, the decision was made to *shock horror* put the WWE Championship around the waist of Mahal.
Granted, Jinder turned back up in the WWE last year in absolutely ridiculous shape. Despite the regular steroid accusations, Mahal is adamant that he’s completely clean of any illegal supplements, and his hulking new frame was enough to get Vinny Mac tight enough in the pants to hand him one of the biggest prizes in the business.
Here, however, are 15 shocking facts that you need to know about the man who currently rules the roost over on SmackDown Live right now.
15 He Was Born In Canada
Yes, despite being billed as being from Punjab, India, Jinder Mahal is actually Canadian born. To be precise, he was actually born in one of the most iconic wrestling cities in the world: Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The famous home of the Hart family, Calgary is known to wrestling fans as being responsible for giving the business so many all-time greats, be it the actual Hart clan, the grapplers such as Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid, who got their start in Stampede Wrestling, or the laundry list of ‘who’s who’ that were trained in Stu Hart’s infamous Dungeon.
Now, you can add Jinder Mahal to the group of Calgary-associated talents who went on to achieve huge success in the world of wrestling – with his achievement in becoming WWE Champion undoubtedly a massive deal.
14 His Family Roots
Even though Jinder himself was born and bred in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, his family roots can be easily traced to India – much like his on-screen WWE character.
Mahal’s family moved to Canada back in the 1960s, with the family being of Punjabi Sikh descent. Jinder was born in 1986 and spent his younger years learning to wrestle in what many consider the heartland of the wrestling business and the hands-down greatest place to learn the ins and outs of the business: Calgary.
With the WWE playing up Jinder’s family roots, he’s clearly positioned as a major player these days, and the company has plans to make him the poster boy for their ongoing expansion into the huge, untapped Indian market.
13 His Initial Release Was A Surprise
Now, when it comes to WWE releases, most smart fans – and, you’d presume, the wrestlers themselves – have a good idea of just who may be on the chopping block when Vince McMahon gets his lackeys to start drawing up some pink slips.
While Mahal may have been one name in mind when people were thinking who could be released back in 2014, it actually came as a bit of a surprise when Jinder was cut – especially to The Modern-Day Maharaja himself.
Then still a member of 3MB, the jobber trio were regularly featured on WWE TV, and it was believed that the company had a steady program planned out for them for the next several months. As Jinder himself has since put it: “I was surprised because we were pretty well booked on everything, and we were on a lot of the live events.”
12 Cites His Release As The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Him
Obviously, hindsight is a great friend of Jinder’s here, and it’s certainly easy to say that getting released back in 2014 was the best thing to ever happen to him when he’s now sitting as the King of the SmackDown brand.
In fairness to Mahal, though, ever since returning to the WWE in 2016, he’s constantly said that getting cut in ’14 was the best thing to happen to him. And he was still saying that when he was jobbing out to anyone and everyone on RAW for several months.
The Modern-Day Maharaja’s logic is a sound one, of course, as you have to experience the lows in life in order to be able to appreciate the highs, and it was getting released last time around that caused him to assess his life and eventually decide to get himself in the best shape possible.
11 Bret Hart Is His Hero
And mine, too, Jinder. And mine, too.
Given that Jinder Mahal was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada – a place famed for being a wrestling hub due to the presence of the Hart family – it comes as no real surprise to learn that Jinder’s hero was, yes, Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
Born in 1986, Mahal would be just about the right age to catch Bret in his prime. And with Jinder’s family already having ties to the wrestling business, it stands to reason that he took an interest in the business from an early age. So, keen on wrestling from an early age, born in Calgary, at a time when The Excellence of Execution was ruling the wrestling landscape and deemed a national treasure in Canada.
Yes, of course Jinder Mahal was always going to be a Bret Hart fan. As everybody rightly should be.
10 His Uncle Is A Wrestling Legend
In the 1970s and ‘80s, the name Gama Singh was one that struck terror into the hearts of even the most fearless men… especially if you happened to be based in and around the confines of Stampede Wrestling.
Gama was a major heel during those years, with his terrifying ways often being housed up in Stu Hart’s Calgary-based territory. That’s not to say that Singh was exclusive to that area, for he worked all over the world, including even turning up in the then-WWF in the 1980s for a spell.
What're Gama Singh’s ties to Jinder Mahal, though? Well, this legendary heel is the uncle of the current WWE Champion, and Gama actually helped to train his nephew for a period of time.
9 His Cousin Tried Out For The WWE
When Jinder Mahal was finally signed by the WWE the first time around, joining him on that tryout was his cousin.
Dubbed Gama Singh Jr., the son of Gama Singh and the cousin of Jinder tried out for the WWE along with The Modern-Day Maharaja. Unfortunately for Gama Jr., the WWE brass decided against signing him, instead just opting to pick up Jinder at that point in time.
That leads you to think ‘what if?’ given previous examples of WWE logic. It's easy to imagine that Jinder and Gama Jr. would’ve likely been thrown into a stereotypical evil heel foreign tag team as per many a classic WWE cliché over the decades.
8 Has A Degree
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember a time in the wrestling where the only person with any sort of degree-level education was D’Lo Brown (you better recognize… that D’Lo graduated from the University of Maine as a Certified Public Accountant!).
While education is often deemed as a key prerequisite for talents wishing to becoming WWE superstars these days – well, unless you're Randy Orton or John Cena or Batista or CM Punk or Daniel Bryan or Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose or pretty much 95% of the guys on the actual roster – Jinder manages to step up and meet that requirement, with Mahal having grabbed a Communications and Culture business degree from the University of Calgary, which just so happens to be the same university that former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended.
What makes Jinder’s achievement particularly noteworthy is that he went and got his degree after he first entered the wrestling world, with him sensibly giving himself a back-up plan should rolling around in tights not work out as a career option.
7 Jinder’s Tryout
The regular story surrounding Jinder Mahal’s first WWE tryout is that it was one that was ultimately unsuccessful when it came to him impressing WWE brass.
What’s known is that Jinder’s tryout consisted of an impressive three back-to-back matches – the first of which was against Eugene. By the time the third and final match took place, the future Modern-Day Maharaja was up against a fella by the name of Mattias Clement… who these days is known as Prince Pretty, Tyler Breeze.
This final match of the tryout was believed to be done purely to see how well the Tyler-in-waiting could sell, and as such, Jinder took it a little easy with his offense. It would turn out that Mahal was incorrect in his assumption, and those in attendance were actually analyzing his work still – resulting in them deciding against signing him to a deal at that point due to his slack offense.
6 His First Storyline
Chances are, if you ask most WWE fans what Jinder Mahal’s first ever WWE storyline was, you’d likely be greeted by a whole lot of blank expressions.
If you can’t remember it (or have conveniently blocked it out), Mahal debuted on an April 2011 edition of SmackDown. He was immediately thrown into a storyline with The Great Khali because… well, because WWE logic would obviously have them together in some form or fashion because they both happened to be of Indian heritage.
A feud with Khali followed after it was revealed that Jinder was (storyline-wise) married to the former World Champion’s sister. After that feud was thankfully brought to an end, Jinder tangled with the likes of Ted DiBiase Jr., Kane, and, bringing things full circle, Randy Orton.
5 He Lost Out When Crowning The First NXT Champion
Even though he was a main roster guy, Jinder Mahal ended up competing in the Gold Rush Tournament to crown the first ever NXT Champion in 2012.
Not only that, but Jinder made it all the way to the final matchup, going up against Seth Rollins for the honor of being NXT’s inaugural top dog. On his way to that match with Seth, Mahal defeated Bo Dallas and then Richie Steamboat as he set his sights on nabbing the gold.
Things wouldn’t work out all that great for Jinder, for Rollins would win the match and become the first NXT Champion. It wasn’t all bad for Mahal, for he’d be back on main WWE TV near-enough instantly – even if he was losing there on a frequent basis.
4 He Was Expecting Dean Ambrose In 3MB
By now, we all know Dean Ambrose as the erratic Lunatic Fringe, but how about if he just so happened to have been partying hard as part of 3MB? Not quite as cool, right?
Bizarrely, when Heath Slater legit revealed to Jinder backstage that the 1 Man Band (baby!) was to expand, Mahal not only wanted in on the idea, but he was under the impression that Dean Ambrose was to be a part of what would become 3MB. It was also believed at that point in time that Johnny Curtis (now seen as Fandango) was to join Ambrose, Slater and, potentially, Mahal in the group. Of course, this was when the WWE weren’t sure how to use Dean, with him having yet to appear in the rebranded NXT but still being kept off the main roster.
Obviously, both Ambrose and Curtis were kept away from 3MB, and Jinder found himself teamed with Slater and Drew McIntyre.
3 The Final Match Of His Last Run
Before Jinder Mahal was released from the WWE back in 2014, he was seen as nothing more than a jobber who spent night after night staring up at the lights as superstar after superstar claimed victory after victory over him.
His last match with the company before being released at that point, however, was a whole new low point. Not only did Jinder do the ever-familiar J.O.B. that night, but his last match saw him lose to midget wrestler El Torito in literally 2 minutes.
To think that Mahal has managed not only to return to the WWE but also to become WWE Champion is pretty mind-blowing considering how he was used during his last stint with the company – particularly how he went out by losing to a comedy character in a matter of minutes.
2 Never Wrestled In India Until 2016
Anyone would think that the WWE’s decision to branch out into the untapped Indian market was a sudden one…
Despite Jinder Mahal having previously spent 3 years on the main roster, he was never once afforded the opportunity to wrestle in India. Now, as the WWE all of a sudden sees India as a land laced in untold riches (i.e. viewership numbers), The Modern-Day Maharaja is being made into a top-tier player who is being looked at to sell tickets as if the country just appeared on the map.
Surprisingly, Jinder didn’t actually wrestle in India until 2016. Going by the name Raj Singh, he would compete for The Great Khali’s Continental Wrestling Entertainment company. As the WWE gets set to head over to India later this year, expect Mahal to be a far more prominent piece of the picture this time around.
1 He Was Planning To Open A Subway
No, not as in “Subway Grand Opening With WWE Champion Jinder Mahal”. More a case of quitting the wrestling business completely and branching into the world of 6-inch or footlong sandwiches. Oh, and cookies. We can’t forget the totally stunning cookies.
It’s crazy to think, given where he is right now, that the man who currently sits atop the SmackDown tree was about to have a huge career change last year.
As Mahal has recently gone on record as saying, before re-signing with the WWE late last year, he had become disillusioned with the wrestling world and with seemingly banging his head against a brick wall. Spinning his wheels and going nowhere fast, he decided to quit the business and look to become a Subway franchisee. Before that could happen, though, he got the call to return to World Wrestling Entertainment, and the rest is history.
And is The Modern-Day Marinara too bad of a pun? We’ll let you decide.
Sources: PWInsider, WWE, Wikipedia