NEW YORK: It was only appropriate that Jinder Mahal, the 6’5’’ tall and 220 lbs. handsome Indo-Canadian wrestler from Calgary, Canada, won the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) championship in Chicago – the first Indian-origin wrestler to ever do so – using the move he calls ‘Khallas’, on his opponent, 13-time world champion Randy Orton, at WWE Backlash.
Khallas or the Cobra Clutch Slam is a complicated move, fraught with danger: Mahal placed Orton in a cobra clutch and then lifted him into the air by his neck before jumping backwards, both falling face down, with Orton the worse off for it. It’s a move popularized by former WWE superstar Ted DiBiase Jr., who named it the Dream Street.
WWE fans are just getting to know Khallas and a lot of the language Punjabi too, as Mahal, who loves all things Indian, and especially Punjabi, starts his reign. It may be short-lived though, might come to an end next month in the unpredictable world of WWE, as Orton has challenged him to a rematch at Money on the Bank on June 18, according to WWE’s official Twitter account.
For now, Mahal, 30, who has got several other names befitting his many avatars, with the Maharaja, too as a popular one, is the badshah or king of the WWE arena. It’s a sport which sees the finest shaped and hewn bodies in the world converge to fight it out in mannerisms that is both shocking and hilarious. Fans never get enough of it, though.
Despite the hefty entertainment quotient which is the hallmark of WWE, the wrestlers are all disciplined professionals, with rigorous diet regimes and grueling fight schedules every week. Mere mortals with normal bodies have no chance of walking out alive without suffering serious disabilities in one of those fights. Despite the perception that the fights are a charade, the blows and falls are indeed real, many wrestlers suffer periodic injuries.
In the match-off with Orton, Mahal had some help from his side-kicks, two Punjabi wrestlers who at one time were called Bollywood Boys, but are now known as the Singh Brothers. The duo displayed some wily guerilla acts on Orton, distracted him from his task of felling Mahal. Orton at one point sent one of the Singh Bros. swinging through the air, but ultimately fell victim to the ruse by Mahal, in the hyper-charged atmosphere of the arena.
In the world of WWE, some wrestlers get ‘outside’ help – as Mahal got from the Singh Brothers who are professional wrestlers themselves and have been on the WWE circuit since 2007. It’s up to the opponent to say whether he objects to that outside help or not. Orton didn’t stop the intrusion, and paid the price for it, got overwhelmed.
It was high-class entertainment, with the crowd loving the one versus three, matchup.
One thing’s for sure: the WWE have been trying to find an Indian-origin replacement for the Great Khali, who retired in 2014, and perhaps in Mahal have got a new hero, to carry forward the popularity of the sport in India. The Great Khali had won the WWE’s World Heavyweight Championship in 2007 –
Fans of WWE have enjoyed many champions in the past before Mahal became its 50th. The longest reigning champion was Bruno Sammartino, who held the title for seven years from May 17, 1963 to January 18, 1971. André the Giant is the shortest reigning champion, officially holding the title for 1 minute, 48 seconds.
So, who is Mahal?
Born in Calgary, Mahal’s real name is Yuvraj “Raj” Singh Dhesi, and he can speak in Punjabi, English and Hindi. For many, Mahal was a finished wrestler as far as competitiveness was concerned after he was released from WWE in 2014, but he returned to the promotion two years later, with renewed vigor.
According to Wikipedia, Dhesi began his professional wrestling career at the Martial Arts Fitness Center in Calgary, Alberta training with Rick Bognar. He has also competed for Great North Wrestling (GNW), where he feuded with such wrestlers as Samoa Joe and Hannibal.
Early on, Dhesi realized that his Punjabi gimmick and promos made him stand out, stating that he “came out wearing a turban and had [his] full outfit on” and that “they like guys who speak different languages and have different looks”. He made his televised WWE debut on the April 29, 2011 episode of SmackDown under the ring name Jinder Mahal. It was also the time he met The Great Khali.
Wrestling runs in Dhesi’s blood. He is the nephew of professional wrestling legend Gadowar Singh Sahota, or as he was popularly known in the ring Gama Singh. Singh, also an Indo-Canadian, wound up in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary. He worked as a wrestler around the globe.
According to reports, Mahal started out wrestling at 15. He would take a 90-minute bus journey to a wrestling school daily and fight wrestlers in their 20s and 30s for hours; despite being beaten up, he showed up day after day and was usually the last to leave.
It may surprise some, but Dhesi did get ample time for books, too. He holds a business degree in communications and culture from University of Calgary.
There was a time when Mahal was introduced as Khali’s brother-in-law after a famous ‘Kiss Cam’ interruption, but in real life he’s single.
Mahal is in the house, ladies.