Exclusive: Jinder Mahal talks about representing India in WWE, facing Triple H, challenges in his career, more

December 9th marks the return of WWE to India, with Jinder Mahal taking on Triple H in the main event. What was initially announced as a two day event was later cut down to one. However, the card is stacked, with all the top stars from RAW making the long travel down to the Indian sub – continent.

But make no mistake. The eyes of the Indian fans will be closely following the one Superstar, that has carried the nation’s flag to the upper echelons of the company. Never before has there been a Superstar, that represented India at the highest level. But Jinder Mahal changed all of that, when he defeated Randy Orton to become the first Superstar of Indian descent to win the most coveted title in the business.

We caught up with Jinder Mahal yesterday, as the former WWE Champion talked about multiple topics in an exclusive interview.

Jinder Mahal on carrying the Indian flag in WWE and winning the WWE Championship:

Jinder Mahal became the WWE Champion earlier this year, and has since captivated the imagination of the fans with his ascension in the company.

“It’s a great feeling”, he told us. “History was made – I was the 50th ever WWE Champion — an Indian champion. I was fortunate enough to bring the WWE Championship to India during my last visit (in October), about a month ago. And what a proud moment that was, and I was looking forward to defending the WWE Championship here in India. But unfortunately, AJ Styles beat me.

But, I promise you, in the future I will defend that WWE Championship here in Indian soil, but I was very proud of the fact that I got to showcase my Indian heritage on such a big scale, with the celebration and everything. So it was very cool. It was a great experience, and even though I lost, I will soon become a two time WWE Champion.”

On being given a second chance in WWE and what went through his mind:

Jinder Mahal was let go few years ago, but the Calgary native didn’t lose hope. Instead, he made sure to work twice as hard to get back into the promotion.

“So, when I got released, I had a lot of regrets. I felt like I didn’t give it 100%. I became complacent, I got lazy and I got too comfortable. So I had a lot of regrets. And I thought if I ever got a second chance in WWE, that I would give 110% every single time when I’m in the ring, or in every single opportunity that I get, and every single day that I’m in the WWE.

And that’s exactly what I did. I was fortunate that WWE signed me back after 2 years of just competing on my own everywhere. I went to Japan, Puerto Rico, Europe… actually I even came here to India with Khali. So, once I came back, (I gave) everyday 110%. You know, I did not come back and win the WWE Championship right away. I started at the bottom. I was working Main Event and Superstars every week, or have short matches with Neville or Sami Zayn on RAW or Finn Balor.

I was fortunate enough to get drafted to SmackDown Live during the Superstar Shake – Up, and I got some indication at WrestleMania time that it’s going to… change is coming. I thought maybe (I’d win) the Intercontinental Championship or the U.S. Championship, but little did I know that I would be in contention for the WWE Championship.

So it was great, and I continued to work hard. When I won the WWE Championship, I worked even harder to be a great champion. I want to be a great champion for a long time, and a multiple time champion, which is exactly my plan to go down in history. As someone like Cena, who is a 16 time world champion, Ric Flair – a 16 time world champion, Randy Orton, a 13 time world champion and Triple H, a 14 time world champion — my opponent obviously this Saturday December 9th.

So I need these matches. I need top competition.”

About the difficulties in staying positive after his release:

Getting released from WWE can be demoralising, but Jinder Mahal told us that he kept working hard to pave his own path. Jinder said that he took the blame for his release, and worked twice as hard.

“It’s not hard if you have a goal. My goal was not to just come back, but be a champion. I did not hold any championships in WWE in my time (in his first run), because I wasn’t worthy of the championship. I wasn’t working hard enough. I wasn’t improving at the rate I should’ve been improving. So basically, I knew what my goal is, and goals don’t accomplish themselves. You have to work hard at them. And that’s what it takes, but it wasn’t… getting released, you can take it two ways. You take it as – I’m going to get back, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back, or you put on a sad face and say, “Boohoo, poor me” and you complain, and blame them (WWE).

“The writing wasn’t good or I wasn’t given a good storyline”, but I took the blame for it. I accepted that it was my fault. I didn’t give 100%, so why would they (WWE) give 100%?”

Continuing the lineage of the greatest stars, and if he felt his pursuit was validated when he won the title:

While winning the WWE Championship is undoubtedly the biggest dream for a WWE Superstar, Jinder Mahal knows that his work is far from over.

“Not completely, because I still have a lot of doubters. I look forward to proving those doubters wrong. I remember when I was a kid and someone won the WWE Championship for the first time, I wasn’t completely sold on it. Chris Jericho — this is an opinion of a kid, and Chris Jericho is one of the greatest Superstars WWE has ever had. But when he was in that triple threat match against, I think Rock and Austin, he became the Undisputed WWE Champion, and I was like, “What?! Chris Jericho?”

So it takes time to be established and be seen as a main – event level talent in the WWE Universe’s eyes, and that’s what my goal is — I want to become synonymous with WWE. When you say WWE, you think John Cena. In the past, when you said WWE, you thought about The Ultimate Warrior, you think Undertaker, and all these great Superstars — Bruno Sammartino. I want to be synonymous with WWE. That’s my goal.”

Who he looked up to while growing up:

“For me, it was definitely Bret Hart. And as I got older, it became The Rock. He had everything – the charisma, the style… I wanted to be just like him. But while growing up, in Canada and especially in Calgary, Bret Hart and Owen Hart. The whole Hart Foundation. But Bret Hart just because of the stories he told — against Austin; storytelling is more important. Stories like being the smaller underdog facing guys like Sid, Undertaker, Yokozuna. Those were the stories that captivated me.”

Facing Triple H in India, as someone that gave him a second chance in WWE:

“Of course. I mean, this is a huge, huge match. It’s the first time ever I’m stepping in the ring with Triple H, even like touching or locking up. I’ve never shared the same ring with Triple H. So this is a big match for me, this is a big moment. I have a chip on my shoulder and I have something to prove to Triple H, that he has said that now he is the measuring stick, and he needs to ensure that next generation of WWE Superstars are upto par.

I look forward to proving to him that I’m the future of WWE.”

What it means to be the inspiration for the next generation, and what is next for Jinder Mahal:

“It is a great feeling, and it is something that I take very seriously. Because all my actions, especially with social media nowadays, everything is under a microscope, and not only do I represent me, I represent my family, I represent my heritage, I represent India. Ultimately, I represent WWE, and I want to be a positive role model to the youth, and especially be an inspiration to them. Just like I had my role models inspire me, guys like Bret Hart, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

And even, when I was in high school, Randy Orton and John Cena. They were already main event level stars and I looked upto them. And to share the same ring with them and maybe I’ll share the same ring with someone who looked up to me. So that’s definitely a cool feeling, and it’s not something that I take lightly.

That’s what motivates me. That’s what makes me give 100% everyday. Knowing that my actions are affecting potentially thousands of people, thousands of youth in their lives, and I want to be the best role model that I can be.”

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