THE CREATIVE CORNER: After backlash to Mahal’s ascension, how should no. 1 contender’s be determined in pro wrestling?


Smackdown has a championship problem. Specifically, it has fans scratching their heads over what they witnessed this past Tuesday night. After spending the bulk of his time serving as a jobber to the stars, Jinder Mahal, with the help of The Bollywood Boys, became the #1 contender to the WWE World Title.

Longtime fans are combing through their memory banks to see when the last time such an out of nowhere, unqualified performer was gifted a title match at a pay-per-view event. It’s not that Mahal couldn’t be seen as a contender in the future.

However, after spending his run on the roster being jobbed out, winning a chance wrestle Randy Orton makes little sense. It continues to define down Orton’s latest reign on top, while it elevates the U.S. Title with A.J. Styles and Kevin Owens as the primary players.

Yes, I know Shane McMahon tells the audience that Smackdown  is the “land of opportunity.” That’s a great sentiment. For those tired of Reigns getting the rocket ship over on Raw, it should be a welcome sight to see different faces in the main event picture. However, the WWE and its creative team still need their stories to make sense.

An opportunity should be something that is earned, and not just something handed out. Similar to the World Title picture, it’s why Shane could have put his foot down with the trio of women that raised a stink over Charlotte Flair getting a chance at title shot ahead of them. Shane could have just laid out the facts that Flair is a five time women’s champion while neither Natalya, Tamina, nor Carmella have a single title between them since the start of the Women’s Revolution.  Hence, Charlotte gets to skip to the front of the line, as she’s earned that “opportunity” for a title shot.

When there’s no clear championship program, WWE could do few simple things to determine a top contender. Each of the steps below would make the storyline more logical, give the desired performer some heat, and serve to elevate rather than devalue the title.

•No More “No Disqualification” Stipulations

Allowing these matches to be No DQ makes the babyfaces look like chumps over and over again. For one, if a wrestler cannot be disqualified, why not just head to the ring with a chair in hand, or a pair of brass knuckles concealed in the trunks. After all, as every member of the announce crew, heel or face, informs the audience each week the only thing that matters is the end result. Interference in these matches has become inevitable, and it’s a storyline crutch.

A contendership match in particular should have DQ rules because earning a chance to win the title should mean something to every wrestler. This problem seems like an easy one to fix. During the course of the match, have one of the wrestlers cheat in a blatant fashion. Whether it be putting hands on an official, wracking someone across the back with a steel chair, or leaning on outside interference, the guilty party should be tossed from the match. At that point the ring announcer informs the crowd that so-and-so has been disqualified and the match will continue with the remaining entrants until there is a pinfall or submission.

•If a heel still manages to cheat to win, it should disgust the babyfaces.

After interference cost Sami Zayn his title shot, we never heard from him again for the remainder of the show. Zayn should have been seen tearing up the backstage, cursing out the injustice, and demanding a one on one rematch next week. Byron Saxton should have been outraged that the Bollywood Boys interfered, and he should have been on that soapbox as often as possible.

On Talking Smack, only Renee Young, God bless her, pointed out the fact that Mahal needed outside help to win. Meanwhile, the Smackdown commissioner Shane McMahon just offered his congratulations when he should have been dressing Jinder down for cheating and devaluing what it means to earn a title shot.

Bobby Heenan may have been right about former WWF president Jack Tunney being on the take, but Tunney would never have stood for such shenanigans. If this sort of hijinx went down in the 80s or early-’90s, Jinder Mahal would have been stripped of his title shot.

•Only wrestlers with forward momentum should participate.

The motley crew that comprised the “Six Pack Challenge” last week made little sense from a logic standpoint. Aside from Mojo Rawley, and maybe Dolph Ziggler (even that is a stretch). I love Sami Zayn, but his reward for losing a chance to wrestle for the U.S. Title should not be rewarded a week later with the potential for a world title shot. Luke Harper has had a number of close but no cigar matches since he lost the opportunity to wrestle Orton at WrestleMania.

As best I can remember, Mahal’s last televised singles victory came over Jack Swagger on Raw on Sept. 12 last year. Does Eric Rowan even own a televised one on one victory in his career? By giving so many mid-carders and jobbers a chance for a title shot all at once, WWE exposes the show’s lack of depth once you get past Styles, Corbin, Owens, and Orton.

•Build character momentum by ditching the multi-person format altogether.

A quick way to fix the above problem is ditch making every contender’s match a triple threat, or fatal four-way or six-pack challenge match. Mahal and Orton don’t square off until Backlash (you know, given the response to Jinder being a number one contender, the event’s name is funny right now). With that event slated for May 21, Smackdown had five weeks of programming to put something together that fans could invest in.

If the WWE wanted Mahal to have some momentum heading into Backlash, Creative could have put together an eight person tournament. That would give Mahal three quick victories and a head of steam heading in his showdown with Orton. Instead, fans are left to ponder why a guy who hasn’t scored a win in close to eight months will now headline a PPV event. Setting up a tournament of sorts would allow for fresh match ups. It would also give each wrestler a chance to vocalize what winning the title would mean to them. I could help build future programs as well.

The above steps are simple ones. All should fit right in the WWE wheelhouse and none of them require great leaps of faith from the audience to work. They lean on time tested wrestling traditions that have worked forever. At some point, someone needs to get in Vince’s ear and tell him that just because he can’t remember what happened on the show two weeks prior, his audience can. They want a storyline that makes sense and that has a clear beginning, middle, and end with all points connecting logically in between.

NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: THE CREATIVE CORNER: What does the future hold for the current batch of NXT call-ups from Nakamura to Revival?

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