By Norm Elrod
Jinder Mahal’s rise to stardom and championship glory seems sudden, even by pro wrestling standards. But Mahal had been wrestling for years, and was already almost a year into his second WWE stint when he defeated Randy Orton for the WWE Championship.
Will he retain the title at SummerSlam? Who can ever know what WWE has planned? But here are a few things we do know about Mahal.
1. Jinder Mahal was born as Yuvraj Singh Dhesi on July 19, 1986 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dhesi is of Indian Punjabi descent and is fluent in Hindi and Punjabi. He actually learned to speak Punjabi before learning English.
2. Dhesi’s uncle is Gama Singh, who wrestled as a villain for much of the 1970s and 1980s with Stampede Wrestling in Calgary and in the early 1980s with WWF on its international tours.
3. Dhesi, appearing at Raj Dhesi, debuted with Premier Martial Arts Wrestling in 2002. The shy and quiet teenager, at age 15, was already well over six feet tall. He moved on to Stampede Wrestling and Prairie Wrestling Alliance (PWA), soon changing his name to Tiger Raj Singh, and won multiple tag team championships while paired with his cousin. Singh was also PWA heavyweight champion from 2008 to early 2010.
4. As a teenager, Dhesi also trained with Bad News Brown, the famed and feared WWF heel from the late 1980s, who also lived in Calgary.
5. Dhesi graduated from the University of Calgary with a business degree in communications and culture. During his time in college, he wrestled for local promotions on the weekends.
6. Dhesi first tried out for WWE at the age of 23. After multiple matches, including one against his cousin Gama Singh Jr., he did not make the cut. Soon after, he flew to Tampa to try out for Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), then the WWE’s developmental territory. He went with a Punjabi gimmick that included a turban. FCW signed him to a developmental contract right there, the only person signed out of the 30 or so who auditioned.
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7. In his WWE TV debut, in April of 2011, Dhesi appeared as Jinder Mahal, in a segment with The Great Kahli that soon launched a feud. As the story went, he played an Indian aristocrat who bullied Kahli. The pair, who are good friends in real life, briefly worked as a tag team before the feud took off. More recently, the Great Kahli helped Mahal retain his heavyweight title over Randy Orton.
8. Mahal’s first WWE stint featured a run as part of the heel trio known as 3MB, which was short for Three Man Band. Teamed up with Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre, the three then-jobbers were a musical group without any musical talent. The lower-card comedy act never really went anywhere and ended when Mahal and McIntyre were dropped from their contracts in June of 2013.
9. Mahal would avoid Vince McMahon, Chairman and CEO of WWE, during his time in 3MB. He says that he found Vince intimidating. It wasn’t until his second WWE run that Mahal sought out McMahon’s feedback.
10. Mahal transformed his body after his first WWE stint and credits the success to his diet. He gave up drinking alcohol and hasn’t had a drink since. He also started regimenting his meals, consuming 350-400 calories every two hours, while focusing on protein and limiting carbohydrates. Staying hydrated is also important; Mahal consumes two gallons of water everyday.
11. Mahal also credits his current success to positive thinking. He’s a big proponent of having a good attitude and spends a lot of this downtime listening to motivational personalities like C.T. Fletcher and Eric Thomas.
12. Mahal’s finishing move — The Khallas — is basically a Cobra Clutch slam. In the Cobra Clutch, a wrestler puts his victim in a half nelson. He uses his free arm to pull the opponent’s arm across his face, and then threads his own arm behind the victim’s neck to lock him in. Mahal also lifts his opponent and slams him backward into the mat. The Khallas is named after a song of the same name from a Hindi movie. It literally means “finish.”
13. Mahal is the 50th champion recognized by WWE and the first champion with an Indian background.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.