On this week’s edition of SmackDown Live, Jinder Mahal saw his 170-day reign as WWE Champion come to an end after losing to AJ Styles. It ends one of the more questionable title reigns in the history of the WWE.
Mahal always lacked strong the in-ring wrestling skills, but simply has the muscle and physique Vince McMahon seems to love in his main stars. A key reason Mahal became champion was because the WWE seemingly wanted to help promote its business and merchandise sales more in India. Prior to being the WWE Champion, Mahal didn’t have merchandise of any kind.
Still, WWE continued along with this experiment, and event announced last month that they saw a record in quarterly revenue, and Stephanie McMahon admitted the key was to going by what the fans wanted. Surely, that must mean Mahal was doing something right this whole time?
Not necessarily. Consider that the pay-per-view events that included Mahal as the WWE champion had poor ratings. His most recent—against Shinsuke Nakamura at Hell in a Cel—had a porous rating of 2.0. Against Randy Orton at Battleground it was worse at 0.75. Far from excellent.
But Mahal’s title reign didn’t seem to get over well with the crowd. His promos with the Singh Brothers were always the same and simply Anti-American, or worse, downright racist, which is not acceptable in the modern WWE.
But if ratings and live-crowd perception weren’t enough, he also didn’t move a lot of merch. A.J. Styles and Finn Balor were reported to be the most popular superstars of 2017. Furthermore, kid-friendly superstars like The New Day, Bayley, Sasha Banks, John Cena and Roman Reigns obviously continue to be major draws for merchandise sales.
Furthermore, SmackDown ratings dipped significantly. One of its episodes back in September saw just 4,000 paid fans attend the show. Some fans at the SmackDown shows were even nice enough to show us just how bad it really is.
Smackdown LIVE attendance for 9/26 pic.twitter.com/bTDlaj0vCi
— DalyxmanVX (@DalyxmanVX1) September 27, 2017
— TheWrestlingOutsider (@TWO_Sweeet) September 27, 2017
So we know that Mahal’s reign as the WWE Champion didn’t exactly go well in the United States. Has it really helped all that much in India?
Chris Smith of Forbes noted that the WWE Network went from 408,800 international subscribers to just 410,100 over Mahal’s first three months as the champion. Smith also noted that WWEShop saw a very slow revenue increase, suggesting that Mahal and the WWE weren’t earning much more interest in India. So much for helping grow the business in the country.
Thus far, there isn’t a lot in the way of detailed records to suggest that Mahal’s reign as WWE Champion has grown the business, whether that’s with revenue or merchandise sales in India.
Also, note this, if Mahal’s WWE Championship reign was bringing a ton of money from the Indian market, then why would they already have him drop the championship less than two weeks before Survivor Series when he’s supposed to take on a money star in Brock Lesnar? It simply isn’t adding up.
Mahal has done some shows in India, but it’s hard for him to be promoted even more when the majority of his performances happen in North America. It’s just not all that simple.
WWE also tried pushing Great Khali to the very top but the 7-foot monster had absolutely zero wrestling ability and never put on a good match. WWE eventually pulled the plug on him after realizing he wasn’t going to cut it, though he remained extremely popular in India. For Mahal, he’s not that bad of a performer, but his limited microphone skills and mediocre in-ring skills don’t make him the guy to spike revenue for the WWE in an Indian market.
Vince McMahon often likes to go with the philosophy “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But choosing to make Styles the champion into Survivor Series suggests he isn’t seeing Mahal as the major draw in India that he was hoping for.
WWE marketing officer Michelle Wilson claimed that WWE programming draws about 60 million viewers from India each week. But in 2013, it was reported that WWE earns about 110 million viewers from India a year. Simply put: It’s always been a big market for McMahon’s global phenomenon, whether or not Mahal was the champion.
So at the end of the day, it doesn’t appear as though Jinder Mahal’s title reign did much to help merchandise or television sales in India. If anything else, they’ve stayed relatively the same. And again, if Mahal’s title reign was bringing record merchandise sales and TV ratings from India, then WWE wouldn’t have him lose the title after 170 days.
Consider Mahal’s title reign a failure by the WWE in expanding interest into India. Also throw in how bad attendance was during SmackDown shows, and it’s clear Mahal’s first WWE Championship reign didn’t go as planned. Not even close.
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