September 21, 2012
Jinder Mahal looks to Ryback and beyond
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
Jinder Mahal hasn't had much luck on TV against the undefeated Ryback. When WWE hits Sarnia and London this weekend, he is convinced that his luck will change.
"Ryback is a great competitor he is very strong and intense. But I do believe I have what it takes to beat him, and this week in Sarnia and London I will be facing him," Mahal told SLAM! Wrestling. "I am sure that I will hand him his first defeat. His coming back as Ryback has made him a worthy competitor and I am excited to see where the future will take him."
The Calgary-born nephew of Stampede Wrestling star Great Gama Singh enjoys returning back to Canada, where he worked across the country as "Tiger" Raj Singh.
"I think it is great to give me a chance to come back to my home country and see fans that have seen me wrestle before WWE. I wrestled in Ontario before I came here so it is good to come back and continue the evolution from being Tiger Singh to Jinder Mahal," he said. "I am hoping that we will be making a trip out (to Calgary and Edmonton) soon, Alberta has such a rich wrestling and history with Stampede Wrestling and major WWE events. There are a ton of people who have seen me from my early days in wrestling, and I would like to wrestle in front of friends and family and people who have been fans for a long time."
Although the legendary "Dungeon" in the Hart family basement closed nearly a decade ago, Alberta talent is still well represented. Mahal, Tyson Kidd and Natalya all wrestle in WWE, while NXT wrestlers Rick Victor (who used to be Apocalypse) and Mike Dalton (as Mattias Wild) both cut their teeth in Alberta promotions as well.
"Calgary will continue to produce quality wrestlers and WWE caliber talent just like it has in the past," predicted Mahal. "Even though the Dungeon is still no longer around Lance Storm's school has sent some of the new developmental talents. Calgary will always be a hotbed for wrestling, and for some reason a lot of talented wrestlers have come from there and will continue to do so."
Mahal has recently been a regular on WWE NXT broadcasts, including making it to the finals of the tournament to crown the first NXT champion, losing a hard-fought bout to Seth Rollins (who was Tyler Black in Ring of Honor).
"That match was one of my favorites of my career so far. NXT is a great platform for talents like myself and Seth Rollins. We can have longer matches on it, and it is broadcast in Canada so my friends back at home can watch it, which is great," began Mahal. "NXT is the place for up-and-coming talent and the future of WWE so it is a very important show. I am honored to have been in contention for the NXT championship and I hope I will get the chance to be champion. Some of the guys that have impressed me are Kassius Ohno, Ritchie Steamboat, Bo Rotundo, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose. There is a lot of great talent."
Wearing a turban and traditional East Indian clothing, Mahal has developed a following among East Asian fans.
"I have been surprised in a lot of places, I went to Sydney and had no idea that there was a huge Indian population, or places like Italy. They will come to the hotel and be really excited to meet me," he recalled. "In Canada in places like Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton that have huge Indian populations I have gotten a lot of support. I have had a lot of tweets from Indian fans saying they are proud of me and look up to me. It has been a great experience."
Most wrestlers grow up playing wrestling video games and creating matches with action figures. It is a highlight when they become WWE superstars and are playable themselves. Mahal's first action figure was just released and he will be a playable character in the WWE '13 video game.
"The action figure just came out in Series 19. It is great being immortalized in plastic form, no matter where life takes me I will always have that. I have played video games my whole life and I never thought that I would be a playable character. This game is going to be amazing with past and current superstars and I am very privileged to be part of it," he said.
The other highlight is getting into the ring with people you idolized. On Raw 1000 Mahal and a group of wrestlers prepared to attack Kane when the Undertaker made an appearance. It didn't go well for the group but being in the ring with them was a huge deal to Mahal.
"Being part of Raw 1000 in the same ring with Undertaker and Kane leading an army of young hungry wrestlers was amazing," he recalled. "In Birmingham, England I had a match with Tyson Kidd and Mick Foley was at ringside and delivered a socko to me at the end of the match. That was another one of those moments that if you told me I would be in the ring with Mick Foley giving me a socko I wouldn't believe you. It is those moments that make me realize what I have accomplished in my life, from humble beginnings in Stampede Wrestling to coming to FCW and making my way to the roster and sharing the ring with Undertaker, Kane and Mick Foley is just the best."
Mahal has high hopes for the future.
"I am going to keep working hard to climb up the ranks of the WWE. You can catch me on Superstars on almost a weekly basis and I am making waves in NXT and want to capture that title from Seth Rollins. When I am on Raw and Smackdown I try to make the best of it. I am young, just 26 and have a great deal to offer to the WWE. I am excited to see what the future brings, the possibilities are endless."
Jason Clevett has followed the career of Jinder Mahal since legion halls in Calgary, and has a hard time not referring to Jinder Mahal as Tiger.