The ascent of WWE Champion Jinder Mahal to main event status has been one of the most talked about stories of 2017. From a forgotten comedy gimmick to holding SmackDown's top title, Mahal is not only representing himself but an entire country in India as WWE looks to expand their global fan base. Sunday Guardian Live spoke with Mahal, who talked about facing John Cena, the late Bad News Brown and replacing The Great Khali in representing India.
"Right now, I am focusing on my match with Randy Orton as I want to retain my title," said Mahal of his biggest competitor in WWE. "But I think John Cena is my biggest competitor because for a long time, John Cena has been the face of the WWE and he won't give up this title anytime soon. So, it would be challenging."
Mahal is expected to headline WWE's Battleground pay-per-view next month with a defense of his title at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Jinder was trained by Allen Coage, who worked in WWE in the late 1980s as Bad News Brown. Brown died in 2007 due to a heart attack.
"The greatest influence on my life, I would say would be my original trainer, Bad News Brown," said Mahal. "He taught me so much, not only in wrestling but taught me so much in real life—what it is to be a man, taking care of your family, and that life outside the ring is also very important. He taught me that.
The Great Khali was seen as India's biggest WWE star for nearly a decade — both figuratively and literally — someone Mahal has been tasked to replace as WWE looks to expand in the market. Mahal was asked about representing India.
"I feel proud to represent India and first of all, Khali is like my big brother and a good friend," said Mahal. "He represented India so well and I want to do the same thing. I want to show that India has world-class athletes who are the best. I surely feel the pressure and I feel this pressure only drives, it will enable me to retain my title."
Sunday Guardian Live has more quotes from Mahal that you can read by clicking here.