There’s a new WWE Champion and his name is Jinder Mahal. That’s a sentence I didn’t think I would write this year, yet here we are. I think it’s fair to say that WWE is as unpredictable as ever in some ways, but that’s not necessarily a good thing either.

Mahal won the WWE Title from Randy Orton Sunday night at Backlash in a move that shocked some, angered others and I think it’s fair to say the result definitely got the WWE Universe talking. Sadly, the #JinderMania term I’ve been using for weeks is not trending on Twitter, even though it should be.

Here’s my review of everything that took place in the order which the matches aired, while also adding in a “What’s Next” section to try to figure out where these stories may be headed.

Tye Dillinger defeated Aiden English (Kickoff Show)

This was a basic match like they have done twice on television before. Dillinger has won all three of their matches. I liked seeing English doing the singing gimmick. He noted he was from Chicago, but enjoyed leaving there to get heat from the crowd. Dillinger won in about eight minutes with the Tye Breaker and the crowd was into it since his “Perfect 10” gimmick is there to get crowd reactions.

What’s Next: I think Dillinger might be in the Money in the Bank ladder match next month. It would make sense to have him be one of the six or eight guys who are a part of it. I doubt he would win, but being in the match would be cool. I hope English gets a solid push because he’s a talented all-around performer. Not sure when or if it would happen, though. 

Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Dolph Ziggler

The result of this match was never in question. I think being so predictable hurt the match a bit because the crowd never really bought into the idea of Ziggler winning the match, even though he did a lot of cool moves to earn near-falls. Nakamura was selling for about 80 percent of the match, came back with moves like knee strikes, kicks, suplexes and the Kinshasa running knee attack for the win. It got about 16 minutes.

Could it have been better? Sure, but I liked it and put over Nakamura as it should have.

Also, I’m surprised that they went off first. I thought that maybe they would be last or at least in the middle of the show. Since there was so much build around Nakamura’s debut, I think the match was hurt by going on first in terms of PPV matches. I would have saved it for later.

If people were expecting some match of the year contender here, they didn’t get it. That doesn’t mean it was terrible. It just wasn’t the kind of epic match that some fans might have hoped for.

What’s Next: Nakamura will probably move on to a different opponent and may be in the Money in the Bank ladder match next month. He could win it too. Ziggler could also be a part of it, but doubt he does anything more than putting over some face that needs a win. Sadly, that is Ziggler’s role on the show.

The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) defeated Breezango (Fandango & Tyler Breeze) to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles

This was mostly a comedy match with Breeze dressed as a janitor early on and later dressed as an older woman. The funniest part was when one of the Usos took the dress off, threw it at JBL and JBL said that usually he has to pay for something like that. The action got serious for a few minutes, Breezango came close to winning (Fandango hit a great dive over the top rope) and then the Usos were able to outsmart them with Jey hitting a superkick while Fandango was on the top rope. It went about 10 minutes.

What’s Next: The New Day is set to return to television per a PWInsider report, so that should lead to an Usos vs. New Day rivalry over the next few months. Breezango may not be on TV as much because, as we saw with American Alpha, WWE seems incapable of pushing more than two teams on television at the same time on Smackdown.

Sami Zayn defeated Baron Corbin

I was pleasantly surprised by this outcome and happy to be wrong about my Corbin pick. I have gotten so used to Zayn losing PPV matches that I just expect it at this point. The funny thing is that Corbin hasn’t won a lot of PPV matches either. It followed a similar pattern to the Nakamura/Ziggler match with Corbin in control for over 80 percent of the time and Zayn got the win with a Helluva Kick after 14 minutes.

What was really telling about the match is that the crowd wasn’t into it. They were just not interested in these guys, which is what happens when you book guys to lose so often. If we see guys losing TV matches all the time, why should we get excited to see them having a PPV match? It’s common sense. At least now they can say Zayn has momentum.

What’s Next: I know I’ve mentioned Money in the Bank in June a few times. It’s worth mentioning again with these guys because they are probably the two biggest favorites to win the briefcase next month. Just because Corbin lost here doesn’t mean he is any less of a threat to win. Corbin is a guy WWE wants to push to the moon in the next year, so putting the briefcase on him would certainly do that. I’d rather see Zayn win it, but I don’t think WWE management likes Zayn as much as I do.

Natalya, Carmella & Tamina defeated Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair & Naomi

I’m not surprised that the heel team won even though I picked the face to win. Any time a face champion is in a tag match (like Naomi in this case), the logical thing is to have the face team lose to build up heel contenders. The reason I picked the heels is because they have had the advantage for nearly week over the last month and I thought it was time to give the faces their revenge. I’m happy to be wrong, though.

Natalya making Becky Lynch tap out to the Sharpshooter was a great ending that also protects champion Naomi and Charlotte Flair, who will probably get a push soon. They got about 10 minutes and it was fine, but nothing special about the match either.

What’s Next: I hope the push for Natalya continues and that she can win the SD Women’s Title from Naomi leading to a Natalya rivalry with Charlotte. Also, if WWE wants to do a Women’s Money in the Bank match next month that would be pretty cool too.

Kevin Owens defeated AJ Styles by countout to retain the United States Championship

Best match of the night as expected. I’m happy that they got 20 minutes. Going into the show, I talked about how I had no idea how it was going to end, but Owens should retain the title because his “Face of America” gimmick is great. There is no reason to put the US Title on Styles. Let Owens carry it for a long time before dropping it to a face wrestler who’s on the rise. How about a guy like Tye Dillinger in a few months? That would be cool.

The match got about 20 minutes, with each man coming close to winning multiple times. Neither guy was able to hit a finisher, though. Owens worked on the right knee of Styles for much of the match, which played into the finish. When the action spilled to the floor, Styles went for some attack on an announce table, but he wasn’t able to do the move and caught his right leg where a monitor used to be. Styles also got his leg stuck on cables and was upside down as the ref counted him out.

It was a great match, but not some Match of the Year contender like Styles vs. Cena at the Royal Rumble earlier this year or Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne at NXT Takeover on Saturday.

After the match was over, Owens hit Styles with a superkick to the back of the head to get some more cheap heat to end it. That was likely done to suggest the feud isn’t over.

What’s Next: The countout finish likely means they might do the match again even though the challenger, Styles, lost in a fair manner. I could also see one or both guys in the Money in the Bank ladder match next month. They would certainly add star power to the match, even though I don’t think either of them would win it.

Luke Harper defeated Erick Rowan

They had a rematch from their Smackdown match two weeks ago which Rowan won. As expected, Harper got the win back thanks to a discus (spinning) clothesline that looked like a forearm because he didn’t connect that well. The match barely drew a reaction and was also short at about seven minutes.

What’s Next: Harper is likely going to be in the Money in the Bank ladder match. I don’t think Rowan fits in as well. The best thing would have been for these guys to remain heels with Bray Wyatt in the Wyatt Family, but for whatever reason WWE wants them doing other things.

Jinder Mahal defeated Randy Orton to win the WWE Championship

It’s the outcome that a lot of fans feared and I didn’t predict, but I certainly thought it was possible.

Mahal has been booked to look very impressive for the last six weeks after winning a No. 1 contender’s match in cheap fashion. He followed that up with cheap wins over Sami Zayn and AJ Styles, as well as a tag team match victory where he pinned Orton. I thought all of those Mahal wins meant that Orton was going to retain his title, but that didn’t happen. Mahal ended the night as the WWE Champion after 17 minutes.

I liked the intensity at the start of the match. Orton attacked him before the introductions were finished and that left Mahal reeling early on. The focus turned to Mahal taking control as he worked over the left arm of Orton for much of the match. Orton sold it well the entire time, which is good because some guys forget.

The Singh Brothers got involved in the match a lot to help Mahal’s win. After Orton hit a RKO, the Singh Brothers pulled Mahal out of the ring. Orton got revenge on them by giving both of them back suplexes on announce tables at ringside. The first brother had a nasty landing, but it was even worse for the second guy as the GIF above shows. Orton had this “oh shit” kind of expression on his face. Thankfully, both guys were okay and continued the match. Orton definitely could have been safer in that situation. I’m glad nobody got hurt.

The finish saw Orton focus his attention on the Singh Brothers as he hit them with double DDTs off the ropes. Mahal snuck up behind Orton, hit the Cobra Clutch Slam (called The Khallas) and covered Orton for the pinfall win. When Mahal was making that cover, I thought for sure Orton was going to kick out especially since it was a WWE Title match where guys usually kick out of finishers. Nope. Orton didn’t kick out and Mahal won the WWE Title.

Am I upset that Mahal won the WWE Title? Not really. I don’t really get mad about WWE’s booking decisions. The only thing that comes to mind, which is what I’ve written for months, is that Mahal could have been built up better. Instead of just making him a threat six weeks ago, the creative team should have got behind him for the last three or four months. Give him some wins over midcard wrestlers to help him earn some credibility and then fans would buy into the push more. Fans don’t want a guy to lose nearly every match for five years and then all of a sudden that guy is a big star.

It feels like Vince McMahon made this decision because Mahal’s family is from India (he’s from Calgary) and WWE wants to grow the fanbase over there. I totally understand it, but it doesn’t mean that they took the right path to get him there. In Vince’s eyes, WWE can tell the fans they’re a diverse company that put over a wrestler from India and he’ll use that to try to convince those 1.3 billion people in India to start watching WWE more.

Good luck to WWE with this Jinder Mahal experiment. I don’t think he’s a terrible wrestler. It’s just hard to buy into it since he was booked as a joke for years (remember 3MB?) and now all of a sudden, we’re supposed to believe he’s a big deal. In addition to that, Mahal hasn’t done much to really improve as a performer aside from looking ripped, which could be from performance enhancers, but that’s just speculation because he’s never failed a test that we know of.

What Mahal’s win proved is that Vince McMahon and his creative team will do what they want, when they want. They can say they will listen to the crowd all they want, but it’s really up to them to do anything they feel is right.

What’s Next: I’m not sure what the plan is for Mahal now. If he loses the WWE Title at Money in the Bank next month, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. However, I think it’s more likely that he holds it for a few months so that WWE can try to see what they can get out of him as champion. If it fails miserably, then just put it back on Orton or AJ Styles in June or July. If business indicators are okay, then keep it on him to see what he can do. As for Orton, he’ll probably be Mahal’s opponent at Money in the Bank next month.

In Closing

I thought it was a slightly above-average show that featured some good matches, but nothing really stood out. Owens vs. Styles was the best match clearly, even with the countout finish. I look forward to more matches between them. Mahal vs. Orton was pretty good and drew a great reaction for the finish, so that’s a positive. Some people hated it, some people loved it, but it can also be said that everybody reacted to it in some way.

I’m more optimistic about Smackdown’s next PPV, Money in the Bank, on June 18 because it’s one of the best PPVs of the year thanks to the MITB ladder match. I’m also interested in seeing how far #JinderMania goes.

I’ll be back Tuesday with a review of Raw.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.