WWE Must Avoid Booking John Cena vs. Jinder Mahal Fight


Jinder Mahal knows John Cena is bound to charge after him. He’s been around WWE long enough to see the company’s booking patterns, to know the tropes it relies on.

In a recent interview with Sportskeeda, the WWE champion said, “John Cena is the face of WWE, and I know he’s not going to give up that title as the face of WWE anytime soon. So, I see him coming to challenge.”

That matchup is an easy one to predict coming to pass for both the titleholder and the audience, but WWE would be better off bypassing the Cena-Mahal option.

The story WWE would surely tell with these two is an overdone narrative. It’s one that could derail Mahal’s run as SmackDown’s No. 1 heel. And there are more appealing paths to send both men on.

History says, though, that Cena vs. Mahal is on its way.

Mahal is the reigning WWE champ, the foreign villain ruling the blue brand, spouting an anti-American rhetoric. The company’s patriotic powerhouse is returning to action soon after a hiatus. And Cena is coming to SmackDown on July 4th no less.

There’s a “the American downs the foreign baddie” moment waiting to happen.

That’s such an outdated angle, though. It’s a callback to the days of Hulk Hogan taking down The Iron Sheik or Lex Luger tangling with Yokozuna.

We live in a far more global society today. More of WWE’s roster members are foreign-born than they were in the past.

While Mahal’s ethnicity is a key part of his character, it’s not the crux of his current feud with Randy Orton. Theirs is more a story about a cocky newcomer to the top tier disrespecting a third-generation star.

WWE could do something similar for Cena vs. Mahal, but the company will be too tempted to go with the old USA-versus-the-world standby.

And chances are, the hero would come out on top in that tale.

Just the timing of Cena’s return had writer Brandon Gnetz worried for The Maharajah:

To fall to Cena at this point in his run would hurt Mahal big time. He’ll have to drop the gold eventually, but this is too early for that. He is still in the process of establishing himself.

WWE has spent the past two months trying to make the audience believe that Mahal is a legit contender, erasing years’ worth of memories of him as a low-card talent. A loss to Cena now would make him the latest in a long list of heels the Superman of the squared circle has conquered.

Ask Rusev what a run-in with Cena at the peak of your powers as a foreign heel can do to one’s career.

After looking like an unstoppable force in his rookie year, The Bulgarian Brute crashed into a wall named Cena at WrestleMania 31. He hasn’t been the same since. He’s been in soap opera angles, made into comic relief at times and is an often neglected member of the roster.

Mahal becoming Cena’s next victim would put him in danger of sliding down that same hole.

Cena winning his 17th world title to break Ric Flair’s record number of reigns as a part-time star in a year where the WWE title has already changed hands four times doesn’t feel like the right timing. And Cena setting up his record-breaking win by just waltzing up and demanding a shot at Mahal feels lazy.

But that feels like what’s set to unfold.

The folks at the Tights and Fights podcast are among those not thrilled with that scenario:

There are just too many inventive, original options for both Mahal and Cena to do the obvious thing. Mahal’s character should be evolving to focus less on his kayfabe nationality, something that’s not likely to happen against the troop-saluting Cena. The Leader of the Cenation, meanwhile, could be involved in creative personal feuds rather than swoop in and take over the No. 1 contender’s spot.

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