After WWE.com announced new WWE Champion Jinder Mahal was set to defend his title against Randy Orton on June 13, plans have changed and his first championship bout will happen less than a week later at their next premier show.
WWE announced on Smackdown Live! that Mahal would defend his belt against Orton at Money in the Bank on June 18. Instead, the bout on June 13 will be a “dark match,” which means it won’t be televised and is for the local audience only.
Mahal upset Orton at WWE Backlash in late May, giving him arguably the biggest upset in company history.
Also scheduled for the Smackdown Live! show is a bout for the United States championship between Kevin Owens and AJ Styles, and a rematch from Backlash between Shinsuke Nakamura and Dolph Ziggler.
Since moving over to Smackdown Live, Mahal has undergone a career resurgence. Much like JBL’s rise in the mid-2000s on the blue brand, Mahal has racked up win after win, been treated as a main event player, and was paired with the Singh brothers to further establish his credibility.
Mahal’s 3MB days — even his time before that with The Great Khali — feels like forever ago, as Mahal has a different look, exudes far more confidence, and now looks the part of a main eventer on Smackdown Live.
Still, Mahal’s victory is a shocker as coming into the night, he hadn’t won a championship in the WWE of any kind before capturing the biggest title on the blue brand.
For Orton, this will be one of his most-forgettable reigns as Top Dog, that started with a surprise victory over Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 33 only to drop the belt to Mahal not long after.
There is no turning back on the Mahal era now, so it should be interesting to see where Smackdown Live goes from here.