The late Davey Boy Smith was an iconic figure in the old WWF from the 1980s through to the early 2000s until his untimely death in 2002, aged just 39.
He’s still fondly remembered as arguably Britain’s finest wrestling export to the States, as a former European and tag team champ in WWE – not to mention his Intercontinental championship win on home soil as he beat Bret Hart at Wembley Stadium in 1992 in front of 80,000 fans.
It’s a legacy that remains keenly felt in grappling circles, and not least by Mahal, a current star on WWE’s Smackdown Live brand. The 31-year-old spoke to The Independent this week and was without hesitation in picking the Bulldog as his call for a future inductee into WWE’s Hall of Fame.
The class of 2018 will be inducted the weekend of Wrestlemania in April, and Mahal is eager that the Lancashire-born star get his recognition sooner rather than later, insistent that it’s only a matter of time.
“He had a great, storied career,” Mahal told The Independent. “From tagging with The Dynamite Kid to breaking out on his own, his career had a great evolution. He started in Stampede Wrestling in Calgary for Stu Hart and before that had been training in England before being brought in with Dynamite, and of course that classic, classic match against Bret Hart at Summerslam – that’s one of my all-time favourite matches.
“He’s just a great, great superstar in the history of WWE, so I don’t think it is a matter of if he’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but when he’ll become a member.”
The Brits were certainly on the Modern Day Maharaja’s mind. Mahal has enjoyed an incredible last year or so, spending most of it as WWE Champion after a shock win over Randy Orton.
It was a six-month reign that came to an end on these very shores, thanks to AJ Styles’ historic win in Manchester on Smackdown Live in November 2017.
In a world where wins and losses rarely count for much, the significance of that night as a whole wasn’t lost on Mahal. Despite being on the losing against the Phenomenal One – who still holds that title – he appreciated being part of what as the first WWE Championship change outside of North America in the company’s history.
Reflecting, he recalled: “It was the very first time in the history of WWE that the title had changed hands overseas. History was made that night and the match was probably one of the best I’ve ever had. I’ve said this before, but I feel that although I lost, I really won that night.
“The energy in the arena that night was amazing and AJ Styles really is phenomenal – the fans just love him. I think he might be the number one, top star in WWE in terms of fan reaction because everybody loves him.
“Everyone that night was genuinely so happy for him, so it was a little bit bittersweet for me. I was lay on my back on the mat with my eyes closed, listening to the reaction of the crowd and a couple of tears fell in the ring, of happiness as everyone was so pleased for him. It was a very cool moment and it was a moment I’ll never forget.”
Looking back over the Canadian-born star’s last 12 months or so, it’s difficult to not be impressed by his successful rise and the level-headedness that, apparently, has come with it.
Having been a perennial lower-card attraction for much of his WWE career to that point, his emergence in the main event scene was a refreshing and welcome change.
Mahal knows, too, that his own story can act as a point of reference and reassurance for developing or underachieving talent looking to make progress in what is still a very competitive industry.
While the stories and matches are predetermined in their nature, the finite amount of weekly television time and promotional output means there are always far more grabbing hands than there are riches available.
“I’d stay for those guys to stay hungry, stay ready and stay motivated,” noted the powerhouse, when asked for advice for those in such a position – Mahal himself at one stage was released from WWE earlier in his career.
“We are so blessed to be WWE superstars and sometimes I think that’s taken for granted; what we do, many, many people around the world wish they could do. But I would also tell those people who are upcoming or those who are unhappy with their position that you are 100 per cent in charge of your career in WWE.
“You will go as far as you are willing to take it and are in control of your destiny, no one else. You can work hard and elevate yourself, or you can make excuses like I have in the past, and see yourself go down the card.
“I was even released by WWE but, fortunately, I was given a second opportunity and, after that, I was never going to take anything for granted. Every day is a blessing and an opportunity and it is up to you to take advantage of that.”
Jinder Mahal and the stars of Smackdown Live will be a part of Wrestlemania in April, available on WWE Network and Sky Box Office. Visit wwe.com for more details.
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