If Rob Gronkowski ever steps into a WWE ring again, Jinder Mahal wants a crack at him.
On paper, that clash between the New England Patriots tight end and the WWE champ makes sense. There is history between the two men. Their showdown would be the continuation of a story already in progress.
But WWE can do better. Much better.
Gronkowski, whose loud personality and powerhouse frame make him a perfect fit for sports entertainment, is too big of a star to waste on a run-of-the-mill performer like Mahal.
Gronk and The Modern-Day Maharaja first crossed paths at WrestleMania 33 in April as the NFL All-Pro watched his buddy Mojo Rawley compete in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. At some point, Mahal stepped away from the action to jaw-jack with Gronkowski. The heel threw a drink in the 6'6", 265-pound tight end's face.
And Gronk soon responded by bowling over Mahal and ensuring Rawley a win in the process.
They met again days later on SmackDown. This time, Gronkowski was the one throwing the drink.
Mahal has since jetted up the SmackDown ranks, won the WWE Championship and served as the brand's No. 1 heel.
That run-in with Gronk is still on his mind. And he wants to wrestle the NFL star at some point.
In a recent interview, the WWE champ told Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated: "Gronkowski cost me the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and I haven't forgot that. There is definitely unfinished business between myself and Gronkowski, and I can guarantee he'll be getting his receipt."
The foundation for Gronk vs. Mahal is already there. It would take minimal effort to book a bout between them should the Patriots player be allowed to participate in either a one-off or short-term run.
That matchup would be a waste, though.
As a non-wrestler, Gronkowski would need a ring general opposite him. He would need a Superstar who can carry the load in the ring and make the outsider look like he belongs there.
Mahal is not that type of wrestler. He's a methodical grappler with a vanilla offense.
WWE has had to dress up his matches with bells and whistles, which has often consisted of The Maharaja's foes putting a hurting on his cronies, The Singh Brothers.
His matches as the WWE titleholder have inspired the critics to cut deep with their commentary. After Mahal's performance against Shinsuke Nakamura at SummerSlam, Voices of Wrestling's Joe Lanza held nothing back.
"Jinder Mahal is a bad pro wrestler," he wrote. "He's not offensively terrible, but make no mistake, in terms of bell-to-bell performance, he is not good at professional wrestling."
The point of putting Gronk in a match would be to entice non-fans to check out the product, to get new eyes on WWE. But Mahal's sluggish, uninspired style isn't going to sell anyone on sports entertainment.
WWE would be better off finding a more compelling foil for Gronk.
Kevin Owens is an A-plus choice for that role. The merciless brawler is an elite performer who has produced thrillers against everyone from Sami Zayn to Finn Balor. He would lead the way in a match that would get people talking for the right reasons.
Plus, the mic master Owens tearing into Gronk on promos would be infinitely more entertaining than Mahal trying to talk trash to him.
Alternatively, WWE can go the tag team route. Gronk's friendship with Rawley makes it a no-brainer to translate that onto the screen. Chemistry wouldn't have to be manufactured between them.
And as two high-energy party animals, they would be a perfect match as allies.
WWE could then pit the Gronk-Mojo duo against a pair of ring generals in The Revival. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are tag team artistes. They employ a smashmouth offense, excel at in-ring psychology and have been a part of a number of the best team matches WWE has seen in the past few years.
The company could introduce The Revival to whatever new fans Gronk's presence brought over. It could rest easy knowing the bout would be a thrill ride.
And the tag team format would allow WWE to mask Gronkowski's inexperience, requiring less of him. That's the approach WCW took when it brought in Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone in the '90s. That's how WWE handled bringing actor Stephen Amell aboard for SummerSlam 2015.
Gronk vs. Roman Reigns would be miles better and more intriguing than the Mahal matchup. The same goes for the Patriot taking on Cesaro or The Miz.
Built-in narrative foundation and all, a clash with Mahal is among the least appealing directions WWE can take to welcome Gronk back.
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