Last night, WWE champion Jinder Mahal faced Randy Orton in the third-ever Punjabi Prison match. It did not go over well with the crowd in South Philadelphia. Fans chanted for CM Punk. Fans chanted “delete” for Matt Hardy. Fans chanted “Trust the Process.”
The match features two cages of “steel-reinforced bamboo” (actually aluminum painted to look like bamboo). An inner cage is the same size of the ring. The outer cage extends out onto the floor. It looks pretty cool! But that’s where the fun of the match ended.
Yes, the winner is the one who escapes both cages (it was Jinder Mahal, with help from the Singh Brothers and the returning Great Khali). But look how overly complicated the rules are! There are four doors on the inner cage, each attended to by a referee. When a wrestler instructs the ref to open a door, it stays open for 60 seconds. After 60 seconds, the door is locked shut for good.
There’s something stupid about that stipulation, even besides how confusing it is. Wrestlers—even big guys like Mahal and Orton—run around the ring and do impressive lifts and throws. But when a door was opened, suddenly Orton and Mahal could barely move. It was 60 seconds of them pretending they couldn’t walk the two feet to easily exit the cage. (The same thing happened during the John Cena vs. Rusev flag match earlier in the night, when the simple act of picking up a flag became a struggle.)
When the fourth and final door was opened, the Singh Brothers—Mahal’s henchman, who dress like they’re about to go clubbing—pulled Mahal out and prevented Orton from exiting the cage. Then, as Mahal tried to climb out the outer cage, Orton easily scrambled up the inner cage and jumped to the outside one. All of that business with the four doors was all for naught—it was actually easier to climb the inner cage!
So the match was a dud, even though there was an excellent bump near the end when Samir Singh fell off the cage and through the announce table. But the biggest issue with the whole main event is that no one could see it:
I was there last night, up in a club box in the corner. (Comp upgrade!) I could not really see it. The highlight of the Punjabi Prison match, for me, was when I left in the middle to go take a shit.
And I actually left at the wrong time — it was better when the match was in the ring. When it shifted to between the cages it was basically a wrestling match in a two-foot-wide hallway.
When the Great Khali came out to prevent Orton from escaping, giving Jinder Mahal the win, the place cheered. It had been a half hour. It was finally over. It was well past 11. Everyone was exhausted. But at least it’s over. In my mind it feels like it’s still going on.