Fresh off the biggest victory of his career at Sunday's Backlash card in Chicago, newly crowned WWE champion Jinder Mahal admitted he never took a moment to pause and reflect on the importance of his breakthrough moment.
Having been elevated from enhancement talent to main event star in almost record time, Mahal simply stuck to what got him here by keeping to himself, waking up the next morning and heading right to the gym.
"Now that I'm the champion, now the real work starts," Mahal told CBS Sports during Tuesday's appearance on our In This Corner podcast. "If you guys thought that I was working hard to get here, that's how much harder I'm going to work now that I have the WWE championship. I want to keep the WWE championship, and I want to become one of the greatest of all-time."
Mahal's upset victory and meteoric rise has been an incredible shock to the system of WWE fans over the past month. But for the real-life man, a Calgary native of Indian descent who was born Yuvraj Singh Dhesi, the title victory wasn't enough for him to break his current streak of dedication to diet and exercise that has fueled his rejuvenation.
His secret is simple -- no cheats and no rewards -- and it has helped him build arguably the most impressive physique in the company today, earning him the moniker "Hard Body" Mahal.
"Instead of fantasizing about food, I'm fantasizing about the WWE championship," Mahal said. "I'm fantasizing about being the best superstar I can be and improving. I see improvements in my physique on a week-to-week basis, and it's always my goal to come back in better shape at the next week. It's weird that the results kind of becomes addictive."
Mahal estimates that he hasn't had a slice of pizza or even a beer in six months and hasn't had a cheat meal of any form in four months.
"Honestly, nothing tastes as good as feeling good," Mahal said. "There is no food in the world that gives you a better feeling of walking around with veins bulging out, six-pack abs. It's the best feeling in the world."
It's clear upon looking back at the first chapter of Mahal's WWE career that he didn't look or feel anywhere close to the way he does today. Mahal, 30, was signed to a developmental contract with the company at 23 and went on to wrestle Seth Rollins in the first NXT championship match.
The main roster run that followed for Mahal was memorable only for his comedic role in the enhancement stable 3MB opposite Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre. But in 2014, four years after he first signed with WWE, he was let go.
The two years that followed saw Mahal at his lowest point both professionally and personally. He mailed in appearances on the independent circuit and ballooned in weight.
"I kind of did hit rock bottom. I stopped caring. I was out of shape, drinking," Mahal said. "I was just not caring, and one day, I just stopped drinking. I ordered the Nutrition Solutions meal prep, and I started training again."
Mahal admits it wasn't so much of an epiphany or transformation as he woke up one day feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired. But he noticed how quickly things began to change in his life once his dedication and positive outlook returned.
"For the two years that I didn't care, nobody cared about me," Mahal said. "But as soon as I started caring, two months later I was signed back to WWE. I just started to see all these great things start to happen and my motivation started getting greater and greater. I started working harder."
Last July, Mahal resigned with the company and did well briefly teamed with Rusev in an angle against Enzo Amore and Big Cass. However, making the decision to put a title belt on someone doesn't automatically mean they will be well received by a live crowd, who are ultimately WWE's most important critics due to their financial investment in the product.
But despite some highs and lows throughout the build, Mahal delivered in Sunday's match and the always tough and passionate Chicago crowd rewarded his efforts.
Not only did Mahal receive dueling chants of "Let's go Jinder … Jinder sucks!" during the match, his surprise victory was met with shock and disbelief. All in all, Mahal was happy with the reaction, admitting he wasn't sure if the unpredictable Chicago crowd was going to boo him out of the building or shower him with annoying "CM Punk" chants.
Believing in the vision of his new heel character, which has featured xenophobic dialogue and a focus on pushing his Indian culture (including promos in Punjabi), was important to Mahal from the start regardless of how it was received along the way.
"Obviously, those [negative] thoughts go through your mind. But I trust in the process and I trust in Vince [McMahon] and WWE creative," Mahal said. "He has made superstars in just as short of time. Look at [John Bradshaw Layfield], for example, in 2004. It has been done, and it has been done successfully.
"With Vince, I think he's like a genius. A lot of times Vince will plan something for me and ahead of time I'm thinking, 'Oh man, this will never work.' And then I do it and the reaction is insane. I'm like, 'Man, I've got to give it to you.' He really does know what works."
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After Mahal defeated Randy Orton at Backlash on Sunday, McMahon was first in line waiting through the curtain backstage -- a spot WWE refers to as the Gorilla position -- joined by a group of referees, wrestlers and producers to greet the company's newest champion.
Looking back, Mahal said he had no expectations for what would be waiting for him as he walked up the ramp and exited the arena. In fact, he hadn't even thought about it, still relishing the moment of having stood on the turnbuckle holding up his title in front of a shocked crowd.
"As soon as I walked through Gorilla, they are all standing there and giving me a standing ovation," Mahal said. "It was one of the greatest feelings I have ever had. I don't think I ever got a standing ovation walking back through Gorilla before. I've been working for 15 years now, so half of my life has been dedicated for wrestling. So that felt great. It all felt worth it at the exact moment that I won. Coming back through Gorilla and getting all the respect from Vince and all the boys and the producers, it was really a dream come true."
Now Mahal is focused on using his title reign to help WWE expand into new places internationally, including India, which he calls "one of WWE's most special places." He also looks at the way his hard work has paid off as a positive reminder to others around him.
"I think this is actually a great thing for wrestling, for the locker room, to see me go from the bottom of the card, opening match type guy to all the hard work I put in and now I'm at the main event level," Mahal said. "It's kind of a motivating feeling to them that it's possible."