There were limited sight lines, tough-to-follow rules, interference and weapons, but no matter how far out of left field your predictions for the third-ever Punjabi Prison match were, few could have seen the way that Jinder Mahal ultimately emerged victorious.
Mahal successfully defended his WWE championship against Randy Orton by throwing the kitchen sink at the 13-time world champion -- and in this case the kitchen sink was the Great Khali, the originator of the Punjabi Prison match and Mahal's countryman. With his Indian entourage now expanded to four, along with the dutiful Singh brothers, Mahal's reign as WWE champion looks as hard to crack as it has ever been.
The match itself lived up to expectations, for better or worse, as Orton and Mahal did the best they could under the circumstances. The process of eliminating the exit doors from the inner cage was a slow, plodding mess that required the first of several major suspensions of disbelief, especially when Mahal went to scale the inner cage and Orton didn't simply exit easily through one of the inner doors.
Each time a door was opened, Orton and Mahal had to battle hard, and each nearly got out three or four times before the door was slammed in their faces.
Orton did hit a couple of fun vertical suplexes into the inside of the cage structure, but the match didn't really pick up much steam until the fourth door was opened. As Orton hit an RKO, the Singh brothers predictably inserted themselves into the equation. They slid out from under the ring, pulled Mahal out of the inner cage in the closing seconds, and forced Orton to scale the inner structure.
It was the first time a lot of fans inside the arena could actually see the full scope of what was going on, a frustrating situation that led a small, yet loud contingent of fans shout out, "trust the process," a la Philadelphia's basketball team, the 76ers. Orton quickly climbed the inner cage and stepped over to the outside cage, a feat far less impressive than Batista's leap from cage to cage in the last edition of this match almost 10 years ago.
They fought at the top of that outer structure, and slowly made their way back to the ground. The Singh brothers pulled Orton off the cage and double-teamed him, providing several distractions that let Mahal either climb or recover enough to thwart Orton himself.
Mahal and the Singhs looked under the ring and brought kendo sticks into play. While Orton took his licks, he dished them out to Mahal and his team as well.
Attempts up the second cage by each competitor were thwarted, with one such attempt by Orton leading to the most memorable and entertaining spot of the match prior to Khali's return. Samir Singh was able to squeeze through one of the holes in the cage. He climbed the outside of the cage, attacked Orton and held him in place, but got sent crashing down from high up on the structure through a commentary table for his troubles.
Moments later, Orton hit a hangman's DDT with Mahal's legs draped through the cage, and then took a steel chair to both Mahal and Sunil Singh, seemingly locking up the match and another title win. But as Orton got to the top of the cage, Mahal's music hit and The Great Khali ambled out.
To the shock of many, Khali started to scale the cage. He stuck his hand through the cage and choked Orton out as Mahal triumphantly scaled the cage and earned the victory.
Orton's future with this cabal is uncertain going into SummerSlam, and one only needs to note the level of the crowd reaction for Khali's return. While matches seem like an inevitability, Khali's role as the muscle enforcer could ultimately become another big step in the legitimization of Mahal and his WWE championship reign.