Jinder Mahal was a busy WWE superstar, booked constantly in his four years with the company, and showcased recently as a part of the comedic 3MB trio with Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre. Therefore he was taken by surprise when he was released along with a handful of others on June 12th.

Raj Singh is a new force on the independent scene.

“I was surprised, because we were pretty well booked on everything,” Mahal told SLAM! Wrestling in his first interview since his WWE departure. “We were on a lot of the live events, a lot of the overseas tours. We were always on Raw and Smackdown, and if we weren’t, we would do Superstars or Main Event in the week. So yeah, I was surprised.”

To capitalize on his new independence, Mahal has turned to veteran talent booker Bill Behrens at sbibookings.com. Since he can’t be Jinder Mahal on the indy circuit, it’ll be Raj Singh, the same name he used in his early days coming out of Calgary. The name comes from shortening his given name of Yuvraj Singh Dhesi.

There are plenty of opportunities afoot, he believes.

“I want to keep wrestling,” said Mahal. “I’m still young and I would like to go back to WWE someday and accomplish things that I never got to do, work with people that I never got to work with.”

Behrens also represents the released McIntyre, and Mahal expects to keep working with his friend.

“Me and Drew are taking bookings together,” he said. “Yeah, there is a lot of interest because we’re fresh off TV, and we were tag teaming on TV, and we spent a fair amount of TV time together.”

Just 27 years of age, Mahal is decidedly in a positive state of mind about the career transition, and hopes to spend a lot of the time with the 29-year-old McIntyre, now known as Drew Galloway.

“He’s also excited for this opportunity. There’s no limit. We want to wrestle everywhere, all over the world. We’re excited, both young and hungry. We both want to work our tails off and some day, one day, get back to the WWE.”

3MB, shown here in San Jose, Calif., in August 2013, always seemed to have fun. Photo by Devin Chen, www.chdevinphotos.com

The 3MB team came together in the fall of 2012, and quickly proved to be an entertaining staple of WWE programming. Sure, they were often cannon-fodder for bigger stars, but there was never any doubt that they enjoyed what they were doing and rolled with the punches.

“WWE is all about providing a very entertaining show,” Mahal explained. “There’s the different aspects — there’s the serious wrestling, some comedy segments, they like to have some guest hosts every once in a while. It’s not just wrestling anymore. It’s more of an entertainment type that they’re providing to people nowadays, something that all sorts of people can enjoy — wrestling fans and non-wrestling fans.”

The chemistry between the three members of 3MB was pretty real, he said. While they had never done much before together — McIntyre as a babyface fought Mahal the night before the team was created actually — they were comfortable around each other.

“We would hang out. Those guys are good friends of mine. They’re some of my best friends,” said Mahal. “We had good chemistry outside of the ring. We would travel together.”

3MB were always good foot-soldiers, taking whatever was given to them.

Jinder Mahal ready for action in September 2013 in Windsor, Ontario. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

“That’s what WWE is all about. You never know what role you’re going to be asked to do, and that’s part of being a WWE superstar. You have to be able to adapt to a certain role,” he said. “I think that every week we would go in and it would be an adventure when we would learn what we were going to do for the week. We would always look forward to doing it to the best of our abilities. We prided ourselves on doing whatever — we could do serious matches, we could do comedy skits in the back. We did a lot of segments on the WWE App that they gave us a lot of creative freedom, and we would make the best out of them, trying to make them as funny as possible.”

Unshackled from the constraints of WWE’s master plan, Mahal definitely wants to showcase more of his abilities, perhaps in a highly-athletic and competitive environment such as New Japan or Ring of Honor.

“I would love to show another side of myself,” he said. “That’s part of evolving yourself as a wrestler, as a performer. You have to show different sides of yourself. Ideally, I would like to take more of a serious wrestling role going forward. 3MB was fun while it lasted and it gave me an opportunity to show another side of myself, which Vince [McMahon] is usually big on — he sometimes does stuff that you would least expect or you’re asked to do characters that you would never think that you’d be asked to do. That’s just part of being a WWE superstar. You have to be open to take on new challenges, always be creative in what they ask of you and try to do it in the best way that you would do it, your character would do it.”

Character is a key word. Mahal wants to try out acting as well.

“I’m actually trying to get into some Punjabi movies. I think I would be excellent for that. I have a unique look. I definitely want to try doing that. I think that I have a lot to offer in that aspect.”

During his time on WWE television, there were times where his South Asian background was played to the hilt, like when he accompanied The Great Khali to the ring, and other times where it didn’t matter at all. Given that India is the second-most populous country in the world, and Mahal speaks Punjabi and Hindi, he was asked to help out in promoting the WWE product there.

“They did a lot of things that people didn’t see, like backstage stuff,” he explained. “I would read for local TV in India, I would record stuff, pre-tapes, green screens.

“But character-wise, yeah, they could have exploited it more. It’s just one of those things where it’s not in your hands. You do what you’re asked and you try to do it to the best of your ability. I would have liked to have incorporated more of it — hopefully next time.”

As a singles wrestler in December 2011, Jinder Mahal works over Ted DiBiase Jr., in Detroit, Mich. Photo by Brad McFarlin

He is looking forward to taking a break from the road, something very new to him.

The grind of travel with WWE is hardly news.

“It got tough after a while. In the three years that I was there, I never even had one week off, where I didn’t go to TV,” he said. “I remained injury-free — which was a good thing, and I’m happy to say; I didn’t have any personal problems; I didn’t get suspended or nothing. In three years, I didn’t even have one week off. It was starting to take its toll just physically.

“But I enjoyed it. I’m still young … so for me, it was an adventure. It was great. Every week I got to go out to a new place. I got to go all over the world. I wrestled on six different continents. I went to places that I never expected I would go. Even cities in North America that if you had told me when I was a kid that I would go, I would never have believed you. It was great.”

As he explains the issues with travel, it does not sound like griping at all, just an explanation of how he coped.

“It would get tiring if you worked the live events, if you worked the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, by Tuesday you’d be pretty burnt out and wanting to go home,” said Mahal, who currently calls Houston home. “Sometimes the overseas tours would get long. They’d do a two-week Europe tour twice a year. That’s a pretty grueling schedule because you have no days off. You wrestle in a new city, sometimes a new country, every day.”

It is necessary to find your own ways to cope on the road.

“You have your own circle of friends, you do things that you enjoy. I’m a big iPad guy; I got through a lot of shows like Breaking Bad and Walking Dead. I did that to kill time. You kind of create a brotherhood, almost like a family with some of the guys, your riding partners. That’s one of the tough parts of leaving WWE — they are like a family. I was in the States for four years, and those guys were my family. Even the guys that work backstage that you never see on TV kind of become your family, like the trainers, the athletic trainers, the producers, the backstage production guys. You see them every day and you build relationships with them, and that’s tough.”

Mahal has heard from a number of his former colleagues in the days following his release, and that buoys the spirit.

He is truly looking forward to hearing from more of his fans too. The special Make-A-Wish moments with sick children backstage at WWE events is something he will always carry with him.

“It makes you realize that wrestling, characters, whatever they have you doing on the show is irrelevant in the big scheme of things,” he said. “As a WWE superstar, you’re fortunate to really make an impact on people’s lives.”

3MB, Drew McInytre, Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal, at WWE Axxess at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Friday, April 5, 2013. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

As the rechristened Raj Singh, Mahal hopes to continue to create a legacy.

“At WrestleMania Axxess, everybody comes up to you, actually people would come up to us and tell us how much they really loved 3MB, how they look forward to their favourite segment of the show every week,” he said. “It’s great, events like that, when you can really talk to people and you really feel what kind of impact you make.”