Being a nerd, I find it easy to geek out whenever I see something relatable in a book I may be reading. In The God of Small Things there are a couple of moments the narrator happens to mention Hulk Hogan fighting Mr. Perfect at Wrestlemania (which is inaccurate, as Hulk Hogan and Mr. Perfect never once fought on a Wrestlemania card), as well as Bam Bam Bigelow later in the story (who died a couple of years ago, and is regarded as the best “big man” among hardcore fans and wrestlers alike). This caused me to remember that there is an active wrestler currently in WWE that is literally larger-than-life, and that is Dalip Singh, a.k.a. the Great Khali.
Some of you may recognize him from movies, such as Adam Sandler’s remake of The Longest Yard and MacGruber (with other WWE alumni), but he is best recognized on WWE shows. He is currently a member of the WWE Smackdown! roster, although he was part of WWE Raw at some point. Upon his arrival, he played the part of a fierce heel (heel is a wrestling term for “bad guy”), and was put into the main event very quickly, being managed by an Iranian-American wrestler known as Davari. He fought with names such as the Undertaker and Big Show, often dominating in his matches. He would go on to eventually win the World Heavyweight Championship (the Smackdown Top Title) in mid-2007, becoming the first Indian-born wrestler to win the coveted title. He would also eventually replace Davari (as Davari was fired) with a “translator” named Ranjin Singh, who was his “brother” (for storyline purposes, as they are not related in real life).
Somewhere along the way the Great Khali, along with Ranjin, took over the “kiss cam” that most sporting events do during breaks. However, the Great Khali would often find robust women in the audience and make out with them, thus earning the nickname “the Punjabi Playboy” and turning him into a babyface (wrestling term for “hero”). Up until recently the Great Khali continued to be the “Punjabi Playboy,” doing various “kiss cams” during live events in addition to wrestling and acting. He has now reverted back to being a heel, and has dumped Ranjin Singh at the request of his new friend, another Indian wrestler named Jinder Mahal who is their “brother-in-law,” who complained about Khali pandering to children.
The Great Khali has done so much in only a few years, not a common feat in the WWE, as most wrestlers usually have to work years and years just to get their foot in the door. The Great Khali does bring in a large demographic of Indian viewers, which helps explain the quick climb to the Main Event. As a hardcore adult fan (a small demographic of WWE’s audience), I can say that the Great Khali is one of the worst technical wrestlers I’ve ever seen, even worse than the Ultimate Warrior. He only uses four or five moves, is very slow in and around the ring, and is unable to properly “sell” many moves (to sell a move means to make it look real). In fact, he actually contributed to the accidental death of another wrestler back in May 2001, although the blame was more on the trainers who allowed his opponent to continue to train with him despite having a concussion. However, he is very marketable, which is why Vince McMahon still employs him and puts him on TV every week. Being athletic and over 7 feet tall is rare in itself, plus his Indian ethnicity makes it easier for WWE to do more internationally, particularly in India.
What do you think? Is the Great Khali a positive Indian role model with a deserved celebrity? Or is he merely a tool of international exploitation?