Exclusive: Rohit Raju speaks about going viral on YouTube, singles aspirations in Impact Wrestling & more!
I have an interview scheduled with Impact Wrestling superstar Rohit Raju on what is a rather cool Mumbai evening. Raju tells me during the call that things are far worse in his native state of Michigan, where all the roads are completely frozen.
I spoke to Raju at length about all things Impact Wrestling, his Indian roots, his friends in the locker room and more. Unlike the goofy character he plays on screen, Raju is a very driven, focussed and passionate individual.
Raju is, of course, part of the Desi Hit Squad stable in Impact Wrestling. His name is inspired by Rohit, meaning the sun's rays and Raju, which refers to royalty. But then again, does he have Indian roots? Raju says the following:
Yes, I do. My mother was from India. She's an Indian. My great grandfather is from Hyderabad. I have lost contact with the majority of my family because she ended up being adopted. She was in England and then she came over here to the United States.
Under the learning tree of Gama Singh, best known for his stint in Stampede Wrestling, Raju is learning how to speak in Punjabi and Hindi. Raju says that while his mother is no longer with us, she would have been proud of the man he's become. Raju has never been to India but says he would love to visit someday.
You can never represent who you are or your nationality in professional wrestling without it being an over the top thing. But you know it's a double edged sword. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's bad. I pay attention to what people say. Some people love what we're doing. Some people hate what we're doing. Going to India it would be appreciated more than it is over here. It would be more respected.
One segment that Raju is in, with Scott Steiner and Scarlett Bordeaux has been setting social media on fire. It already has over a million views and is growing by the day. I ask him his thoughts about the segment:
(Laughs) Any segment with Scarlett is really cool just to see the reactions and interactions. And then you add Scott Steiner to the mix. Number 1, it's an honour being in the ring with Scott Steiner. As a wrestling fan, being from Michigan, I watched the Steiner Brothers as a kid. But then again, getting beat up by Steiner, that's a whole different story.
As a member of the Impact Wrestling tag team division, Raju has shared the ring with the former Champions LAX, who are setting the ring on fire at every given opportunity. Raju says that they have an advantage over him and Singh, considering they've not tagged together until recently:
For a while tag team wrestling was dead. But Impact helped bring it back on the map with all the teams that we have. So, it's just taking a while for me and Raj to gel. We have to learn how the other one moves. We have to learn how the other one thinks. So we're kinda starting from Step 1. The other guys have already had their skyscraper built. We're a few steps back as compared to where they are as a tag team.
If you watch videos of Raju on YouTube, you will notice that he's very serious. When asked he says that he doesn't mind the comedy routine in Impact, as both characters are extensions of his personality. Raju considers it an honour to be around Gama Singh and just pick his brains. But he does wish that he got to showcase the intensity inherent to him.
Raju also has serious aspirations in the singles division. He asks us to check out his match against Trey Miguel this week, as a showcase of just what he can do in the squared circle:
I really haven't had a chance to shine, at least like this on my own. So, I really hope people see yeah I can do the tag team stuff but I can also do singles and I can also be a threat in the X-Division. And once they see this match, they go, 'Oh this guy can go'. And I'd love to work with Rich Swann. I would like to work with any of those guys. To be able to vie for the X-Division title, like I said that's really what drew me to Impact and TNA back in the day. That was amazing watching guys like AJ Styles, Jay Lethal, Low-Ki, Cristopher Daniels, Sonjay Dutt.
Raju says that he would love to face AJ Styles someday, but among the guys in the current roster, Rich Swann would be his dream Impact opponent. Raju has modelled his style on wrestlers like Benoit and Malenko who wouldn't fly around the ring but counter the high flying instead. Raju also wants to start cutting promos soon:
I can eat people alive on the microphone. I can't wait for that, whenever I get the chance.
So, who is he close to, in the Impact Wrestling roster?
Besides Raj and Gama, I talk to oVe a lot. I pick their brains. Just because before Impact, I've known Jake and Dave. So I pick their brain a lot. But to be honest, my homeboy is Fallah. Fallah and I in Mexico, we're always going out to eat. Just having a good time.
To close the interview, Rohit Raju has a message for his fans in India:
Thank you for your support. We really, really appreciate it. I really, really appreciate it. I hope you continue to support us. And I hope we get our butts over there soon. So, you can see the Desi Hit Squad live and in person. I think it'll be a big deal and please be sure to give us some love.
Be sure to catch Rohit Raju on Impact Wrestling only on SONY ESPN and SONY ESPN HD. To listen to the interview, click here.