The Great Khali has become a household name in India. Ever since his remarkable debut in WWE, Khali has captured the imagination of the nation, and has become an icon in the country. While it has been rare for superstars of Indian origin to make it to WWE, Khali broke all barriers when he won the World Heavyweight title nearly a decade ago.
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Khali has since left the company, but with the intention of unearthing more Indian talent, he has now started his own wrestling school in India. Recently, Khali performed on Indian soil for the very first time, and managed to once again captivate the imagination of millions of professional wrestling fans in India.
I had the pleasure of catching up with the man himself, as we discussed various topics at length. Talking about his very first feud in WWE, where he had the opportunity to work with the biggest name in the business, The Undertaker, Khali talked about his reaction when he found out he was going to be working with ‘Taker.
“Well, primarily it is Vince McMahon who books feuds. I was very happy that I got to wrestle The Undertaker very early in my career. Very few people get to face The Undertaker at any point in their career, so that was something I was immensely happy with.”
Khali also gave his thoughts about winning the World Heavyweight Championship just a year into his WWE career. “You’d probably understand the kind of reaction winning a World title in WWE would generate in a wrestler. It was the proudest moment I’ve felt in 35 years. For an Indian, getting to WWE is a big deal. Winning the title was something else; my dream came true when I won the World Heavyweight title in WWE.”
Khali then talked about Vince McMahon, and his personality behind the curtains. “He’s a very nice guy behind the scenes. He’s ruling the (professional wrestling) world, he’s a very hard-working person. For me, he is an icon. He’s an inspiration, and I consider him to be the best inside and outside the business.”
Khali did the improbable when he won the World Heavyweight championship, and became a sensation overnight in his home country. Many believe that Khali put India on the professional wrestling map, as he also discussed about the future of professional wrestling in India.
“The future looks very bright (for pro wrestling in India). Professional wrestling has to find its place in India; not just in India, but I believe it has to be embraced by people around the world. When you look at the NFL in the United States, baseball and even in India, when you look at cricket; these sports do a lot of good for the country. So I believe professional wrestling has to grow, particularly in a country like India.”
Khali opened his own wrestling school, Continental Wrestling Entertainment in India. Khali told us that his main intention was to provide the youngsters with an alternative. “My primary intention is to provide an alternative to the younger generation in India, and get their minds away from alcohol and drugs.”
“I want to get them into sports, and see that India produces more athletes like The Great Khali”, he added.
So is Khali satisfied with what he has achieved in his illustrious career? “You should never feel that you’ve achieved everything in life. That’s the main thing; your heart should always want more; you shouldn’t become complacent. Although, you should be happy with what you already have. If you want to achieve something in life, you should. I believe in what I achieve; I don’t go about setting unrealistic goals, so I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.”
The recent two-day event has generated a lot of interest among the fans in India. One of the positives has been the platform given to the local wrestlers, who competed alongside the international superstars. “This has been a great opportunity for the local wrestlers”, Khali said.
“They have a platform to perform on, and they get to rub shoulders with some of the biggest international wrestlers. We have over 30 local guys who have received a great opportunity to work with the seasoned performers. That is what I wanted, to give the local guys a chance to perform on the world stage, and they’ve received that opportunity now. I want these wrestlers to grow, and make our country proud.”
Khali also gave us an update on his health, especially after undergoing a surgery couple of years ago. Khali talked about the wear and tear of his body, adding, “That’s a part and parcel of the business. I’ve been injured numerous times before, but as they say here, ‘mard ko dard nehi hota’. So I’m doing well now.”
Will international wrestlers tour India more often? Khali for one isn’t averse to the thought. “I’d want them to perform in India regularly. Although it hasn’t been something that was discussed, but as I said, it motivates the local wrestlers to compete with the international stars.
“I want them to give this a shot, and if they believe that they can make a name for themselves; my main intention is to direct the younger generation towards sports, and away from all the drugs and alcohol. I don’t want them to take shortcuts or go in the wrong direction. If they see a future in sports, then they would obviously be interested in taking it up.
“I don’t want them to while away their time doing nothing. If they don’t see a future, that is when they get into the bad stuff.”
Khali also had a message for aspiring wrestlers and his fans in India. “For those who want to become professional wrestlers, come to Punjab. You can come down to CWE, and I will train you. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female; we train everyone here.
“We provide the best opportunities for the aspiring wrestlers. If you want to go abroad, we can arrange for that as well. But if you want to get training in India, you should come down to Punjab and work with us.
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For the other youngsters in India, my advice to you would be to get into sports – any kind of sport. Stay away from all the vices, and make sure to uphold your name, as well as the name of our country.”
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