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The GREATest Indian Wrestler Ever – A Great Khali Retrospective

Seeing Stars: Great Khali Dream Matches

Now you might see that title, knowing I am the one writing this, and assume I was talking about Mahabali Shera (well except the whole “Great Khali Retrospective” bit). That would be a fair assumption. An incorrect one, but a fair one nonetheless. While that lovely dancing man is a treasure (and is actually an okay wrestler these days) and will no doubt have a catalogue of wacky and enjoyable matches by the time he calls it a day – he doesn’t hold a candle to The Great Khali.

I’m not going to pretend The Great Khali was always good. He was in fact frequently very bad. But that’s not really the point, is it? Sometimes bad wrestlers can have very good matches. Sometime people who are terrible in many circumstances can be tremendously useful in others. Sometimes The Great Khali was truly great. See what I did there? Because great is in his name. You’re welcome.

So in celebration of Khali’s triumphant return during the Punjabi Prison match at Batteground, I’m going to dive into some of the best Great Khali matches ever. That is a tad easier said than done though. If you take a look at the Matchguide section of Great Khali’s Cagematch page you will see that it features eight Royal Rumble matches and one Elimination Chamber. That’s not really a reasonable sample of Khali as a performer. I already had some matches in mind but I also enlisted the help of the fine folks on Twitter. Helpful as always.

Was me embedding one of my tweets just there a cheap attempt to get you to follow me on Twitter? Probably. But we’ll never know. So without further ado – here’s a collection of Great Khali matches that showcase the best of him as a performer. Because we’re nice and positive around here.

Great Khali vs. Chris Candido – NJPW, Fighting Spirit 2002 Day 1

Let’s start with Khali’s year long run in New Japan. After fighting with New Japan World for a while (working out what to search for on the site is a bit of a nightmare, as it turns out Giant Shin takes you to his two matches that are on there) I settled on Khali vs. Candido. Ideally I’d have preferred him vs. Tenzan or him vs. Giant Silva because what reasonable human being doesn’t want to see those matches but I’ll make do with what NJ World has to offer. The start of this match involved Khali standing still, something most wrestlers are very good at, while Candido ran into him. Candido worked his butt off to a comical degree to sell Khali’s girth. Khali whipped Candido into the corner and Candido hurled himself over the top to the floor. Khali then Press Slammed Candido off the top to the ramp before hitting a gigantic powerbomb from the ramp into the ring and did the Undertaker pin to win. This was amazing. This was one of the best squashes I’ve seen in ages. Khali just wrecked Candido in every way imaginable. Candido flew all over the place for him and Khali looked like a destroyer. I take it back, there’s no way Khali vs. Tenzan or Silva was better than this.

Great Khali vs. The Undertaker – WWE, Judgement Day 2006

Great Khali was tall and Indian so he was obviously right up WWE’s alley. Khali got some seasoning with a couple matches in Deep South Wrestling (one of which was against Bradley Jay, which was actually Jay Bradley but I saw through that clever disguise). The fact that Khali spent two matches in developmental and Finn Balor spent two years is clearly reflective of their respective abilities. Khali knows all about hard cameras. He’s a pro.

Undertaker was first up on Khali’s hit list. Undertaker’s old theme song says “This is gonna be a Judgement Day” and it was in fact ‘Taker’s Judgement Day. What really made this match work is the aura of The Undertaker. While it eventually became a tad trite to hear Michael Cole shout about how “Undertaker has never been manhandled like this before” every single time WWE wanted to establish a new monster, it really worked this time. This crowd adored Undertaker before Khali unceremoniously booted Undertaker in the face, placed his boot on his chest and conquered the Undertaker. It was such a weird, deflating finish but it worked – it was meant to take the wind out of everybody’s sails. Khali had arrived. If you want to establish a monster, if you wanna give a monster credibility, this is how you do it. Plus head chops! Head chops rule. Fun Judgement Day 2006 fact: The theme song was This Fire Burns, which was repurposed for CM Punk.

The Royal Rumble Match – WWE, Royal Rumble 2007

The 2007 Rumble was the best Royal Rumble and if you disagree with that you should just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it. The highlight of the match was undeniably the closing stretch between Shawn Michaels and ‘Taker, teasing their WrestleMania match to come. The strongest element of the rest of the match though was The Great Khali’s role. He entered at 28 and destroyed everybody. There were glorious head chops flying everywhere. Miz entered 29th and was immediately eliminated. Khali then threw out RVD, Benoit, Bob Holly, Punk, Chavo and Carlito. Michael Cole went into absolute overdrive – nobody could possibly stop Khali. Nobody.

3

2

1

*gong*

Undertaker enters and valiantly slays the giant. The timing and execution of the whole sequence were picture perfect. Khali looked like a monster. Undertaker, who would win the Rumble, looked even better for conquering Khali. It was a perfect display of just how useful Khali could be in the right environment.

Great Khali vs. John Cena – WWE, One Night Stand 2007

This was more or less at the peak of the John Cena is Actually Bad movement. If you read an issue of the UK based Powerslam at the time you’ll have witnessed the bizarre editorial vendetta against Cena (something that humorously persisted long after the Cena is Actually Bad wars was well and truly settled). In many ways, this match helped settle that war. Cena, who had a stunning Last Man Standing match vs. Umaga earlier in the year, saddled up him gimmick match high tops once more to go Falls Count Anywhere (I might have mixed my metaphors there). Cena’s slightly oversized jorts aside (something Cena has improved upon a great deal since), Cena and Khali had a wonderfully enjoyable David vs. Goliath plunder brawl. The super memorable finish, an FU off the super nifty crane set, put a cap on one of Cena’s most notable bell to bell achievements.

Great Khali vs. Batista – WWE, No Mercy 2007

It’s Punjabi Prison time! Khali made us wait for this one. The first Punjabi Prison match was meant to be Khali vs. Undertaker but Khali was popped for elevated liver enzymes shortly before and replaced by Big Show. This was a slow build. Only an event called No Mercy could host the Punjabi Prison because WWE has no mercy for their audience. I got jokes. For some reason WWE thought it best to put two guys over 6’6” in a climbing contest. A good minute of this match was Khali trying to walk out a small hole and Batista grabbing Khali’s ankle. The crowd counted along with the door countdown clock and seemed pretty confused when basically nothing happened at the end.

“3! 2! 1!”

*door closes*

“oh…”

For some reason I found the phrase “steel reinforced bamboo” far too funny. Like they wrapped razor sharp bamboo around steel. Okay, I know I said I was being nice but this match did suck. The Punjabi Prison isn’t irredeemable (even if the first stage of the match is Reverse Battle Royal levels of silly) but Khali and Dave were never the two people to make this work. The finish was great at least, as Dave leaped from one cage to another to beat Khali in a race. Khali let his signature match, of which he’s been in 33% of, down.

Great Khali vs. Kane vs. Mark Henry vs. Big Daddy V – WWECW, 2007

How do you best celebrate Halloween in wrestling? Easy. Take four big lads and lump them in a Battle Royal. And that’s exactly what the wonderful WWECW did. Thus the Monster Mash Battle Royal, which has nearly 20m views on YouTube by the way, was born. It is unfortunate that WWE didn’t shell out for the rights to Monster Mash because that’s a banger but we’ll let it slide because I forgot how good the original WWECW theme song was. This was wacky silly gigantic spectacle. We need more silly holiday based wrestling matches. They are always the best. Braun vs. Brock vs. Khali vs. Corbin Monster Mash 2017 please.

Great Khali vs. Randy Orton – WWE, Smackdown 2011

This was during that 2011 period where Randy Orton was trying really hard and he was very good. This match is notable because Khali was managed by one Jinder Mahal – who interfered on behalf of Khali to try and help him beat Orton. Therefore this match was officially foreshadowing for the Battleground match. It’s WWE canon. Khali countered an RKO with a vice grip and I was a big fan of that. Randy should try more. Fun fact: Great Khali and Jinder Mahal have wrestled 45 times and Khali has won every single time. The longest of those matches on television was 3 minutes 27 seconds long. Can’t beat them? Recruit them as your crony.

Great Khali vs. Antonio Cesaro – WWE, Main Event 2013

This was during Khali’s Punjabi Playboy period. He was accompanied to the ring by Hornswoggle and Natalya, which is undoubtedly the greatest stable in WWE history. This was while Cesaro was still a rugby player and also had a first name. Khali worked as an underdog babyface and it was a delight – showing fire and taking it to Cesaro. Unfortunately Cesaro didn’t swing Khali but he did hit him with the Neutralizer which was super impressive. Honestly this just made me want more babyface Khali. That is uncharted territory and this crowd was super into it.

So what have I taken from this extensive Khali rewatch? Head chops rule. Vice grips are great. Khali’s biggest enemy was getting stuck in the ropes. And under the right circumstances, The Great Khali could be pretty good. The Pretty Good Khali has a solid ring to it. He should run with that.

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