February 23, 2010
Tiger Raj Singh ready for WWE experience
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
It's a bit of a waiting game now for Calgary's Tiger Raj Singh, who has passed his physical and has a WWE developmental contract in hand. He has a couple more indy dates to work, and then it's just a matter of time until he picks up to move to Tampa, Florida.
"I'm assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling. I'm just waiting for my work visa to come through. It should be here, hopefully, in six to eight weeks," he told SLAM! Wrestling. "You never know from there where or when you'll get called up."
The 23-year-old Singh -- real name Yuvraj (Raj) Dhesi -- took a leap of faith back in December 2009, paying the fee to head down to Florida Championship Wrestling for a tryout in front of WWE trainers and agents.
Notable names like Steve Keirn, Pat Patterson and Mike Rotunda saw him work. "It was a four-day tryout, and every day there was someone new there," he explained.
He believes that it was his gimmick that made him stand out. "I think they needed an Indian guy, they were looking for one. We had matches and stuff and all the wrestlers came in their gimmicks. Well, I came out wearing a turban and had my full outfit on, and spoke Punjabi in my promo, and they liked that. They like guys who speak different languages and have different looks," he said. "My wrestling was pretty good, I had some pretty good matches. I did good at the drills and everything."
At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Singh is a big man, and he uses big moves.
"I'm more about power moves, because I was a tag team wrestler with my partner, and I would leave the high flying and the fast wrestling to him and I would mostly do all the power work. But I can wrestle singles too. I just held the PWA Heavyweight belt, out of Edmonton. I use a lot of old-school stuff too. I'm a big fan of old-school wrestling. I try to keep that style too, along with some of the newer stuff."
Given that his uncle is The Great Gama Singh, and he trained alongside his cousin, Gama Jr. (who also went to the tryout, but wasn't offered a contract) -- they teamed as The New Karachi Vice -- Tiger Raj thinks that the family connection didn't help as much as the respect that the trainers had for a man like Bad News Allen, one of his trainers, along with Gama Singh and Gerry Morrow.
"I think a main part of [my style] is due to their training. Those guys are from the old school. See, Jerry and Bad News trained in the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo, so they brought some of that training down to us too, with the drills, all the exercises and the calisthenics and everything," he said. "Mostly everybody from Calgary trained at the Dungeon, and I'm somebody from Calgary who didn't actually train at the Dungeon; I was trained by some of the other Stampede guys. A lot of people say, when I tell them I'm from Calgary, 'Did you train in the Dungeon?' I say no."
Another plus, said Singh, was his business degree from the University of Calgary. "They like guys who have educations. They asked me if I went to school and I said, 'Yeah.' I think they look for guys like that. It sure helps, it doesn't hurt," he said. "It's good to have something to fall back on if wrestling doesn't work out."
The Edmonton-based Prairie Wrestling Alliance believed in Singh's talent enough to make him its champion, which he held from 2008 until January 2010. Singh's final indy date is March 13th in Edmonton for the PWA.
"Devon is a big supporter of mine. He likes my style, he likes my look. I enjoy coming out to Ottawa too. I've come at least once or twice a year. They have good crowds out there and I enjoy coming down, so I thought for my goodbye, I'd come and do another show there," Singh said.
"Raj is truly a wrestler. He is very passionate about the sport and has worked very hard to get where he is now. He has the spirit of a true wrestler which I like. He paid his dues to get in the business, he wrestles hard, trains hard in the gym," said Nicholson. "Raj is not like a lot of guys in FCW and WWE who have just been signed for their look and are just wrestling for a paycheque or fame. He is the type of person who would still wrestle if he were a multimillionaire because he enjoys it so much. I respect him a lot for this and I hope that he does very well in WWE."
"I'm just training every day trying to get into the best shape I can," he said.
He has no problem playing up his East Asian heritage if called upon.
"No, I have no problem ... I'm very fluent in Punjabi and Hindi also," he said, laughing at the idea of being stereotyped. "It's part of wrestling! It's a good thing, actually. I can use it, you can use it to your benefit to get over or get heat with the fans."
Greg Oliver has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. His fifth book, SLAM! Wrestling: Shocking Stories from the Squared Circle has just been released. The four previous books are Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport (with Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy and Irv Muchnick); The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels (with Steven Johnson); The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (also with Johnson) and The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Order them all from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.