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SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Makhan Singh


Karachi Vice: From left, Steve Strong, Makhan Singh and Gama Singh. Photos courtesy Stampede Wrestling.
REAL NAME: Mike Shaw
BORN: May 9, 1957 in Marquette, Michigan
6'1", 360 pounds
AKA: Bastion Booger (WWF), Norman The Lunatic (WCW), Makhan Singh (Stampede), Mike Striker (WWWF), Klondike Mike (Vancouver), Big Ben Sharpe (South Africa), Aaron Grundy (Mexico), Cousin Mike, Man Mountain Mike (Maritimes), Trucker Norm, The Mad Monk, Friar Ferguson

If having wrestled in all 10 Canadian provinces isn't enough to qualify Mike Shaw for our Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, then being the most hated heel in the '80s certainly does.

Shaw gained fame in Stampede Wrestling as Makhan Singh, and spent seven years in territory.

But what most people forget is that he spent two years there as Big Mike Shaw before being 'converted' by the brothers Gama and Akam Singh.

"Karachi Vice was fantastic. It was probably the strongest heel connection I had since I was in the business," Shaw told SLAM! Wrestling from his Michigan home in April 1999. "Being a white guy and becoming an East Indian -- there's always a little bit of racial tension there."

Gama Singh gave Shaw the Makhan Singh monicker. The big man excelled in the role, especially behind the microphone. When regular announcers like Ed Whelan or Jim Davies were away, Makhan Singh would often take over the announcing duties.

In the ring, Shaw was no slouch either. Karachi Vice had epic battles against the Harts, and their allies like Brian Pillman and Chris Benoit.

Shaw exchanged the North American championship numerous times with Owen Hart, and considers him to be one of his favourite opponents.

"When we were in Stampede, [Owen] was one of the finest young wrestlers in the wrestling business. He had the opportunity to learn from some great wrestlers -- Dynamite Kid, even Gama Singh himself. He worked matches with me for years. Just growing up in the business, learning from his older brothers, Bret. I think he had the opportunity to learn a lot of stuff. I think he's changed now. I think he's more of a WWF-style wrestler now. Back then, he would try anything, and do anything. He was fantastic."

Bringing up Ed Whalen's name elicits a hearty laugh from Shaw. The two actually recently chatted while Shaw was in Calgary for a Can-Am Wrestling show.

"Ed had his good points and his bad points of course. Ed knew what he needed to do. He was very in tight with the TV station," said Shaw. "He knew what he could do and couldn't do and always had his run-ins with the Harts with not going too far."

His time out west was also the roughest of his career. "Wrestling was wilder in Calgary at the time with Stampede Wrestling, and anyplace. We had street-fights, 10-and-12 man cage matches. We had everything. I consider the five, seven years I spent in Calgary all hardcore."

Shaw was an amateur star in Michigan and later a wrestling coach in late 70's. He also played professional softball for a Milwaukee team, and was in Florida when the league went bankrupt. Shaw stayed in Florida, and met wrestler Farmer Bill, who encouraged him to get into it.

In 1979, Shaw went to Massachussets and was trained by the legendary Wladek 'Killer' Kowalski .

Makhan Singh.
"Kowalski had a great school. He spent a lot of time with us. He took a liking to me," explained Shaw. "I went in there, I was probably one of his bigger guys at that time. I was probably about 6'1", 270, 280 (pounds) at the time. I was training really hard and I had just come out of softball, so I was in really good shape."

The Killer liked that Shaw was a good talker, and got him booked on a few TV shows, which Shaw credits to getting him booked quickly.

In fact, his fourth match ever was in the old Boston Garden in front 17,000 people. "That was a big thrill for me. My hometown has 300 people here in Michigan. I come from a real small farming town. All of a sudden, I'm in Boston in front of that many people. It was unbelievable to me," he said.

From there, his world-wide wrestling odyssey began.

First stop was Vancouver, for Gene Kiniski and Al Tomko's Northwest Championship Wrestling, where he wrestled as Klondike Mike.

"That was a very interesting character," Shaw said, and repeated throughout the interview as each of his personas was recounted. "Back then, people really adapted to it, they really liked it. I had about a year with that character."

Next, Shaw went overseas for a few years, including South Africa, where he was known as Big Ben Sharpe because the promotion had two local 'Mikes' already.

His many years in Calgary got him noticed by WCW's Jim Ross in 1987. Stampede Wrestling was real hot at the time, and running big shows from B.C. to Manitoba.

Shaw, however, had been thinking about getting out of wrestling and was surprised by the WCW phone call.

"To tell you the honest truth, I didn't know who Jim Ross was," recalled Shaw. But WCW "kept calling back" and eventually he went down there, and was given the Norman character.

"I got three years out of that character. That was my best character, by far, I think," Shaw said, adding that Makhan Singh was a close second.

"To tell you the truth, when Norman started, I couldn't stand it. I thought it was really silly. I had just left Calgary and South Africa where I worked, would really go wrestle hard," Shaw said. "When I became Norman, it was a silly, off-the-wall character. I really didn't like it at first. I didn't adapt well to it. Then I had some really good guys start helping." Shaw named Jim Ross, Terry Funk, Kevin Sullivan, Eddie Gilbert and Dick Murdoch as strong influences on his character before continuing.

"After [Norman] became a character the fans really liked. I was getting 200 teddy bears a week. In arenas, people were just bringing me teddy bears constantly, and I was donating them to children's hospitals. It really became a character they liked. It would still be going strong today, kind of like a George 'The Animal' Steele character, it could have lasted for years."

But the booking situation changed in WCW, and Ole Anderson took over.

"I have to admit that Ole and I have never hit it off," Shaw confessed. "I still consider Ole to be an idiot. He just squashed the character. He didn't squash it for a professional reason. He squashed it because he didn't like Terry Funk, they didn't get along. He considered me one of Funk's boys. Terry Funk and him were competiting to be the booker at the time."

Shaw said that the character was so popular that Sting and Lex Luger, who were two of the top stars at the time, both went to the company president and said that it was a big mistake to get rid of the character.

Norman The Lunatic.
But the Norman gimmick ended, and Shaw opened a wrestling school in Michigan, promoted a few shows and worked independents. He even spent a stint in Mexico as Aaron Grundy, brother of Solomon Grundy.

While he was in between trips, the WWF's J.J. Dillon called him and offered Shaw a "tryout."

"I chuckled at that. I didn't understand their system," he said. "I'd been wrestling 15 years, and they made me seem like a was a green kid. 'Maybe we'll give you a look.' I went down to Augusta, Georgia and Columbus, S.C. and wrestled for two nights. In between the two nights, Vince McMahon called me outside, and we went for a walk. We were outside for about 10 minutes. Vince treated me fantastic. He said, 'Hey, we like you. I think we can do something with you. We want to sign you.'

"They hired me and I was happy."

Shaw sat at home for about six weeks before they called him back. The WWF had been trying to come up with a character for him.

The first idea was Friar Ferguson, the wrestling monk. It didn't last.

"I heard they got calls from different religious organizations thinking that that was terrible to have a monk on TV wrestling," Shaw said.

Up next was Bastion Booger. But the original conception wasn't how it turned out.

"Originally, it was supposed to be kind of a sewer creature, gargoyle-type that had a silver outfit, boots, and was supposed to have a big mask with horns coming out of it," Shaw explained. But McMahon believed that the mask looked too much like Vader's (who was in WCW at the time) and the gimmick changed.

Shaw has his own ideas about where the character could have gone.

"I think they could have gone to a comical character with it, almost like the Norman character. Because kids liked screaming Booger, it was almost like they were swearing and getting away with it."

He still gets 15-20 fan letters now addressed to Bastion Booger, wondering where he went. "I think they could have gotten a little more mileage out of it than they did."

These days, Shaw is "semi-retired". He wrestles independent shows on weekends -- including a recent show in London, Ontario -- and runs his wrestling school during the week. He also writes a sports column for a local newspaper, and is on the radio and TV in the area.

His focus now is on his wife Kelly (whom he met in Amherst, Nova Scotia while wrestling for Emile Dupre's Grand Prix Wrestling) and their two athletic children, Joshua, 8, and Amanda, 6.

When asked about regrets, Shaw pauses before continuing.

"I wish I had gotten into the WWF earlier in my career, maybe when I was Makhan Singh, in my late 20s and in good shape, and really wrestling strong. I was burnt out when I got there," he said. "I feel like I let Vince [McMahon] down. I don't feel like I gave him the best that I have."
 
 -- Bio by GREG OLIVER, SLAM! Sports
Memories

 I must say my favourite momment of Mike Shaw came from when he was with the WWF under the "Bastion Booger" gimmick. I remember one time one an episode of superstars Booger came down the aisle then he spotted a little kid eatting a WWF ice cream bar. He snatches it from the kid and shoves the whole thing in his mouth. The kid like started crying and stuff. It was the funniest momment in Wrestling history. Definitely Bastion Booger is one of my favorite of all time.
 Jeff Taylor
 I remember Big Mike Shaw and his early days in Stampede. I have to agree that the hardcore outifts today could take a lesson from Stampede, they pushed the envelope every single time. Mike was fabulous whether he was working the mike or in the ring. I have never seen any heel in Stampede take as much heat as Mike Shaw and just seem to love evry single boo he got. Karachi Vice was one of the strongest heel stables I have ever witnessed just when you thought they were getting booed as loud as possible the next week it was louder. The period that Mike was in Stampede was much like the period the WWF went through where they lost most of their name talent to the WCW. When Mike was there Stampede had lost most of their name talent to the WWF and still entertained you every single time. There is no one specific memory I have about Mike Shaw just how much I loved to despise the man.
 scic@web.net
 Well, where do I start, Norman was my favorite wrestler, since Clash Of The Champions 10, when he faced Kevin Sullivan. Not relizing Norman only lived a short distance from me in Michigan.
 I went to my first indy show, which I later found out was run by Shaw, I still have my autographed Norman t-shirt,and picture.
 Then came Friar Ferguson on RAW...I about lost it..it was Norman...it was great...he was gone, then Bastion Booger...me personally I know Mike hates it, but I loved.
 Then comes the day when I meet Bastion Booger at my hometown's 4th of July parade which only about 15 miles from Shaw's. This is when he first started as Booger and he signed my autograph "to Pete, Bastian Booger" he spelled his own name wrong....then I was hooked...I knew I would be come a pro wrestler....
 Fast foward about 2 years another indy show in my area, I talked to Shaw about training, I think he just kinda blew me off.
 Well I did get trained, and started wrestling in Indiana a lot, so I decide to run my first show in my hometown of Escanaba, MI...who do I book for the main event- Peter B. Beautiful (me) vs Bastion Booger (not knowing at the time he still works as Norman). Well me and Mike talked in the back, about a ton of stuff. like almost everything mentioned here.....match time comes, I win by DQ, when he hits me with brass knuckles I brought into the ring.. I loved it, I was nervous as hell, and put on a horrible match. The fans loved and hell I did too...my only regret is not getting Booger dropped...my manager did...so I would like to thank Mike Shaw for being my true inspiration in my career.
 Pete Sischo, Peter B. Beautiful

 It's nice to know that Makhan Singh and Gama Singh are still recognized for their great work.
 gary977@hotmail.com
 I never met any human that could eat for millions in one sitting then go to the bar and drink for the nation and expect to get any for free!!! HA HA HA..Not kidding.
 Randy Y.
 I have a memory of Mike Shaw.
  He had just debuted as Friar Ferguson. About the only thing I can remember is him defeating his opponent and then giving him something to drink to revive him. I also remember him getting involved in a squash match Bam Bam Bigelow was wrestling. I was expecting them to feud and then Ferguson just disappeared. A few weeks later Bastion Booger was born. I saw him at the Saginaw Civic Center in Saginaw, Michigan in September 1993. He had some of that candy snot that was out a long time ago and ate it to disgust the crowd. I seem to remember a pic on the last page of WWF Magazine in I believe 1994 with him at the Monday Night Raw announce table with food all around him. That was when Raw was to me, at it's best.
 Brett Wolverton, Bearman15@aol.com
 I remember the first time I saw Mike Shaw wrestle was at the Agricom in Edmonton, he was against a wrestler by the name Steve Disalvo. Before the match my father introduced me to mike and he was a whole different man then when he was in the ring. From that day on everytime he saw me he called me his little bud and cause of him I got into the business and I would just like to say thanks mike you made young kids dream come true and you are a real legend in this business.
  Steven Ewaschuk, Edmonton, AB
 One of my all time favorite quotes is from Vince McMahon:
  "Bastion Booger is the only person I know who refers to his nose as a snack dispenser"
 Tim Cigelske
 The best memory I have of Shaw is a long time ago, when he was first forming the Karachi Vice with Gama Singh, and the colour commentator to Ed Whelan at the time was Neil Macrae and his silly fedora hat, who nicknamed Shaw Toilet Bowl. To those of us in B.C. who have since been subjugated to Macrae's schtick will appreciate the irony - Shaw was a supreme heel, (and Macrae is a sad pretender) and as a young teen I hated his guts. I loved Stampede, as it portrayed the illusion of "we're paid to make it real". I watch today's wrestling, but Shaw had the heel bit down to an art. At the time, I believed him. Today, it's about the latest gimmick. Times do change.
 R. A. "Conan" McCartney
 I remember a long tome ago, I loved old wrestling from the 1970's through the mid '90s as I still do. There is one match I will never forget -- when Bastion Booger went up against the Earthquake and lost within a short amount of time. Or the match when he went up against Danny Davis in the HWF last year. I really like Bastion Booger.
 jsykes@mattoon.net