10 Things About The Great Khali’s Career That Made No Sense
The Great Khali started his pro wrestling career in 2000, wrestling in America, Japan, and Mexico before signing with World Wrestling Entertainment in 2006. When he debuted, he was pushed as a major monster heel and even won the World Heavyweight Championship the following year, before embarking on a run as a goofy babyface and departing WWE in 2014.
Now that he’s been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the 2021 class, it’s a great time to take a look at the big man’s pro wrestling career and point out all the strange bits and inconsistencies that come up when fans take it all in.
10His Early Career
Many fans might assume that Khali was discovered in India, either as a wrestler or a physical marvel from some other sport, which is fairly common, so it may come as a shock that Khali actually left India in 2000 to train in the Northern California indie All Pro Wrestling.
During that run, he had matches against young Frankie Kazarian and Samoa Joe, but would soon sign with WCW in 2001, with the promotion folding before he could make his debut.
9His NJPW Run
An even more surprising revelation of his career is that The Great Khali wrestled under the ring name of Giant Singh for New Japan Pro Wrestling in the early 2000s. It wasn’t just a one-off match, either — he was a member of TEAM2000, a major heel group formed as an offshoot of nWo Japan, so there are a bunch of matches where he tags with Giant Silva in matches with big NJPW names like Masahiro Chono, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, and Jushin Thunder Liger, and even a very young Hiroshi Tanahashi.
It’s surreal, but fans who check out Khali’s work here will be shocked at just how agile the big man used to be.
8The Punjabi Prison
You know a wrestler is set up for great things if he’s got a signature match in his repertoire. In 2006, Great Khali was pushed as a scary monster heel, squashing all kinds of expendable wrestlers before feuding with The Undertaker.
The storyline was meant to culminate in Khali’s version of Hell in a Cell, the Punjabi Prison match, at Great American Bash 2006, but Khali was among that slew of wrestlers who wasn’t medically cleared that weekend due to “elevated liver enzymes.” As a result, Khali had to be replaced with The Big Show in the first ever Punjabi Prison match. To date, Khali has only competed in one instance of his own signature match.
7Undefeated Streak Ending After Four Months
Monster heels need to be presented as credible threats, and thus need to be booked to look strong. Usually this means DQ and countout finishes that keep the monsters from actually being defeated in a match, but Khali’s streak lasted all of four months before Undertaker put him away in a Last Man Standing match on an episode of SmackDown rather than any pay-per-view.
After losing, Khali would make like an old territory wrestler and move on to a different brand, first debuting in ECW before being drafted to Raw.
6Losing The Title In A Triple Threat
In 2007, Khali won the World Heavyweight Title in a battle royal, kicking off a two-month reign as champion, during which he was able to defend the gold against Batista a couple of times until Unforgiven 2007, where he lost the title in a triple threat involving Rey Mysterio.
Most fans would assume that Mysterio would take the pin in order to get the title off Khali to keep the seemingly stronger competitor from actually losing, but hilariously, Khali was the one who took the loss.
5Never Winning A Punjabi Prison Match
Losing the title led to Khali going for his nuclear option: a rematch in the Punjabi Prison at No Mercy. Khali’s first outing in his signature match — which involves two bamboo cages and four escape doors that permanently close within a certain time limit — didn’t go well, as all doors ended up closing.
This meant climbing to escape the prison, and the more athletic Batista managed to climb the inside cage and leap over to the second. Poor Khali never stood a chance.
4Extended Feud With Hornswoggle & Finlay
In November of 2007, Vince McMahon booked his (kayfabe) illegitimate son Hornswoggle into a match with Great Khali in order to toughen him up, leading to an ongoing storyline where Fit Finlay would rush in to rescue Hornswoggle.
This feud ended up lasting all the way to January 2008 as Finlay would defend his little friend from his large enemy, with their final match involving Finlay defeating the big man in five minutes on SmackDown. Ultimately, this would beg the question: how was WWE able to extend the feud that long?
3The Face Turn
WWE loves to subvert monster heels by turning them into goofball babyfaces, and Great Khali was no different. The year 2008 saw Khali suddenly stop trying to murder Hornswoggle and instead become “the Punjabi Playboy,” a dancing ladies’ man character, which is the usual go-to for WWE comedy gimmicks.
Complete with his own “Kiss Cam” gimmick where WWE would chose an attractive woman from the crowd to give him a smooch, this Great Khali would start romancing Natalya and form a loosely connected stable of misfits with Santino and, for some reason, Hornswoggle.
2The Jinder Mahal Storyline
Future WWE Champion Jinder Mahal arrived from developmental in 2011 as Khali’s brother-in-law, who commanded the big man to do his bidding or risk a divorce that would put Khali’s sister on the street. Great Khali would follow Mahal’s orders at first, but eventually he got fed up and turned on him.
It’s unknown if Mahal’s kayfabe ultimatum played out, but Khali beat his brother-in-law in a match only to get immediately (kayfabe) injured by Mark Henry the following week, so the storyline went nowhere from there.
1His 2017 Return
There have only been three Punjabi Prison matches, most recently when Jinder Mahal defended the WWE Title against Randy Orton at Battleground in 2017. Despite Khali being away from the company for a few years, the big man made a surprise appearance to interfere on his old buddy Mahal’s behalf.
This random appearance had zero storyline implications as it relates to Khali, who didn’t appear again until that all-hands-on-deck Greatest Royal Rumble match the following year. None of it led anywhere.