Mark For War: The Great, Old School Trendkiller
This past week, The Great Khali, after eight years with the WWE, was released.
Let’s call a spade a spade: Khali may seriously be the worst wrestler of the modern era to have any type of longevity in the WWE. Hell, the WWE has released dudes who are borderline trailblazers just because they couldn’t find a story line for them and didn’t want to keep paying them to ride the bench. But since his debut in 2006, Khali has had a consistent presence, no matter how good or bad, in WWE.
About five years ago, I was in a comic book shop in Lansing, Michigan while on tour. I overheard a conversation between some kids playing Magic: The Gathering. They were talking about how much of a “joke” The Great Khali was. I didn’t weigh in, but I remember getting extremely sad hearing these kids rip Khali behind his back.
The following morning, on our way to our next gig, I recalled the conversation I overheard. I racked my brains for a minute to find the proper angle to defend Khali from these evil kids (if I were able to go back in time). Then it dawned on me, and Khali’s presence was forever validated in my eyes.
Khali was, all things considered, the last of the “Old School.”
Back in the 80s, having a “look” was everything. In-ring skills were put on the back burner for a great look. This would obviously explain Hogan, Warrior, and Andre owning the 80s. I’m not discounting these individuals as legends, because they are legends, in every sense of the word. I am, however, saying that those days of a Superstar existing solely on his “look” died with the release of Khali this week.
In appropriate fashion, Khali was brought in on a recycled angle from the early 90s. Remember Giant Gonzalez? He debuted at the Royal Rumble in ’93. He was brought in by manager Harvey Wippleman to take out the Undertaker, a man who ran through his whole stable in the months leading up to Gonzalez debuting. Of course, Gonzalez destroyed ‘Taker, until ‘Taker eventually conquered him. Fast forward ten-plus years. A manager by the name of Dalvari throws a bunch of dudes at the ‘Taker, who’ Taker promptly runs through in all his glory. Enter The Great Khali on Smackdown (April 7, 2006):
‘Taker was always great at carrying giants and weirdos whose skills were questionable. The problem is, once he’s done with them, they are unlikely to be able to work with anyone else and still enjoy the level of success that they did with him. This was totally the case with Khali. His career was literally downhill after the first two years, when his Undertaker feud had dissolved.
He did have many great moments and things to hang his hat on along the way, though. First off, and most importantly, Khali is the first ever Indian-born wrestler to be signed to WWE. No one can ever take that away from him, and shouldn’t try to. It’s wrestlers like Khali, just as much as his foreign predecessors Davey Boy Smith, Taka Misinoku, and Rey Mysterio have helped turn WWE in to a global phenomenon.
It’s also worth noting that Khali had his own gimmick match. Just as the Undertaker had his casket match, Khali had his Punjabi Prison match. Said match was basically a Hell in a Cell match where the cell was made from bamboo sticks instead of steel. Take that as you will. And yes, Khali did get his hands on a major WWE Championship during his run. In 2007 Khali won the (then vacant) World Heavyweight Championship via a battle royal on Smackdown. This was obviously an appropriate way for Khali to win the strap. (You can probably guess that, in many circles, Khali is indeed seen as the third worst World Heavy Weight Champion ever, behind David Arquette and Vince Russo.)
Then, as they all do once they lose steam, Khali became a comedic character for the kids, soley based around achieving a cheap pop. There’s some validity in this. I liked seeing the Khali kiss cam, him tagging with Santino, and dating Natalia. And who couldn’t love him anytime you’d see him and Hornswoggle in the same ring together?
So, he’s gone, and I think we can all agree that his career in the ring is over. I don’t see him showing up on TNA, or in the Indies (unless they’re the real Indies, in India). But again, he should be revered in his own little way. I think it’s important to realize that the WWE needs ditch diggers, too. Even though it’s moving this way, a federation with forty Daniel Bryans doesn’t work. Variety is a spice of life. Khali provided such spice… curry, if you will.
Match of the Week
I wanted badly to put a legit match Khali had in this week’s match of the week. Two came to mind: him squashing ‘Taker on a Smackdown close to his debut, or him vs. Kane at Wrestlemania 23. Sadly, I couldn’t resist posting this match instead: an unbelievable comedy of errors between Khali and Edge. It’s hard to describe, but the rules change halfway through the match and it becomes a two man battle royal, at which point Khali is either clueless of the change, or otherwise just doesn’t care. Khali proceeds to eliminate himself twice (the first one the ref ignores). Oh, Khali. God love ya.