The Great Khali was one of the biggest wrestler’s in WWE history and left a lasting legacy in the company.
The Great Khali’s WWE career had some of the best moments in wrestling history The Punjabi Nightmare has a career few can rival, dominating superstars like John Cena and the Undertaker since his debut, he was one of the most terrifying wrestlers on the planet.
Seen as a subject of mockery toward the end of career due to his immobility due to his immense size, his lack of knees and general lack of ability in the wrestling ring (Also holding the belt the wrong way up when he did win the World Heavyweight Championship).
The Great Khali was a constant presence on WWE television for nearly 10 years, going from terrifying children as he squeezed blood from the tiny, masked head of Rey Mysterio, to dancing with Natalya and hosting the Khali Kiss Cam as the Punjabi Playboy.
Many could argue that “All his matches were terrible” and “Everything he did was awful and I actively skipped his segments” and they would be quite justified in saying that. He was not good in the ring.
And now the Great Khali has been inducted in the WWE Hall of fame for services to India.
Khali made his debut, as the first Indian ever signed to a WWE contract, on the 7th of April 2006, on the Smackdown following Wrestlemania 22. He had been in development, under his real name, for around a year prior, and no-one watching Smackdown that evening could of expected what they would see next.
The Undertaker was facing Mark Henry, managed by Diavari, in a rematch from their Wrestlemania 22 Casket Match, which of course based on the logic of a “Streak” The Undertaker won.
In the rematch the Undertaker had the upper hand, and looked to beat Henry and put him down once and for all, before moving onto a different feud. The match was barely 2 minutes old before a giant, menacing figure made it’s way down the runway with tall, laboured strides.
The man stood over 7 feet tall, towering over The Undertaker, himself nearly 7 feet in height. They locked eyes in the ring and stared each other down, Khali looking down with a maniacal look in his eye.
Khali vs Undertaker
The Undertaker took the initiative in attacking the giant Indian first. He threw a trademark fits (FROM THE BEST STRIKER IN THE WWE) which barely moved Khali. Khali brushed off the attack with a giant chop of his own, from his 1 Foot 9 inch hands.
The Phenom went down, and was dragged back to his feet by the throat. Then, the Punjabi nightmare ripped the turnbuckle apart with one hand, exposing the solid steed that held the ring together.
He thrust the Undertaker head first into the turnbuckle, before following up with a series of headbutts and giant big boot into the head of the Deadman. He posed with Diavari after the match, after a immense show of strength and domination of the Undertaker that had never been so before. To manhandle the Deadman to the extent that he did showed that we were witness the birth of a monster, maybe the most dominant monster in the entire history of the WWE
The Humungous East Asian would go on to have matches with various wrestlers in the coming weeks, squashing Funaki, in his pre Kung-Fu days, and even facing off in a non-title bout with the then World Heavyweight Champion, Rey Mysterio. The size disparity between the two was frankly laughable, Rey Mysterio barely coming up to the Great Khali’s knees, but the plucky underdog, as JBL kept shouting on commentary, tried his best and gave us all.
The Great Khali
Unfortunately, his all made no mark on Khali at all. The only offence Mysterio managed to get in was a dropkick, which Khali took in the chest and didn’t even wince.
He didn’t move an inch, and follow it up by holding Rey up by his throat for nearly 30 seconds, before hitting the devastating Khali Bomb.
This made Khali look like even more of a monster, and also helped derail Mysterio’s World title run, making his lose matches every week to the likes of Mark Henry and Great Khali, and made his run as champ look more like a fluke than Mysterio finally reaching his potential.
To add insult to injury, Khali pinned the diminutive Mexican by placing his boot on the face of the masked wrestler,
Mysterio would face Khali later on, with an ending image that has been burned into my mind since that very Sunday morning in which I saw it, but that will come up later on.
The Great Khali had a number of matches against the Undertaker, including his first loss every being on Smackdown in a last man standing match.
However, the greatest legacy the Great Khali left was a match he didn’t even compete in. Khali defeated Undertaker at Judgement Day, and subsequently challenged him to a match at the Great American Bash.
Punjabi Prison match
The Punjabi Prison match was no ordinary match. It was a match of his design, based off of cages built in his native land of the Punjab, made entirely from Bamboo.
The match has 3 cages surrounding the ring, and you have to climb all three and have both feet touch the floor before being declared the victor. It is a brutal stipulation clearly suited for for someone of Khali’s size, to keep their prey locked in to be decimated.
However, prior to The Great American Bash, the Great Khali succumbed to an injury and could not compete in the match. Luckily, fellow tall man The Big Show took his place in the match, losing to the Undertaker in a match that really didn’t need to take place.
Fortunately, The Great Khali would make an appearance in this match type, losing to Batista a year later in the Punjabi Prison, while also helping fellow Indian and WWE Champion Jinder Mahal defeat Randy Orton in the matches revival in 2017.
Feud with John Cena
The Great Khali’s most interesting feud and best matches in the ring came against the WWE Champion, John Cena. Khali had an interesting time moving from his feud with the Undertaker to his feud with John Cena.
After his loss to The Undertaker in a Last Man Standing match, he was traded to ECW, where he enjoyed a short stay from October 31st all the way until the new year, squashing jobbers each week and entering a small feud with Tommy Dreamer, by proxy with his manager Daivari.
On the 8th of January edition of Monday Night Raw, John Cena opened the show talking about his match the night before, when he ended the undefeated streak of the Samoan Bulldozer, Umaga, at New Years Revolution (Who is yet to join The Great Khali in the hall of fame).
Cena talks about beating Umaga, and got quite arrogant and offered Umaga a rematch that very same night, despite talking about how Umaga “Kicked his ass” the night before.
To be fair, the matches Cena had with Umaga were great and definitely worth the watch, especially their bout from the Royal Rumble in 2007.
After entertaining the crowd, a man with a theme song that’s way too good for him, Jonathan Coachman interrupts the Champ. He says he is giving Umaga the night off. Cena tells Umaga to not follow him into the shower in a very strange exchange.
Coachman goes on to say how it’s a new year, so new superstars can be signed to different brands. He tells Cena he will be in action against Raw’s newest superstar in a non-title bout, The Great Khali!
He slowly, oh so slowly, makes his way down to the ring, completely towering over the Champ, who looks stunned at the mere sight of Khali. The pair stare down, but to Cena’s credit does not back down to the Punjabi Nightmare. Khali is first to baulk, warning Cena he’s coming for his belt as he backs away.
In the main event of Raw that night, Khali faces off with John Cena, with Umaga’s manager, ARMMMANNDDOOOO ALLEEEJJJANDDDDRRROOO ESSSSSSSSSTRADA!!!! on commentary, furthering Cena’s feud with Umaga.
Khali dominates, brushing off Cena’s punches and hitting him with a disgusting clothesline that slams Cena to the floor, bouncing him off the mat. Cena goes for a body slam but he can’t lift the giant of a man and his back gives way.
The match is thrown out within 2 minutes after Estrada tries to attack Cena with a chair, and Khali carries on the demolition of the Champ with a giant chop and a brutal Khali bomb, before he stands over Cena and poses. Umaga then attacks Cena to build up to their Royal Rumble 2007 match.
Khali’s feud with Cena was put on hold at that point, going back to beating Jobbers before engaging in a rivalry with Smackdown’s Kane. He cost Kane a shot at being in the Money in the Bank ladder match, and the pair faced off with each other at Wrestlemania 23.
Khali won in the sub par match with a Khali Bomb, which luckily lasted only minutes, and was basically just a way to get Kane on the show to promote his new movie, See No Evil. Despite being two hall of fame wrestlers, Kane vs the Great Khali was terrible.
He reignited his feud with Cena after Wrestlemania. Khali defeated Shawn Michaels on the May 7th edition of Raw to become the number one contender for Cena’s WWE Championship, which he had just defended against Michaels at Wrestlemania.
Khali lost in controversial circumstances at Judgement Day 2007, tapping out to Cena’s STFU. However, the referee failed to notice Khali’s foot was underneath the rope, due to his ridiculous length, and that the hold should have been broken.
Rajin Singh, Khali’s new manager, made this clear on Raw and demanded a rematch which Cena obliged. Khali defeated Cena by pinfall on Saturday Nights Main Event in non-title bout leading up to their rematch, a Falls Count Anywhere match at One Night Stand.
One Night Stand 2007
Khali’s crowning glory in the ring was the match against Cena at One Night Stand in 2007. The match began with Khali dominating. Cena attempted to duck and move, using his quickness to beat the big man, but Khali blocked the kick, and knocked Cena down with ease. Khali took control of the match, using chops, elbows and clotheslines to keep the Champ down.
He dominated for a few minutes before his first slip up, a missed leg drop, gave Cena the chance to get back into the match. The 450lbs of The Great Khali crashing to the mat causes the giant great pain, and Cena pounces on the opportunity with a jumping neck breaker which crashes Khali’s head into the floor. Cena looked in control, but a well placed chop to the face knocked Cena off the top rope and onto the floor. He followed up by smashing Cena’s face into the commentaters monitors, smashing them, and throwing him over the barricade into the crowd.
Cena was bumping like a madman in this, Khali throwing him into all numbers of television equipment. Cena worked his arse off to make this match great, and did really show why he was champion around this time. He attempted an FU onto the concrete floor, but like previous matches, he was unable to lift the Indian Giant. He threw a monitor at Khali’s head, which didn’t even know the giant down. Cena is wondering at this point, what can I do to win this brappledough?
The pair are in amongst the fans at this point, and due to the stipulation of the falls count anywhere match, the pinfall can occur anywhere within the arena. Khali is throwing Cena around the building, with punches, chops and well placed throws into camera equipment his main battle strategy.
However, a mistimed lunge into a giant box gives Cena some respite, and uses this time to grab a Camera on a crane and throw it Khali, knocking the giant down for the first time in this match. He goes for the pinfall but Khali throws the Champ off of him on the 2 count. Another failed FU by the Champ, who gets Khali up on his shoulders but Khali fights off, and Cena collapses from the immense weight.
For some strange reason there is a giant crane on the stage, which may become extremely relevant in this match (See Chekhov’s Gun). Khali flings Cena onto the base of the crane, with a shattering thud, and put Khali back in control.
However, Cena rakes Khali in the eyes, as the Hulkster would do in every match, and lifts him up on his shoulders one final time. This image on Cena, the giant thrust upon his shoulders, is one that I remember so vividly as a child, and one reason why the Great Khali remains in the Hall of Fame. Cena then finally performs the FU, throwing Khali off of the stage and out of site of the crowd. Cena crawls down onto the floor out of site, pins the Giant and gets the three count, retaining his WWE Championship and becoming the first man to pin the Great Khali.
In what was a great match with great selling by Cena, and an aura of terrifying menace by the Punjabi Nightmare, the duo combined incredibly to bring what many thought to be a boring Khali match into one of the best of both men’s careers. It showed great psychology, Cena trying all he can to defeat the undefeatable and finally overcoming the odds thanks to a big Crane.
*** for me, a great match to rewatch every now and then but not a classic.
World Heavyweight Champion…No, Really
Later, Khali moved back to Smackdown and the unthinkable happened. He became, and you are reading this correctly, the World Heavyweight Champion.
Edge was the World Heavyweight Champion when Khali was drafted to Smackdown in June, as the Blue Brand’s first draft pick overall, and immediately started in a feud with the former World Heavyweight Champion, Batista.
However, Edge unfortunately had to relinquish the title due to injury, and the Championship was held in abeyance (God, remember when they kept saying that?) until a new Champion could be crowned.
In stepped the size 14000 boot of the Humungous Khali. A Battle Royal was held on Smackdown following the vacancy, where 20 Smackdown superstars faced off in an over the top rope match to decide who would be crowned the new World Champion.
There were some huge, former World Championship names vying for the Championship, such as the Animal Batista, The Big Red Machine Kane, The Big Show and even former ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero (My money is on Chavito).
After a grueling bout, it came down to three men – Kane, Batista and The Great Khali. In the end, the former pair tussled on the ropes, leaving the always opportunistic and sneaky 7 foot tall Indian man to push them out, winning the World Title for the first time in his career.
The match itself is one of WWE’s most viewed matches on youtube, with a total of 137 million people watching the Punjabi Nightmare claim his rightful place at the top of WWE’s Smackdown division, and to rule over all that come across him.
Khali’s reign, if you could say anything, was at least dominant. And the Big Gold belt look fitting when held, albeit upside down, by such an awesome, imposing superstar.
The Punjabi Nightmare dominated both Kane and Batista at the Great American Bash to retain the championship, before starting a feud in which the biggest mismatch between wrestlers occurred – The Great Khali vs Rey Mysterio.
Rey Mysterio became number one contender for the World Heavyweight Champion on Sept. 7, 2007. He defeated Chavo Guerrero to become first in line to face Khali, and Khali put him in his place as soon as he could.
Mysterio’s diminutive stature, standing at around 5 foot 5 according to WWE, compared to Khali’s 7ft 3 was absolutely laughable. It looked like he was wrestling a child.
At this time, Khali had begun trying out a new finisher – The “Khali Vice Grip”. Khali’s hands were so huge, he could engulf a man’s head with them with ease.
Using this special talent of his, he would do just that, and squeeze the life out of any opponents he faced. And none were more gruesome and memorable than the tiny, poppable head of the masked Lucha Legend, Rey Mysterio.
After Rey defeated Chavo in an I Quit match, the same match type that forced Rey out of action against Chavo a year prior, Khali hit the ring, attacking Rey.
Then he applied the Vice Grip, enveloping Rey’s head with his hands, blocking out all lights and shrouding him in darkness. Rey flailed and battled but he could not escape out of the hold, and Khali’s squeeze became so intense that blood began to spirt out of Mysterio’s mouth.
Blood poured down his body, but Khali did not release the hold until Mysterio’s friend Batista entered the fray and saved the superstar. The image alone is enough to put Khali in the hall of fame.
Batista would win the World Heavyweight Championship off Khali in a triple threat match featuring Mysterio at Unforgiven that month, ending his reign at 61 days, but the image of Khali crushing Mysterio’s skull like a baseball bat to a pumpkin at Halloween will live on forever.
The Great Khali’s run at the top really ended there. He faced Batista in a rematch for the title inside the Punjabi Prison match, which the Animal won. In hindsight, asking a man his size to climb up and down some bamboo was not a good decision, and especially stupid considering he invented the match type.
He went on to challenge Triple H for the WWE Championship at Summerslam the next year, losing to The Game’s pedigree in a poor match and costing him another chance at holding the WWE Championship, the bigges title in the company. This was the closest the big man would come to tasting gold again, not winning any more Championships in his career and not doing anything of note beside the infamous “Khali Kiss Cam”.
The Khali Kiss Cam was really stupid and pointless, but they were paying him a lot of money so he did what he was told. Khali, now a face dubbed “The Punjabi Playboy” came out and watched people in the crowd kiss. It wasn’t quite as voyeuristic as it sounds but I refuse to change it. It was pointless and never lead to anything yet I still remember it vividly to this day.
He never really had a proper feud and never did anything of note, and thus ends this section of the Great Khali’s career.
Also that time he sang a Christmas song (Watch it, it’s incredible). This is why the Great Khali is in the hall of fame.
Khali was a polarising figure: Ok that’s a lie, everyone agrees he was terrible.
He may not have the portfolio of work other wrestlers in the Hall of Fame may have, but few have been as memorable as The Great Khali from India. He won over the hearts and minds of the WWE universe by crushing them between his giant fists. That is what the Great Khali in in the Hall of Fame.
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