It is undeniable that India has become in recent years a major market for WWE. Whether through massive TV deals, YouTube viewership or strong social media engagement, the South Asian country with a huge population of 1.4 billion has become a substantial source of income. for the Stamford, Connecticut-based promotion.
While for much of the last decade The Great Khali was by far the main Indian star in WWE, things have seemed to change in recent memory. In 2020, WWE held tryouts in India from which a few wrestlers ended up signing development deals and transferred to the company’s performance center in Florida. The company reportedly plans to launch NXT India now that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are at the helm of the empire. With every WWE brand now having a star of Indian descent, let’s take a look at who are among the most influential and who unfortunately aren’t.
6/6 Guru Raaj
Guru Raaj, real name Laxmikant Rajpoot, was signed by WWE to a developmental deal in 2019 after taking part in the company’s trials. Raaj was trained by former world heavyweight champion The Great Khali and was assigned to the NXT brand after joining the promotion.
Even though Raaj has yet to become a featured character on NXT, he faced NXT Champion Finn Balor at the WWE Superstar Show in what was an incredible performance for his inaugural match in WWE. Raaj then began appearing on 205 Live, before the show was permanently cancelled. While the young high-flyer appears to be a bit green in the ring, his match against Balor definitely showed the untapped potential he has.
Saurav Gurjar signed with WWE in 2018. He made occasional appearances at NXT live events before debuting alongside Veer Mahan (then called Rinku) as “Indus Sher”, with Malcolm Bivens as than manager. However, after he mistakenly leaked the results of NXT Great American Bash in 2020, he was pulled from television while Rinku was called up to the main roster.
On the January 18, 2022 episode of NXT 2.0, Saurav, under the new ring name Sanga, was repackaged as Grayson Waller’s bodyguard. In his few squash matches, Sanga showed signs of improving his in-ring work to NXT fans. In 2022, Sanga also appeared in the Bollywood Sci-Fi film Brahmastra.
Shanky, real name Gurvinder Singh Malhotra, had made quite a name for himself as he played a leading supporting role in the 2019 Bollywood hit film ‘Bharat’, starring Salman Khan. Shanky was officially signed by WWE in 2020 and assigned to the NXT roster.
Rather than appear on NXT, Shanky was elevated to the main roster in 2021, where he replaced Saurav as Veer’s partner and became a henchman for Jinder Mahal on Raw. Later that year in the WWE Draft, Shanky and Mahal were moved to the Smackdown roster. Since then, Shanky has shown promising signs as a character, winning over audiences with a new dance-obsessed gimmick.
3/6 Veer Mahan
Veer Mahan, real name Rinku Singh, signed with WWE in 2018. After spending time on the NXT brand, he was brought to the main roster alongside Shanky as Jinder Mahal’s new henchman. . However, it was kept on Raw as a single in the 2021 draft.
In the coming months, WWE aired promotional material for the Indian star, which earned Veer a significant number of social media memes. However, WWE failed to use the star’s momentum and Veer was lost in the undercard as soon as he made his debut again. After being away from television for an extended period, Veer returned to NXT on the October 4, 2022, episode, teasing a reunion with Sanga. Veer has all the tools to be WWE’s next international star and can easily thrive under the new creative regime.
2/6 Jinder Mahal
Jinder Mahal is by far the most accomplished Indian legacy wrestler in WWE today. Jinder signed with WWE in 2010 as part of Florida Championship Wrestling, but after being on the main roster for 3 years, he was released in 2014. Jinder was later rehired by the company in 2016.
Mahal reached the high point of his career when he surprisingly defeated Randy Orton to win the WWE Championship at Backlash 2017. He held the title until November when he lost it to AJ Styles. . Even though Mahal showed some impactful character work during his reign, he failed to fully win over the fans as a lot of them just saw him winning the title as a way for WWE to attract the Indian public. Mahal, after losing the title, was immediately pushed back to the middle of the card, a major reason WWE didn’t sell out their shows in India and were forced to move to a smaller venue.
1/6 Mustafa Ali
Mustafa Ali being of Indian descent is an anecdote that many fans might not be aware of. While WWE has always built the top flight from Chicago and briefly from Pakistan as well, his roots are also Indian, he was born to an Indian mother. Ali even talked about it in a recent tweet.
Ali is one of the most underutilized wrestlers in all of WWE today. From his in-ring work to his promo skills, the former Retribution frontman has always been phenomenal. Things looked promising for Ali after he returned to the company after his release request was denied, but he was once again sent to mid-card. With Triple H now in charge, hopefully Ali gets a major boost considering he was one of Hunter’s favorite signings for 205 Live.