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With focus on India, WWE targets more recruits from the country

In the last three years, the World Wrestling Entertainment has pulled out all the stops in making India a focus

other sports Updated: Apr 08, 2018 16:11 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
Hindustan Times, New Orleans
WWE,World Wrestling Entertainment,Rinku Singh Rajput
The Great Khali (L) was the most prominent Indian to be part of the WWE.(Getty Images)

When Bret Hart & Co. came to Bangalore way back in 1996 for the first-ever World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) show in India, more than 30,000 people turned up for that event. That fact alone is testament to the popularity of the discipline among Indian fans and not much has changed since then.

In the last three years, the WWE has also pulled out all the stops in making India a focus. From increasing their representation in tryouts to hosting high-profile house shows on consecutive years, the company has been treating the Indian market as one of their top priorities at the moment.

The biggest problem for the WWE when it comes to India has been the lack of a marquee name which resonates with the audience. There has been a dearth of Indian representation in the WWE since the departure of The Great Khali and they have failed to find a suitable replacement till now.

As a result, it comes as no surprise that the company has recruited as many as four new Indian talents in the past one year. The latest two additions to the performance centre – Rinku Singh Rajput and Saurav Gurjar – are both popular names in their respective sectors. Rinku had won the ‘million dollar arm’ competition in 2008 and went on to play for the Major League Baseball (MLB) side Pittsburg Pirates while Saurav was a popular TV personality thanks to his roles in several mainstream shows.

READ | Familiar faces and localised content: WWE’s formula to capture the Indian market

On the other hand, Kavita Devi became the first Indian wrestler to sign with the company after she impressed the authorities with her performance in the Mae Young Classic. The latest signing came in February this year when the WWE recruited former Impact Wrestling star Mahabali Shera.

However, if WWE Chief Brand Officer (CBO) Stephanie McMahon is to be believed, the company will continue to look for talent in India to bolster its already impressive NXT roster.

“In terms of Indian talent, we will continue to recruit. There is Kavita Devi, we have Lovepreet and some of the other talents in NXT and we are continuing to recruit and we look forward to seeing more Indian stars in WWE programming,” she said in a media conference call ahead of Wrestlemania 34.

Head scout William Regal echoed similar sentiments when this correspondent talked to him last year on the sidelines of the Dubai tryouts which featured a number of Indian contestants from different paths of life. “India is filled with sportspersons and we get a lot of talented individuals specifically from the northern part of the country. So, in the next couple of years, we will be visiting remote parts of the region in a bid to find individuals who can make it big in professional wrestling,” he said.

Thus, it is quite clear that the WWE is trying its level best to increase its presence in the Indian market and the fans can expect a number of new recruits from the country in the near future.

First Published: Apr 08, 2018 12:58 IST