Awhile back, former C3 manager Parmesh Shahani sent me a link to an interesting post about World Wrestling Entertainment professional wrestler The Great Khali. Khali, from India, was brought into the WWE because of his abnormal size and was put into the "monster" role that pro wrestling has long cultivated, the scary and intimidating behemoth that other wrestlers fear because of their brute strength.
Khali was put into a variety of big matches and even had a run as the heavyweight champion of Smackdown , but this was all complicated by the fact that--even though Khali was an attention-getter with his abnormal size--his size were a detriment in the athleticism of his wrestling performances. In fact, dedicated wrestling fans in the U.S. regularly dreaded his matches, because of the feeling that he had less wrestling ability than almost any other wrestler on the roster.
Many wrestling fans have long resented the fact that less talented performers are brought in and often given big "pushes" as marquee wrestlers because of the visual impressiveness of their size, especially when they take up main event spots that lead to lower-quality pay-per-view wrestling matches and cause more talented athletes to be positioned lower on the card. It's the tension between trying to create dynamics to attract less involved fans and satisfying the most dedicated ones.
But this post, from EditIndia, emphasizes that there are often multiple audiences watching products, especially for a bland as global as the WWE, which has found increasing success in pushing its franchise into media markets across the globe.
The blog says:
Tune into Star TV or Aajtak or anyother channel and the chances are quite strong that you would see a special report on The Great Khali alias Dalip Singh Rana. The Indian professional wrestler has suddenly become a rage in the country. And in the madness for grabbing eyeballs, the channels are competing with each other in showing his bouts and programmes on his life. People did watch WWF in the past but such craze is amazing.
Parmesh and I had an exchange about the post, and he wrote a follow-up post. Parmesh wrote:
Sam, a wrestling scholar, wrote to me that among WWE fans in the US, Khali is seen as an interesting spectacle, but thats it. It is interesting how he is adopted by Indian fans and cable TV stations, and how the narrative around him changes completely in this context. Of course, none of the English news media covers this in India. It's a Hindi thing - a jingoistic Chak De India kind of yes we showed them chest-thumping, but yet, such joy at the approval and prizes won from "them" - in this case, the WWE, which of course, stands in for the USA.
Parmesh goes on to link this to the Shilpa Shetty/Celebrity Big Brother UK incident, which I wrote about last year.
Parmesh's point regarding approval from a U.S. entertainment company is an interesting point, made even more so by the fact that Khali is a heel (villain) in the U.S. yet treated as a hero in much of this Hindi coverage.
See this interesting exchange from Yahoo! Answers India, where a fan of Khali's questions why longtime wrestling fans hate him, pointing out the performer's kindness and the "social service" he does in India, prompting responses most succinctly summed up by user Fatal8, who says "he sux an has no skill."
On the other hand, see this fan site, which declares Khali "The Father of Indian Professional Wrestling."
Fascinating to see how differently a performer can be viewed, depending on the international context and the narrative being constructed by different fan communities.