January 13, 2017

Is Satnam Singh going to become a WWE Wrestler? The hoops nation wants to know


Satnam Singh, the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA, a player for the D-League squad Texas Legends, and the star of the inspirational documentary "One in a Billion", now seems to have enough time in his hands (he has played less than four minutes total for the Legends in the D-League season) to try out another outlet that could magnify his size, strength, and international appeal: WWE Wrestling.

Last week, Satnam, who plays and lives in Frisco, Texas, traveled to Orlando, Florida for a special event with other international athletes at the WWE Performance Center. With the permission of the Legends, Satnam participated in a workout session at the facility, which was opened in 2013 and is home to WWE’s talent developmental system.

The story was covered in much greater detail on the Indian Express by Shahid Judge, a write-up that included WWE's statement: "Satnam Singh participated in the workouts alongside WWE recruits this week, taking their exploratory steps inside the squared circle. Satnam was at the WWE Performance Centre in Orlando for tryouts from January 3. He had a few pro athletes along with him and if selected, he’ll be offered a contract and he’ll become a Superstar of WWE."

Satnam was joined at the visit to the WWE in Orlando by “American Ninja Warrior” sensation Kacy Catanzaro, and New Orleans Saints linebacker Kasim Edebali.

Now, I don't have any particular qualms with the WWE; as a matter of fact, I've been a fan of fake professional wrestling (sorry, children, spoiler alert!) since I was kid, since it was called 'WWF', since the days of British Bulldog, Tatanka, and The Undertaker all the way through to the years of Stone Cold, The Rock, Chris Jericho, and the Dudley Boyz. I've been choke-slammed in "practice" by my elder brother and have tag-teamed with friends to '3D' unsuspecting classmates. I'm appreciative of its existence in the realm of 'sports entertainment', as long as we all know that its less competitive sport and more scripted entertainment.

But now, with the WWE lurking to potentially entice India's most-famous basketball name, I wonder if his basketball dreams are going to be sacrificed, if 'sports entertainment' will take the place of 'sports'.

Satnam's manager Sunny Gill, however, made it very clear to Judge in the Indian Express story that basketball remains the big man's top priority.

They (WWE) were very interested in him and invited him to check out their facility. They made him an offer, but we did not accept. Right now he’s pursuing his NBA dream and basketball is the main focus,” says Sunny Gill, Bhamara’s manager.
Bhamara though enthusiastically travelled to Orlando, as he holds the possibility of developing a professional wrestling career once he’s done with playing NBA-level basketball. “Satnam also wanted to see the setup there. It’s a good Plan B to have, once basketball ends for him,” Gill adds. “We told them that right now basketball is the focus, but that he can make a few appearances for them during the off-season. When it does not interfere with basketball.”
With the permission of the Texas Legends (his development league team) management, Bhamara participated in a workout session at the WWE’s facility. “His agent was with him, and that’s a high-level NBA agent. So there was nothing done that could jeopardize his basketball career,” Gill asserts.

With his playing time in the D-League limited, the WWE can definitely seem like an enticing, and maybe even a more lucrative option. The WWE is a more popular brand than the NBA with folks back home in India, too. But as long as he has the chance to make the most of his basketball talents, to become the first Indian to play in the NBA, to make history, I believe he should keep his hoops dreams as his main focus. Hopefully, nothing he does in the ring jeopardises his future on the court.

We've heard a part of this story before. A giant Singh from a poor Indian family goes to the USA and becomes a pro wrestler. That other Singh was Dalip Singh Rana, who became known as The Great Khali, who joined the WWE in 2006, won their World Heavyweight Title, and also appeared in various films and TV shows. Khali was a major marketing success for the WWE, and with a fervent fan following back in India, Satnam could be, too.

But for now, I am hoping against it. As great as it would be to see Satnam gain 'sports entertainment' popularity, I would much rather see him slamming a basketball on DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis than body-slamming AJ Styles and John Cena.

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