I cannot buy the Great Khali as a world champion, despite his status as a former champion. In fact, I cringe a little every time the Great Khali wrestles. The thought of him in an Elimination Chamber match (for the second time), enclosed in a structure where much could physically go wrong, makes me cringe even more. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed by more singles matches involving Great Khali than I have enjoyed.
And yet despite all that, there clearly is value in him as a
In the independents (and perhaps also in the WWE, though I cannot verify this because I have never been in a WWE locker room), there is a term called a "freak pop" – a crowd reaction caused mostly by the sheer shock of someone's appearance.
Andre the Giant made a career out of this notion. He was a man of phenomenal stature, eclipsing anyone in the ring with him. In his early days, he could pull off unbelievable athletic maneuvers, like delivering a drop kick. Throughout his career, and especially later on, simply the sight of him could wow a crowd. He truly was the "8thWonder of the World."
The Big Show is another example of this. The "World's Largest Athlete" is always the biggest guy in a room, and, member of the WWE Universe or not, will command attention and gazes from passers-by when he walks through airports, restaurants or anywhere else in public. When his music hits, especially in front of a new audience that hasn't seen WWE live before, the Big Show will receive an ovation based on shock alone. Other current WWE superstars, like Mark Henry, Mason Ryan and the Great Khali, fall under a similar category.
There is, however a big difference between the Big Show (and the others listed) and the Great Khali. While all may garner part of their reaction for similarly sized-based reasons, the difference is evident when the bell rings. When I see the Big Show in the ring, there's a decent chance that I will enjoy his match and I don't necessarily think that he will break down and get hurt. I'm not privy to Show's actual physical health status (assuming that every superstar has some naggin physical ailment that they battle through), but assume he's fit to perform by the fact that he looks agile in the ring for a man of his stature. I always believe that he is able to contribute to an entertaining match.
I cannot say the same for Khali. Even walking to the ring (and around the ring) seems to be a struggle for him. When the bell rings, every offensive move for him seems laborious and in the back of my mind I'm wondering if the next time he raises his leg for a big boot or even to climb over the ropes, he will injure himself in some way. It's often more uncomfortable to watch Khali than it was Andre the Giant in his last years in the ring. Would I believe and accept the Great Khali as a credible World Champion, given that he is a participant in the Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship in February? Absolutely not.
I say this knowing that Khali is a former World Heavyweight Champion, holding the gold for 61 days, and a history with WWE that includes main-event-level matches.
Looking at his pay-per-view history with WWE, Khali has had 12 singles matches at an average length of match of 7:29. If you take away the outliers (a No Mercy 2007 Punjabi Prison match with Batista lasting 14:47 and a match with Hornswoggle at Survivor Series 2007 lasting 3:16), the average falls to 7:13 – both small numbers for pay-per-view matches.
Aside from the reaction he will receive from the WWE Universe and casual witnesses for his stature, he is a national hero in
Thus, the paradox of the Great Khali.
One idea that comes to my mind is putting Khali in a tag team situation, mimicking such winning formulas in the past as former WWE tag champions the Colossal Connection (Haku and Andre the Giant) and Owen Hart/Yokozuna. Both teams had an imposing giant who couldn't necessary work extensively in the ring at the time, and a more agile superstar who took much of the workload in a match to also hide the big man's shortcomings. I am a big proponent of tag team competition and would welcome more tag teams in the WWE landscape, so a pairing of Khali with a workhorse would suit me just fine.
What doesn't suit me just fine is a human being suffering from simply walking to the ring, performing the most basic of wrestling maneuvers and getting back to his feet after a pinfall. There certainly could be superstars besides Khali who are suffering from nagging injuries, but with Khali, it seems more obvious.