WWE has been able to carve a niche for itself in India amid competition for Cricket, IPL and other domestic leagues. Raw and Smackdown have been among the most watched sports shows with the live broadcast and repeats regularly featuring among in the Top 5 lists of sports genre shows in Indian television.
WWE is now seeking best commercial conversions for the sport’s popularity in India. Chief brand officer Stephanie McMohan has hinted that WWE will continue to look for talent in India to bolster its already impressive NXT roster.
William Regal, WWE’s Head Scout had reportedly expressed similar views. “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.”
Earlier, in January, WWE’s CFO George Barrios during a talk show had revealed that India is the top country when it comes WWE content consumption. The testimony is a proof of the popularity of the sport among Indian fans promoted by the six-decade old wrestling entertainment company.
In 1996, more than 30,000 fans had turned up in Bangalore for the first-ever World Wrestling Federation (WWE’s predecessor) show in India featuring former wrestling heartthrob Bret “The Hitman” Hart among others wrestlers. A lot has changed since then, including the exponential increase in fans and efforts to hold events in India on consecutive years.
In a bid to increase its presence in the Indian market and attract hindi-speaking community, WWE’s flagship programs RAW and SMACKDOWN are now aired in Hindi by Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN). WrestleMania 33 was the first WWE special event to air with live Hindi commentary. Since then, all WWE special events have aired with live Hindi commentary on WWE Network. Sony and WWE had launched WWE Sunday Dhamaal last June, a weekly show in Hindi featuring the best of Raw and SmackDown plus exclusive features and interviews to woo Indian viewers.
WWE, in the last few years, has increased the efforts to scout Indian talent to bring out the next “desi face” that resonates with WWE fans in India. The wrestling promotions company has since then increased the No. of Indian representation in tryouts and enhanced their search for the next Indian WWE star face from the remotest parts of the country.
There has been a dearth of Indian representation in WWE since the departure of The Great Khali. Only Jinder Mahal has been able to make a name for himself and connect with Indian fans post the Khali era. WWE, since then has been struggling to find a suitable replacement till now.
As a result, the company has recruited as many as four new Indian talents in the past one year. The latest two additions are Rinku Singh Rajput and Saurav Gurjar. 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 featuring in various mainstream shows.
Kavita Devi became the first Indian wrestler to sign with the company after she impressed the scouting managers with her performance in the Mae Young Classic. Amanpreet Singh aka ‘Mahabali Shera’ became the latest Indian recruit who was signed in February this year. The Punjab-born wrestler has enjoyed success inside the ring in India, United States and the United Kingdom.