Where were you fellow wrestling fan when The Great Khali first strode into your lives?
In front of the TV eating dinner with your moms, dads, uncles, grand-uncles, second cousins, nephews, sons, first cousin/wife? Was it while waving your pitchfork along with the other friendly yokels while watching Smackdown live at a truckstop?
Or, for the younger amongst us, was it at the cinema watching another critically accalimed Adam Sandler movie?
I know I will always remember where I was—in a hospital fighting for my life against what the doctors had told me was a terminal condition—terminal cancer.
For those long hard months as I lay there unable to speak, move and only with the use of my left eyelid for comunication I was beginning rapidly to lose hope. Days turned to nights, light turned to darkness and I could see nothing waiting for me at the end of the tunnel.
During this nadir, my only comfort was watching the rise of a wrestler I gradually came to know as "The Great Khali" to the top of the wrestling world in black and white on a small TV beside by bed every week.
The Great Khali was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Standing 7' and weighing 420 pounds, Khali was a giant amongst ordinary men. His strength was indescribable. His awesome "Vise Grip of the 7 Virgins" hold reduced other wrestlers to their knees and his "Bearhug of Brutally Boring Doom" allowed him to shake grown men around like rag dolls.
Khali was a technically accomplished wrestler in so many ways and his power was frightening. I have read somehwere that he has been given the title of Mr. India an unprecedented 37 times since birth which in a country with over 550 million men inhabiting it is an amazing feat.
But what impressed me the most was that inner strength, seen in his eyes.
Despite the sorcery of the evil wizard The Undertaker and the brutal size and weight disadvantage he had against the bully reigning champion Rey Mysterio Jr., Khali kept coming back and refused to give up. This reminded me of my own situation at the time where the odds always seemed against me.
His strength gave me my strength. And when The Great Khali finally lifted the Super Smackdown Coca-Cola Lite World Supership Heavyweight Title in July 2007 the doctors told me something that at the time they called a miracle—my cancer had disappeared overnight. The same night Khali had won a 120-man battle royal on Smackdown.
For me it was not a miracle, it was the Great Khali.
I have never felt anything for previous wrestlers, luminaries of the wrestling world or previous great champions like David Arquette or Vince Russo over the years. It was during my stay in hospital that the emotional impact and healing power of wrestling had been revealed to me and the symbol of this was Khali.
The Great Khali has become the most inspirational figure in wrestling ever for millions like me all over the world.
In his home country, India, he is afforded greater prestige than Gandhi, Krishna and Daisy the Cow—combined. In fact it is said amongst Indians that "he who walks the path of the Great Khali is great beyond his wildest dreams."
To this day I have walked the path of the Khali.
But who is Khali the man, not the demigod we are so aquainted with seeing in the ring crushing his opponents with his bare fingers? I travelled to his birthplace in India near the mountainous border with Tibet to find out more and speak with his father.
His father is not the father of a demigod you would suspect. Walking with a stick and haggardly looking it seems clear to me that that something was amiss.
Khali was an only child; becuase his mother had died giving birth to him.
Khali was a large baby. 5'5" and 240 pounds at birth. "When Khali was but a young child I remember turning around from my workbench [Khali's father is a carpenter] and seeing many dead snakes near his crib. I realized Khali had strangled with his bare hands, the snakes who are notorious in this region for attacking toddlers."
As we talked the sheer coldness of the region began to assert itself so that even my John Cena "say no to education" hoodie was no longer enough to stop me from shivering: "Khali always walked around bare-chested, he never feared the snow, the rain; mother nature really."
Mother nature indeed. Apparently on a hunting trip deep into the mountains both young Khali and father were suddenly stopped by "a bear."
Only it was much larger than a bear as my host is quick to recall: "This bear did not walk on its hands like an animal, it stood like you and me but it was huge, all white and it had a face, not quite bear but not quite human."
"I was scared but when I looked to Khali imploring him to step back he was mesmerized, I really think he saw something of himself in that creature that day, we never saw it again"
My suspicions had been raised. It now seemed fit to ask him something that had been bothering me before I left: "Are you Khali's real father?" To which he answered: "No, I am not, but I loved my wife all the same and when I realised she was pregnant after I had found her lying down, clothes tattered in those mountains one morning I had no choice but to accept this gift into my life."
And a gift it has also proven to me and millions of other wrestling fans around the world.
Today Khali's world title reign is seen as a landmark period in WWE history. For the first time in wrestling history a man with no passable ability to speak English has become world champion and at 7'1" and 420 pounds. Khali is seen as perhaps the strongest champion in WWE history. Even stronger than Superman was.
PPV buyrates, gate receipts and TV ratings have been on a steep decline since. Many are now calling for the Great Khali to reclaim the title he had been cheated out of by that non-charismatic walking block of wood, Batista.
But if they're is anything I have learned from him it is to be patient, as I was in my hospital bed and as he was during his rise to the top of the wrestling world.
With the introuction of the "Khali Kiss Cam," Khali finally succumbed to his many, many female admirers requests to let them show their affection towards him by kissing him in the ring. Each week they show how much he has meant to their lives in front of the world.
And I wait my turn, with patience.
You too can join the offical Great Khali Fan Club here where information, biographical notes, pictures, wallpapers and tour dates/promotional appearences can be found!!