EXCLUSIVE: Kofi Kingston and Big E believe next Indian WWE superstar is on ‘cusp of coming out’ – As of today, Jinder Mahal is one Indian wrestler who is making waves in the WWE. In this exclusive interview, Tag Team champs Kofi Kingston and Big E reveal what WWE fans in India can expect in the near future.
WWE athletes Big E (L) and Kofi Kingston
Two-time WWE Tag Team Champions and hosts of Wrestlemania 33, Kofi Kingston and Big E, talk to Vishal Gajaria about WWE’s growing popularity in India during their visit to the country. Excerpts from this exclusive interview:
How has your visit to India been so far?
Kofi Kingston: We had a welcoming ceremony here (in India). That was very unique. I have never had that happen before in all the countries we have gone to. We came here last year in New Delhi, where we had a show. And one of the things I remember the most is how embracing the culture is. So, it really makes us feel we are a part of the family here. So, we really appreciate all that.
Big E: As Kofi said, it’s been phenomenal. Everyone has been so welcoming and warm. What I take away from here in Mumbai is how lovely everyone has been.
You guys met some Special Olympics Bharat athletes who won medals at the Special Olympic Winter Games in Austria recently. How was the experience?
Big E: It was phenomenal. Just to see the smiles on their faces. It was exciting for us to able to interact with them and they were awesome. So, just for us to give them a small token of gratitude and really to acknowledge their efforts and their success is something that’s very cool. So, WWE has partnered the Special Olympics across the world for quite some time now. And it’s an honour for us to be able to interact and say thank you.
Kofi: You really have a lot of respect for Special Olympic athletes. So, just like he said, for us to be able to just be in the presence and bring smiles to faces and take some pictures and see how excited they were to see us, is really humbling and an honour to have done that with them.
What is so appealing about WWE that despite there being no major wrestler from India currently, the game is so popular in the country?
Kofi: WWE, from an entertainment aspect, is awesome. It’s kind of like IPL meets Bollywood. Because IPL is competitive, it’s athletic, it’s very popular. And we do a lot of athletic things, we are sports entertainers and then that entertainment aspect with the Bollywood part comes in. We try to entertain. Everybody has a different character. There are actually a couple of Indian superstars with WWE right now, especially Jinder Mahal has made quite a transition to the Smackdown brand. He has come at full force, with the Singh brothers taking on guys like Randy Orton, who have been established in our industry for so long. It’s awesome to see. We actually had a try-out in Dubai a little while ago, and out of the 40 contestants that were there trying out, 10 of them came from India. So, that is a big statement. I feel like the next Indian WWE superstar is on the cusp of coming out in a major way. So, it’s really exciting to be a part of this.
Big E: I think evidence of WWE’s popularity in India is: now we have WWE shops (e-commerce) in India that just opened up. And the fact that you can now get the official merchandise and gear from WWE. So, that’s now available. We also have RAW and Smackdown live on Ten Sports and our largest Facebook fan base across the planet is in India. So, it’s exciting for us to realize how strong our fan base is in India. (Also) the fact that 10 of the talents out of the 40 at the Dubai try-outs were Indians. I think Canyon Ceman (senior director of talent development for WWE) is really heading up the department, looking for scouting talent and they are doing a great job and are really investing in India. And the evidence is the try-out in Dubai. So, there’s a clear investment from WWE’s perspective and also a clear investment from the WWE Universe here in India. So, I think it’s going to lead to further growth. It’s just going to continue to grow from there.
Would you guys like to share any future plans in India? What does WWE plan to do next here?
Kofi: Hopefully, we will be here soon. We talked about how big the fan base is; it’s probably only a matter of time before WWE comes back (to India). I can tell you that last year in New Delhi the crowd was amazing. So, we definitely have reasons to come back and like we said, the fan base is demanding it. So, you have to keep your eyes peeled and hopefully we will be here soon.
Big E: Kofi pretty much nailed it. There’s a big demand, so I think the people will speak and let their voices be heard. We are obviously excited to come back as soon as we can. But, the demand is very high, we have great fan base here in India, and I hope to be able to come back soon.