BALTIMORE — Satnam Singh’s favorite wrestling move is the helicopter. He raises his opponent’s head with biceps larger than those of newborns, and uses thighs that are as thick as fire-hydrants to whirl them about and then throws them onto the mat like rag dolls.
He The move was described as an attempt to get ready for work the next night. “AEW: Dynamite,” The All Elite Wrestling television program is the flagship show. It’s a new competitor to World Wrestling Entertainment. On that evening, the audience At the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena, he would be there effortlessly withstand Samuel Ratsch does a high-heeled swan dive to his chest. Darby Allein, his name in wrestling, is more familiar with him.
“I feel happy,” Singh spoke in deep baritone while standing near the elevator which would take him backstage. After he had a shake of his fist, he declared: “I feel angry, like I’m going to kick someone.”
That’s a good thing, since it’s his job to get angry and kick people — or at least pretend to. His height of 7 feet 2 inches makes him an intimidating presence. He is a strong wrestler, and a challenge when shopping for shoes in his 20s or flying. His height has been his greatest asset throughout his entire life as he pursued one goal in his life: to get taller. to The N.B.A.
Singh joined A.E.W. before that. Singh, who was born in India, was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks into the N.B.A. last year. Sim Bhullar, an Indian immigrant, had become the first Indian player to be drafted into the N.B.A. in 2015 by the Dallas Mavericks. to Sign up with the N.B.A. team. Bhullar played in three games for the Sacramento Kings between 2014-15. But Singh’s drafting was a seminal moment for the league’s fledgling efforts to India. It was also a big moment for Singh, 27, the second of his family’s three children in Ballo Ke, a village in the Indian state of Punjab. Singh was suddenly gone. “so much weight on my shoulders,” He said that he did so because he was “the only one in the world” He was drafted in his native country.
Seven years later, that burden is gone — though not totally by choice. Singh had a dream of a life he wanted. to Represent his country in N.B.A. He You are welcome to grab rebounds like the 7-foot-1 star Shaquille O’Neal, one of his favorite players. But after Singh struggled to His basketball career ended when he failed a drug screening, which he stated was a mistake. He found an alternative path in his search. to Unlock a new world, a new goal and an unfinished quest to India was once again represented at the world stage.
“He did very well in basketball, and now he is doing well in wrestling,” Balbir Bhamara, his father. “By grace of God, he is making his name.”
‘Had so many eyes on me’
Singh was introduced by Bhamara to basketball as a young boy after a friend’s recommendation. Professionally, Singh goes by his middle initial. Bhamara, a farmer like Singh, is seven-foot tall. He We saw an opportunity to put his child’s height to good use in a way he hadn’t been able to do himself.
“He will do great and make me proud,” Bhamara, speaking through a Punjabi interpreter in Ballo Ke, recalled what he thought. In the family’s one-bedroom flat, a poster of Michael Jordan hangs on a bedroom wall. Bhamara claimed Singh placed it there because he was trying to learn how to play.
While Singh was growing-up, Indian basketball wasn’t nearly as well-known as football and cricket. He met an N.B.A. At the Ludhiana Basketball Academie in Punjab in 2010, an executive was there who realized that India has a mere 4.5million basketball players. Singh was a fan of the N.B.A. stars O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and had already become a minor celebrity in his own right. He was a teenager when he first appeared on the scene. compared to Yao MingLeo, the 7-foot-6 star of Houston Rockets from China.
“From the Day 1, I realized he was a man like God sent him specially to us,” Teja Singh Dhaliwal, the general secretary of the Punjab Basketball Association, said in a 2016 Netflix documentary about Singh’s life titled “One in a Billion.”
Troy Justice, the head of the N.B.A.’s international basketball development, was the executive who met Singh in 2010. They became very close and the N.B.A. The N.B.A. was intensifying its efforts to Expand in India by opening a Mumbai office in 2011, and establishing scouting and training programs. Two preseason matches were held in Mumbai by the league in 2019.
“My best friend there said, ‘Troy, do basketball and business like we do traffic in India,’” Justice. “‘We don’t have lines. You just kind of find an open space and keep moving forward until you reach your destination.’”
While the N.B.A. made inroads into India, Singh also found his way to power. Singh made it to India with the help of N.B.A. to The United States. He enrolled in IMG Academy at the age of 14 and was a star basketball player. It was far away from home, and it took a lot of effort. to learn English, Singh had a difficult time adjusting, said Sonny Gill, Singh’s childhood best friend.
But Singh’s size made him an intriguing N.B.A. prospect. He Declared for the draft 2015 and worked for many teams including the Rockets. Singh was in high school for five years — a result of the language barrier — and was thus eligible for the draft. He was called Akshay Kumar, the Bollywood superstar. “an inspiration.” He was slow and stiff, so some people considered him a long shot.
“He was very easy to rule out just from the workout, which is risky and teams have been burned,” said Daryl Morey, who was the Rockets’ general manager at the time and now works for the 76ers. “But he definitely did not look like he belonged on an N.B.A. floor.”
Many members of Singh’s village traveled to The local Gurdwara is a Sikh religious place. to Please pray for him to Be drafted. Singh said that his hands and feet were shaking on the night of the draft. Gill, now Singh’s manager, remembered watching his friend sweat and rub his hands together as each pick was announced at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The first round was completed. Most of the second went as well.
“All of India who knew,” Singh stated, “everyone had so many eyes on me.”
But at pick No. Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) decided 52 out of 60 to Give it a try.
“In four or five years, if he continues to progress as he has, he could be the face of basketball in India, easily,” Cuban claimed in “One in a Billion” Documentary about Singh. “I would expect that to happen. He’s got that much upside.”
Many players drafted that late never make the N.B.A., but Singh’s stardom at home reached new heights. Amitabh Chand, India’s greatest movie star. congratulated him on Twitter, saying, “India goes to NBA .. now time for NBA to come to India ..!!” Bachchan’s, son, Abhishek, also a well-known actor, offered to play Singh in a movie.
But Singh’s American basketball career fizzled. He I have never played in an N.B.A. game in the regular season, and rarely played for Dallas’s developmental team over two seasons. N.B.A. The N.B.A. was moving away slow, big men in favor of a more athletic style. Singh chose to opt. to play in Canada and for the Indian men’s national team as he tried to Make it right again to The N.B.A.
“He was heartbroken,” Gill said. “That’s all he talked about every day.”
‘You can open so many people’s dreams’
Singh started preparing in the latter part of 2019, for the South Asian Games He was a member of the Indian national soccer team. failed a drug test He was temporarily suspended indefinitely by India’s National Anti Doping Agency. Gill stated that Singh used an over-thecounter drug supplement and did not know it contained a prohibited substance. A year later, India’s antidoping agency barred Singh from competition for two yearsThis includes the year that he was provisionally suspended.
Singh refused to talk about the ban. to It is worth discussing.
“End of day, whatever happened happened,” Singh stated. “I don’t want those bad things in my life again, but end of day, I just want to tell everyone to be careful.”
He brought it up later. Singh claimed that Singh saw his time off as a freshly cracked door after receiving the ban. He Thought to himself, “You can open so many people’s dreams to come true.”
Singh had never been much of a wrestling fan, though he did enjoy Dwayne Johnson’s character, The Rock. The N.B.A. was trying to make professional wrestling more appealing. to cultivate a fan base in India, and Singh — a giant like the popular Indian-born wrestler Dalip Singh Rana, known as The Great Khali — looked like he could help.
In 2017, while Singh was with the Mavericks’ developmental team, W.W.E. invited him for a workout. He Although he had fun, he was still determined to try. to get to The N.B.A. In that year, W.W.E. made Yuvraj Singh Dhesi — known as Jinder Mahal — the first W.W.E. Champion of Indian descent. By 2021, with Singh’s basketball ambitions dulled, he was ready to Try wrestling.
Sukhwinder, his mother, was at first afraid.
“She saw wrestling matches on television and everyone keeps getting thrown out of the ring,” Singh stated. “My mom said, ‘I hope he isn’t hurt.’ I told Mom: ‘Don’t worry. Your son will be amazing.’”
Singh approached A.E.W. and Tony Khan, the founder of the company, saw an opportunity.
“There are very few wrestlers from India or Pakistan in my life,” Khan, 40, is of Pakistani descent, and was born to Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Wrestlers of brown-skinned descent are often portrayed as villains or terrorists or some terrible atrocity.”
He Singh might be something else. A month following A.E.W., Singh signed a September 2021 contract. In September 2021, a month after A.E.W. broadcasting deal with Eurosport IndiaThe company also announced it had signed Singh.
Paul Wight is an A.E.W. W.W.E. wrestler, best known for his W.W.E. Singh, a wrestler best known for his W.W.E. “A basketball player and a tennis player will adapt to wrestling footwork faster than most athletes,” Wight mentors Singh.
Q.T., Michael Cuellari. Marshall, known as Q.T., instructs Singh at the Nightmare Factory, his Atlanta-area school of wrestling. He He said that a lot of his work is “teaching him how not to injure somebody while looking like you’re trying to injure somebody.”
“Because he’s so big and he’s so strong, obviously he’s going to be very stiff right out of the gate,” Cuellari said.
‘Just be himself’
Wrestling isn’t just about big muscles and smashing opponents. The essence of wrestling is charisma, and the ability to connect with the crowd. This is all about blasting your opponent, grabbing audiences and delivering a roaring performance. to Roar, whether it’s for good or bad.
“It’s hard, right?” Cuellari said. “Because he’s got such a deep voice and such a different tone. And on top of that, like, English not being his first language. So we just try to make him feel as comfortable as possible and just be himself.”
Singh’s debut was made in April with the group of Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt. Singh was born in June. pulled off the helicopter Move in his first match. He He has used it sparingly while he trains. His boisterous personality has earned him the respect of his peers. to His new colleagues.
While there were some successful giants like Andre the Giant and The Undertaker, the majority of fans gravitated towards smaller characters like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Singh is facing the same problem in wrestling as he faced in basketball. Success in wrestling comes down to more about speed and athleticism than brawn.
“The track record of giants in professional wrestling as quality in-ring technicians is not long,” Retesh Bhalla plays Sonjay Dutt. Bhalla also works as an A.E.W. creative executive.
Khan, A.E.W. founder is optimistic about Singh. Singh is optimistic, according to Khan, A.E.W. “We’ve seen an increase in traffic when Satnam is involved in segments,” Khan said, adding, “A ton of our YouTube traffic comes from India, and he’s a driver.”
Singh claimed that he last picked up a basket in 2019 when he was being suspended. Singh stated that Bryant is no longer a basketball star and his picture on his cell phone’s case shows Bryant. He Is still available to mentor players in India, and he has coached at the N.B.A.’s Basketball Without Borders camps there.
“He is and was and still will be an inspiration,” Justice, N.B.A. executive.
Singh seems at peace with his new road — “I am so surprised, but I am so happy,” he said — more concerned with increasing his bench press max from 500 pounds than sharpening his jumpers. He Wants to Go into acting. One way or another, he’s once again aiming to Serve as a bridge in India’s behalf.