Dalip Singh Rana immigrated to the US in 1999 and joined All Pro Wrestling (APW) boot camp as a trainee. Billed as Giant Singh, he made his wrestling debut on October 7, 2000, teaming up with Tony Jones in a match against ‘West Side Playaz’.
On May 28, 2001, Singh was training with Brian Ong. He performed a wrestling move called flapjack on Ong, and Ong, instead of pushing off Singh’s back as per the prior instruction, grabbed Singh’s shirt.
Ong landed on his coccyx or tailbone, violently whipping his head back against the mat. Coupled with the concussion he had suffered earlier that the APW trainers had underdiagnosed, the move resulted in Ong’s death. Ong’s family sued APW for liability and was rewarded $1.3 million for damages after a day of deliberation.
After moving to San Francisco, Rana was signed by WCW in 2001. His time there was cut short by Vince McMahon, the owner of WWE, buying out the promotion.
Rana used the Giant Singh gimmick in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) as well. Under the leadership of Masahiro Chono, he and Giant Silva formed ‘Club 7’, the tallest tag team in wrestling history. On October 8, 2001, they scored an easy victory over Yutaka Yoshie, Kenzo Suzuki, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Wataru Inoue in their debut match. The pair eventually split when Silva turned on Singh and defeated him in a singles match in August 2002.
In January 2006, he signed a developmental contract with the WWE and they sent him to the Georgia-based promotion, ‘Deep South Wrestling’ (DSW). Wrestling under his real name, Singh worked with Tommy Dreamer, ‘Slaughter Boys’, and Palmer Canon.
After much deliberation on what ring name to use, Singh and the WWE management finally settled on ‘The Great Khali’, inspired by the Hindu goddess Kali.
With Shawn Daivari serving as his manager, Khali debuted on the April 7 episode of ‘SmackDown’, interfering in a match between The Undertaker and Mark Henry. He caused a no contest ruling due to his interference. He also served in the ‘ECW’ brand briefly.
On May 21, 2006, Khali defeated The Undertaker comprehensively in his debut pay-per-view match at the ‘Judgment Day.’
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Over the next few years, he feuded with The Undertaker, John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Edge, Kane, and Randy Orton, to name a few and built up a menacing foreign-born heel persona for himself.
The year 2007 was arguably the most successful one of his career so far. He was drafted to the ‘Raw’ brand on June 11, 2007. He won the ‘WWE World Heavyweight Championship’ in a 20-person battle royal match, after eliminating Batista and Kane, the other two major contenders for the belt, together. He lost the belt to Batista on the September 16 ‘Unforgiven’ event in a triple threat match, which also involved Rey Mysterio.
From 2008 onwards, he took on the Punjabi Playboy persona. Along with his manager at the time, Ranjin Singh, he hosted the weekly ‘Khali Kiss Cam’, where they would call up some seemingly random woman from the crowd to kiss Khali.
In May 2011, the old menacing giant gimmick was back. He suffered a series of losses as his character was used to springboard the new, upcoming talents in WWE. He left the promotion when his contract expired on November 13, 2014.
Khali set up his own promotion and training academy, ‘Continental Wrestling Entertainment’ (CWE), in February 2015, in Jalandhar. They hosted their inaugural event on December 12, 2015.
He returned to WWE at the July 23, 2017 ‘SmackDown’ event ‘Battleground’ to assist the current WWE champion Jinder Mahal, who Khali had previously worked with, in a ‘Punjabi Prison’ match against Orton. It is quite evident that the promotion has long term plans for him as he was mentioned prominently on the following ‘SmackDown episode on July 25.
As a popular personality, he has made appearances on various films and TV shows, such as ‘The Longest Yard’ (2005), ‘Get Smart (2008), ‘Kushti’ (2010), ‘Outsourced’ (2011), and ‘Pair of Kings’(2012). In 2010, he became the season four runner-up of the Indian reality TV show ‘Bigg Boss’.
Personal Life & Legacy
The Great Khali married wife Harminder Kaur on February 27, 2002. Their daughter Avleen was born on February 26, 2014, twelve years after the marriage. On February 20, 2014, he was granted naturalised US citizenship alongside 1,614 others in a session of court held at the ‘M.O. Campbell Educational Center’ in Houston, Texas.
He underwent a surgery on July 26, 2012 to remove a tumour on his pituitary gland that caused his acromegaly. He displays some of the most obvious signs of the disorder, including prominent eyebrows, chin protrusion, and massive ears.
He is a devout Hindu and was an ardent follower of the Indian spiritual leader Ashutosh Maharaj. He neither smokes nor consumes alcohol.