The history books of professional wrestling are littered with failed big men. Every company has tried to take mountainous humans and turn them into wrestlers. And while some pan out like Andre The Giant or The Big Show, far many more stand out for all the wrong reasons, fading into obscurity after a few years of disappointment.
This weekend AEW unveiled its latest attempt to turn a big man into a pro wrestler. Former NBA Draft pick Satnam Singh debuted for the company, and after a shaky first appearance on AEW Dynamite, the 7′ 2 big man followed by turning heads at Battle for the Belts II on Saturday night when he was allowed to do more in the ring, and show off this athleticism. It’s early, and there’s plenty of ways this can go wrong, but he’s turned me into a believer.
Singh isn’t your typical wrestling big man
There’s an expectation that comes from a big man. Their style in the ring tends to be slow, ponderous, and when the shock factor of seeing someone that size wears off, there’s really little left to make them compelling. It’s kind of an unsolvable puzzle. How do you have long-term entertaining matches with someone who has a limited move set, and simply can’t work at the same level as smaller athletes.
This is where Singh appears different, even based on the very small sample size we got over the weekend. It’s not really about the big double chokeslam he hit on Dalton Castle’s valets on his way to the ring, or how he ragdolled Jonathan Gresham into the ropes before dribbling his head off the mat like a basketball. I was paying attention to the little things: How he moved around the ring, how he stepped over the ropes, and I was blown away with how light on his feet Singh was for a man of his size.
Even more importantly, his reflexes. Without a doubt the best move he pulled off on Saturday came on the fly. Castle, in an attempt to catch Singh off guard, dove over the top rope at him. Whether his launch was wrong, or he didn’t get the correct rotation — I’m not exactly sure what happened, but Castle’s head was pointing at the floor, he was going to plant himself in the concrete like a lawn dart.
Without thinking, Singh reached out, plucked him out of mid-air and stopped his momentum. In a moment he hurled Castle aside into the ring steps. In that brief window he saved another performer, and to the untrained eye, nothing went wrong. That is a veteran move you just don’t see out of a young, very green wrestler.
Singh carries himself like a heavyweight, rather than the superheavyweight his size would suggest. He’s much more akin to guys like The Undertaker, Kane, and Lance Archer in how he moves around the ring than people like The Great Khali, The Big Show, or Omos. This is pretty much unheard of for a man standing 7’2, 290 pounds — but it could also be what makes him far more compelling than the typical big man.
He was lauded for his athleticism prior to making it to the NBA
Singh was not the traditional big man when he was so heavily scouted out of India and brought to the United States to play at IMG Academy in 2014. Referred to as a “stretch 5 and a half,” Singh showed ability to not just play a traditional game in the paint, but showed a real aptitude for hitting mid-range jumpers, and had great touch from beyond the arc too.
Obviously he was extremely rough around the edges, and needed a lot of work — and that work didn’t pan out, otherwise he’d be in the NBA right now, and not working as a professional wrestler. However, it points to a left of grace and athleticism that will naturally lend itself to performance in the ring.
Perhaps, most importantly, his size isn’t the product of a problem with his pituitary gland, as we’ve seen with other wrestlers of his size. Singh has generational size inherited from his 7’2 father and a grandmother who was 6’9. This means that his body is naturally more accustomed to carry this kind of weight, and could lead to him avoiding issues with his knees — especially considering he’s working at a leaner 290 pounds than other wrestlers of his size.
There’s a solid support system in place in AEW
Singh tried out at the WWE performance center in 2017, before WWE decided not to sign him to a futures contract. From there he began training privately, and when he signed with AEW in 2021 he pivoted over to QT Marshall’s training center.
Marshall has proven to be one of the greatest assets in AEW’s arsenal. Behind the scenes he’s been a huge boon to young wrestlers, all of whom have flourished under his tutelage. In addition, AEW now has Paul Wight (aka The Big Show) and Mark Henry under contract, two long-standing, successful working big men who can help Singh work on the psychology of wrestling as a big man, and what he needs to avoid to be successful.
The sky is the limit for Satnam Singh
Obviously this is a very early in the process for Singh and he’s yet to have a full match in the ring. That said, there is every chance for him to be a major, major star in AEW and beyond.
Not only has Singh shown some natural traits in the ring that could develop into something special, but he represents something wrestling companies have been clamoring for: A major homegrown Indian star.
WWE has tried this in the past with The Great Khali, but the truth is that India has a proud wrestling tradition — and Khali simply wasn’t good enough to court fans between the ropes. The company tried again more recently with Jinder Mahal, but the push felt contrived, and it never garnered the fan support than WWE hoped.
Singh is a known name. His basketball career was chronicled when there was a belief he could become India’s Yao Ming. Now he has a chance to capture a new audience, which every professional wrestling company has been dying to get a foothold in.
If Singh can continue to learn, and work, while keep showing the aptitude he did on Saturday, we could be seeing something very special emerge.