Every Version Of The Great Khali, Ranked From Worst To Best
Indian-born Dalip Rana started his wrestling career in 2000, training in America before moving on to the international scene where he performed in Japan and Mexico. In 2006, he signed to World Wrestling Entertainment, where he debuted on the main roster as the monster heel called The Great Khali.
Before his departure from the company in 2014, Khali would have a run as World Heavyweight Champion and score wins over Rey Mysterio, Batista, Shawn Michaels, and even The Undertaker. The 2021 WWE Hall of Famer has had a few different incarnations over the course of his career, so let’s take a look at the various iterations of the big man, starting with the worst.
6Randomly Occurring Khali
After leaving WWE in 2014 and before his 2021 Hall of Fame induction, The Great Khali had a handful of guest appearances that didn’t really amount to anything. The first was in 2017, where he made a shock return at Battleground to interfere in the Punjabi Prison match on behalf of kayfabe brother-in-law Jinder Mahal, preventing Randy Orton from dethroning Mahal as WWE Champion.
This proved to be a baffling incident, as Khali disappeared from WWE as quickly as he re-appeared, with no further effect on the storyline. His second appearance would be the following year as a warm body for the 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia, where he got eliminated after a minute. Both instances proved strange, as Khali left WWE as a severely devalued babyface, so his return didn’t do much to excite any fans, as it seemed that few had nostalgia for The Great Khali.
The Great Khali’s late period WWE career had him still working as a babyface, but now with a burgeoning romance with Natalya and a partnership with comedy characters Santino Marella and Hornswoggle. It seemed like the big idea here was to throw all these afterthought characters together as a stable akin to The Oddities but with less ableism.
But the joke was no less demeaning as Khali engaged in dance-offs with Fandango and won a tag team match via snake charmer gag, along with other goofs. At this point, Khali was obviously on his way out and had his value as an attraction diminished, so the big man’s character was little more than a very tall jobber.
Once all the monster heel stuff fizzled, The Great Khali embarked on a babyface run as WWE’s favorite inappropriately placed gimmick: a ladies’ man. Khali went from a dominant heel to the “Punjabi Playboy,” with a recurring Kiss Cam gag where pretty women in the crowd were coerced into pecking the big man on the cheek. He dressed like the tooth fairy on one occasion.
The evolution into comedy goofball is the sort of thing that happens to nearly every monster heel like Kurrgan, Tensai, and Heidenreich, which always seems a little depressing. The big notable thing to come out of this run was the introduction of future WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, Khali’s kayfabe brother-in-law who briefly forced The Great Khali to do his bidding.
It may surprise fans to find out that The Great Khali wrestled for New Japan Pro-Wrestling in the early 2000s. Named Giant Singh, he partnered up with former Oddity member Giant Silva as part of NJPW’s top heel stable, TEAM2000. While it’s tempting to be a hipster about it and say that Khali was better in NJPW, his in-ring abilities weren’t that much better than his WWE run, but he was notably more agile during this period, which is a startling sight to see.
This run is probably one of the least demeaning of the performer’s various iterations, and for fans, it’s got a lot of novelty value as far as seeing him interact with Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Yugi Nagata, not to mention entering rings by hopping over the top rope like a luchador.
2World Heavyweight Champion
An unfortunate injury to Edge in 2007 resulted in SmackDown’s World Heavyweight Title being vacated, which allowed The Great Khali to win the belt in a match that favors giant wrestlers the best: a battle royal. This reign would only last about two months, with a couple successful title defenses against Batista before “The Animal” was finally able to dethrone Khali.
This led to The Great Khali’s only effort in his signature Punjabi Prison match, where he failed to win back the title. As the year went on, Khali was moving on to a months-long feud with Hornswoggle and Finlay, so in retrospect that brief title run might be a career apex for the big man in terms of tangible accomplishments.
The Great Khali’s strongest incarnation might be his first in WWE, as he debuted as a monster heel. Backed by Daivari as his manager, Khali was pushed hard, squashing various minor members of the roster before entering a feud with The Undertaker. Khali was such a force that WWE introduced a signature match for him, the aforementioned Punjabi Prison, even though he only fought in one of them. This era of Khali saw him at his most kayfabe powerful and his most healthy as he had big matches against many of the biggest stars of the company.