This Windsor-based athlete is changing the image of South Asian professional wrestlers

One body slam at a time, Bhupinder Gujjar is changing the face of professional South Asian wrestlers.

Although often portrayed as evil characters or « heels », the Windsor-based wrestler is a « babyface » – a good guy. And Gujjar says he hopes to spread the idea in North America that Indian wrestlers can win through fair play.

Gujjar is signed to Border City Wrestling (BCW) and Impact Wrestling. He also takes part in the Border City Wrestling show at Essex Fun Fest on Sunday.

He spoke with Windsor Morning’s Nav Nanwa on Friday about his character, the reception he’s received and how he hopes to help change a stereotype.

Windsor Morning9:30 a.m.Windsor wrestler Bhupinder Gujjar

Windsor wrestler Bhupinder Gujjar talks to CBC Windsor Morning host Nav Nanwa about his character.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: How did you get into professional wrestling?

A: I wanted to do it, but back home in India, we didn’t have many opportunities. So [in] In 2016, I had the opportunity to go to the Khali school to train for a bit, like six months. Then I moved to Canada after six months of training. I was trained here by Scott D’Amore. Since then, I have just started in this profession.

Q: Everyone has a character in professional wrestling. It’s one of the reasons I love watching pro wrestling. How would you describe your character?

A: My character is a new upcoming Indian star who is the face of Impact Wrestling in India. I am aggressive; I do power moves. I can also do flashy moves. I’m aggressive, but at the same time, I don’t like to win by cheating. It’s my character: to win, but to win with fair play.

Bhupinder Gujjar slamming Raj Singh in an Impact Wrestling event. (Submitted by Impact Wrestling)

Q: When I grew up seeing South Asian wrestlers like Tiger Ali Singh or, more recently, Jinder Mahal, a lot of them had a very stereotypical character – almost like the evil alien character – that would come out. You are quite the opposite. What can you tell me about this?

A: Impact Wrestling, I think, is the only promotion that breaks those stereotypes. They cast me as babyface. Usually you’re going to see all Indians, all Asian wrestlers, all of them are heel or evil characters. But [with] Impact Wrestling, this is the first time to my knowledge that they have cast someone in babyface. And people really like my stuff and they love watching my stuff.

It’s just a stereotype, like you said, that people portray all Asian wrestlers as evil wrestlers or as villains. But now, working with Impact, I have the chance to represent India. I have lived in Windsor for over five years and I can say that I represent Windsor and the Indians in a good way.

Q: Why do you think it is important to change this narrative?

A: You need to change. People want to see something because India is a big market. Indians like fair play, whatever the sport. I think Impact Wrestling knows that best, and Scott D’Amore, my trainer, knows that best. That’s why he gave me a chance where I can present myself in a positive way. And I think it works pretty well.

Q: Do you get feedback from the community, either in Windsor or even when you’re in the US? When you hear from South Asian fans, do they tell you that they like the fact that you are someone who promotes fair play or that you are a babyface? Do they like it with you?

A: Yeah absolutely. Everywhere I go, I get all the positive responses. Whenever I travel, I wonder if people will like me or not because most people think Asian wrestlers are bad guys or evil wrestlers. they come to pro wrestling like heels.

But I get a good answer. People sing. People tell me that you deserve to be here and that motivates me. I’ve been to a few events in Toronto, and I was so amazed to feel that people were taking my name and standing behind me and wanting me to win. I was amused to see all the support I get from all over Canada and the US, and it’s pretty cool.

a wrestling referee crowns two wrestlers winners of a wrestling match
Bhupinder Gujjar and William Morrissey defeated Raj Singh and Mahabali Shera in an Impact Wrestling match. (Submitted by IMPACT Wrestling)

Q: That hasn’t always been the case, has it? You mentioned it. A lot of Asian wrestlers are usually evil strangers or people who win by cheating, so seeing you not doing it is definitely something different. You trained in Windsor at the Can-Am Wrestling School, the same school that runs Border City Wrestling. What can you tell me about the wrestling scene here? Why did you choose Windsor as your next training ground after training in India?

A: When I moved here, I was looking for wrestling training and Scott D’Amore approached me, and I started training with Scott D’Amore. The training style is totally different. I don’t mean old school, but it’s a mix of old school and modern techniques. Scott is one of the best wrestlers or promoters in the professional wrestling world. So here I have the chance to learn from one of the best. And BCW; most of the pro wrestlers from Impact, or TNA, were here for some reason. Maybe they were staying here to train, or for whatever reason they were here. So I had a chance to learn different styles here and I was able to try to learn lucha style, or heavyweight style wrestling.

Q: You are quite promoted in India. You are almost the face of promotion in India. What does this mean to you?

A: For me, it’s like my dream has come true because I’ve always wanted to represent my country and Impact Wrestling, both in a positive way. So in India, now I can talk about Impact Wrestling because people don’t care if you win by cheating, but now I win by fair play. It means people are really looking at me, like how I got into pro wrestling. They really want to know more about me. And Impact Wrestling gave me that chance. So I am grateful and thankful to Impact Wrestling to be able to represent them in India in a positive way, and now I can represent India on an international stage like Impact Wrestling.

It’s a dream come true because if you ask wrestlers, they want to do a great job in any promotion, and Impact Wrestling is my home promotion. They promoted me well, they gave me the chance to show my abilities, and now people support me because they like my style of wrestling. They know I can do things; I don’t just pick up guys and drop them in a ring, which is what you’ll see most big guys do. My wrestling style is a bit different.

Q: What can people expect this Sunday at Essex Fun Fest?

A: I know it’s going to be a big hit because a lot of Impact Wrestling wrestlers are going to be on this show: Aiden Prince, John E. Bravo. These people are already on television, and they will be on the show. So they bring their best game, especially me.

Certainly, I’ll do my best and try to entertain people, because that’s what I do.

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