Have you ever contemplated how rare success is in pro wrestling?
For every hardcore legend like Mick Foley, there are a thousand stupid kids beating their brains out in their backyards.
For every charismatic muscle man like Hulk Hogan, there are a hundred Tom Magees.
And for every wrestler like The Rock who surpasses his father’s legacy, there are a dozen Tiger Ali Singhs.
Remember him? Tiger Ali Singh, for those of you who used to switch over to Nitro during the boring parts of Raw, somehow managed to combine the character of Ted DiBiase, Sr. with the disappointment of Ted DiBiase, Jr.
Singh was signed by the WWF in 1997 to much hoopla, hoping to build the son of Tiger Jeet Singh into a star much like the third-generation Rocky Maivia. His contract-signing even got its own press conference at the SkyDome in his hometown of Toronto, which boasts a large Indian population and an occasional wrestling match to the death, as seen in the 1995 classic Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi.
Singh was quickly shot up the ranks by winning the WWF’s second annual Kuwaiti Cup tournament.
And he was quickly shot down by debuting on TV against Salvatore Sincere in a jobber match that confused fans about which one was supposed to be the jobber, as neither man even got an entrance.
Singh re-appeared months later on the One Night Only pay-per-view in
Manchester Birmingham, where he cut a babyface promo about keeping kids off drugs. The fan reaction was lukewarm. See, this was a new, edgier era in wrestling, and the classic do-gooder business turned off many fans.
It was either that, or the fact that he called himself, I kid you not, “The true messiah.”
Still, Vince thought Tiger would be a good role model to children of “Asian extraction” and chided Jerry Lawler (very slightly) for his disparaging remarks.
By beating Leif Cassidy and launching his wrestling career, Tiger Ali hoped to take a page out of his father’s footsteps. Vince derailed that metaphor limb from limb.
The following year, Tiger got a gimmick overhaul, arriving on Sunday Night Heat and Raw to amuse himself, Ted Dibiase style, at how far audience members would degrade themselves for cash.
Singh, like the Million Dollar Man, even had a manservant (named Abu) to assist him. Instead of the humiliating stunts being a rich vs. poor thing, though, it was a foreigner vs. American thing; the wealthy man from an exotic land aimed to demonstrate the inferior moral values of Americans in comparison to the people of his country.
He never said which country exactly, but judging by his accent, he probably meant Canada.
The first person to win five hundred of Singh’s dollars was a woman who ate dog food out of a bowl.
Next was a large woman who won her prize by stripping. In his first few appearances, Tiger’s sole purpose was to make American woman do crazy things for American dollar.
The misogynistic angle of the gimmick subsided when this Kevin Dunn-Jim Johnston hybrid accepted Singh’s next challenge.
The man who tucked his D-Generation X shirt into his khaki shorts sacrificed his dignity by eating a worm.
And speaking of bold fashion choices, Singh further showed off his fabulous wealth by wearing suits big enough for two.
Other challenges licking the feet of his manservant Babu (not a typo; the WWF replaced Abu with another manservant and simply added an extra letter to his name. Nobody noticed)…
…and French-kissing Babu while he had a mouthful of tuna.
One night, the Toronto Tiger brought out some sausages on a grill and offered his usual five hundred “daw-lers” and asked for volunteers to “swallow Babu’s kielbasa”. Immediately, dozens of male hands shot up. Sexual overtones aside, did these people seriously think they could swallow a foot-long sausage whole?
I wouldn’t eat one of those things even if I were allowed to chew; because of Singh’s misunderstanding of how a charcoal grill works, they probably hadn’t even been cooked.
Tiger picked a woman out of the front row and, in one of the lewdest moments of the entire Attitude Era, she deep-throated the sausage, then pulled it out, then swallowed it again, then pulled it out once more.
And just to remove all plausible deniability by the WWF, the Godfather came right out and said that the woman was one of his ho’s and came to collect his cut of the prize money. Tiger felt ripped off at having selected a “professional” rather than an “amateur”, costing him 500 entire dollars of his fortune. This sparked a brawl between him and the Godfather, who nearly beat the David Byrne-wannabe out of his giant suit.
At last, there was a payoff to Singh’s tiresome shtick, as he wrestled The Godfather the following week.
Fans in attendance responded by doing the wave.
Another of Singh’s matches saw him refuse to wrestle Al Snow, instead substituting in Babu. Al Snow had the bout well in hand until Tiger snuck up from behind, hit him with a bulldog, and pinned him to win a match he wasn’t even in.
By this time, that other multi-generation wrestler Rocky Maivia was the WWF champion, but Tiger had a potential catchphrase that could have rocketed him up to the main event. Curiously, though, “That’s irrelevant!” never caught on like The Rock’s “It doesn’t matter!”
To emphasize Tiger Ali Singh’s foreignness, the WWF started from perhaps the vaguest hometown in wrestling history, “the continent of Asia”, a landmass containing many of the largest countries on Earth, such as Russia, China, India, and, apparently, Canada.
As he was using the old theme song for Iran’s Iron Sheik, it’s possible that Vince himself had forgotten what country Tiger was supposed to be from.
Finally, Singh, still being billed from “Asia”, began carrying the Indian flag to the ring and sporting traditional Sikh garb.
There was also just a smidgen of racism, such as signs about him working at a 7-11…
…or the UK audience flat-out booing the mention of Indian people living in England.
Even Good Ol’ JR got in on the act.
In his final weeks on TV, Singh was used to put over a number of new or returning stars.
First, there was Kurt Angle, the Olympic gold medalist to whom Singh offered five thousand dollars to blow his nose in the American flag.
Angle accepted, but instead blew his nose in the Indian flag to a huge pop from the crowd.
What the hell, Kurt?!
(WWE only recently owned up and apologized for the incident; they blamed it all on Kurt Angle)
Then, there was the time he offered a “fan” (actually WWF writer Ed Ferrara) money to do a tasteless impression of a Bells Palsy-stricken Jim Ross, which he would later parlay into a Cruiserweight championship reign in WCW.
The Real JR brought out Dr. Death Steve Williams to murder him.
And finally, there was the time he offered any woman five hundred dollars to rub his feet, prompting Jacquelyn and Terri Runnels to accept, then renege once they found out they’d have to split the cash prize.
Unwilling to fork over 500 bucks apiece, Singh faced the wrath of the debuting Meat.
Tiger would disappear once again, returning the next year to manage Lo Down before disappearing yet again and being released from his contract in two thousand freaking two.
All in all, Tiger wrestled only a handful of matches over his bafflingly long WWF career and drew less money than he ever gave away.