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SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: The Great Gama


REAL NAME: Gadowar Singh Sahota
BORN: December 8, 1954 in Punjabi, India
5'10", 225 pounds
AKA: Gama Singh, The Great Gama

Gama Singh on a recent tour to South Africa. Below: A newspaper ad for a card in South Africa.

 To this day, The Great Gama is still recognized around Calgary as one of the hated leaders of the despicable Karachi Vice.

He warmly recalled how the Karachi Vice came together in a recent interview with SLAM! Wrestling.

"Everybody still talks about the Karachi Vice," explained Gama Singh. "It was an accidental thing, how it came about. There was myself and Mike Shaw, who I had changed his name to Makhan Singh, and we had Steve DiSalvo and Kerry Brown. I think we were all doing an interview together, we did a few interviews for a few weeks in a row, and then it just sort of came out. 'This is the Karachi Vice', because Miami Vice, the TV show, was quite hot at the time. And then the people just picked up from that. The following week, we saw all kinds of signs coming out -- Karachi Ice, Karachi Mice and that sort of thing [laughing]. We just kind of followed through and kept it going from there. It became quite a hot thing for a couple of years at least."

Singh is still wrestling on occasion, mainly overseas. He estimates that he wrestles three months out of the year, taking two to three trips overseas, with the trips lasting three to four weeks. When SLAM! Wrestling spoke to him, he had just gotten back from Lebanon and was preparing for a match with B.C.'s ECCW promotion, tagging with his brother Akam Singh.

The Great Gama's story starts with his father emigrating to Canada from India, and eventually sending for his family. In about 1963, the family reunited and came to Canada. Singh went to school in Merritt, British Columbia and excelled in amateur wrestling.

Then one day he was in Vancouver working out at the YMCA and met Bill Persack, an old-time wrestler who had seen him in action in the amateur ranks. He trained Singh for six-months and suggested that it was then time to go to Calgary and Stampede Wrestling.

Singh went to Calgary, met Stu Hart, and started working out with Carlos Belafonte (who later became Carlos Colon).

"Carlos helped me out a little bit, worked out with me while I was still trying to get a start with Stu," he recalled. "It was a slow go at first. A big struggle. I wasn't getting much work."

He hit the road, hitting places like Georgia, All-Star Wrestling in Vancouver and California ("had some good matches with Roddy Piper there").

"It took a couple of years, but things just started rolling for me."

His favourite location to wrestle was the Caribbean. "In Puerto Rico, I was a heel and in Trinidad and Barbados I was a babyface. So I got to do both things at the same time. The money was there, plus the climate was right."

Gama Singh is perhaps best known in South Africa.

"[It has] always been a big market for me", he explained. The first trip was in 1983, and he still goes there a couple of times a year.

"They were looking for an Indian -- there's a big market for Indian wrestlers there," he said.

"My very first trip we set attendance records in several different places ... it just took off like crazy. I made enormous amounts of money, I did very, very well. [I'm] still doing well over there, as a matter of fact."

He remembered great matches against Abdullah the Butcher and the Funks in the Caribbean, but he counts a series against Pierre Martel (later Frenchy Martin) as his favourite memory.

"We did an angle in Trinidad where I was injured in the ring. I was leaving Trinidad at the time, then they carried me out. The fans thought I was injured very seriously. Then what happened was, at the same time, one wrestler's father had passed away. So the word got out from a wrestler's father to a wrestler had passed away, to Gama Singh had passed away. So the timing was so perfect. Everyone thought that I had died from the piledriver that he had given me. The radio stations and newspapers were all going crazy in Trinidad. They wanted to know what was happening. About two months later I go back to the island for a return match against Pierre Martel, Frenchy Martin. There were an estimated 20,000 people turned away from the stadium."

Wrestling has been pretty good to Gama Singh. He owns revenue properties in Calgary and is in the midst of starting up a construction company. He is married and has four sons.

But The Great Gama does have a major what if.

In the early eighties, Vince McMahon Jr. was just starting to expand the WWF and was looking for an Indian to take to the Middle East. Gama Singh had just started working for Jack Tunney in Toronto, and agreed to the tour.

"Their schedule was so hectic, I said 'I'll do the overseas trip for you, but to wrestle here ... ' I had just gotten married. My wife wasn't too happy with me being on the road and newborn baby and all that," he said.

Singh worked Kuwait, Dubai, Oman, Australia and Hawaii for Vince McMahon and the WWF from 1980-86 and "had some great matches with Bob Orton Jr., Roddy Piper and Don Muraco."

"The only regret that I have is that I didn't stay with the WWF, especially nowadays, financially speaking with the money that they're making now, the exposure they're getting. At the time when I was there with them, they were just kind of starting out. I didn't have any idea they were going to be as big as they are now."

In his best years, Singh estimates he made an annual income of $50-70,000 Canadian a year.

He used the Calgary Stampede promotion as a "home base" and held the British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight title on numerous occasions.

"Whenever I was home, doors were always open for me from Stu Hart," he said. "Stu Hart was good to me. I did okay financially. I didn't make great money, I did alright. I enjoyed it. I was at home probably three to four nights out of the week while I was wrestling for Stampede. Trips were good. The guys were great that I was working with. So I enjoyed it. I don't really have any complaints about Stampede."

The Great Gama runs into other Stampede stars of the past like Bad News Allen, Gerry Morrow, and Davey Boy Smith "from time to time".

He admits that he would like to see Stampede start up again.

"A lot of people are eager to see it. I'm still recognized in town, when I go into a store or wherever. Everyday I run into two or three people in different places who recognize me from Stampede Wrestling. They all sort of miss it and talk about it. They feel that was still the best wrestling."

  By GREG OLIVER, SLAM! Sports



Memories

  I have a ton of memories of Gama. I don't know all that well, although his brother, AKAM Singh is a good friend of mine. I remember his days in Stampede, part of the greatest heel stable of all time, Karachi Vice. With Makhan Singh, Kerry Brown, Rotten Ron Starr etc. those boys make NWO look like children in terms of the hell they raised. I remember when Gama tried to blind the Cobra with a lighter but failed, I remember the Cobra sleeper hold that nobody could get out of. Just last week, he wrestled at the New West Eagles Hall, where he and Akam fought the GOD, Michelle Starr, and Loverboy Johnny Canuck. As a result, he has a barb wire match with Michelle Starr on Boxing day. He is a great heel, and he will always be one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, and you can just tell, watching him wrestle in New West, that he very, very good.
  Rino Cavaliere - thedynamitekid@hotmail.com
  The man we loved to hate...Gama Singh. No question, he was able to work a crowd like few others can. His wrestling was excellent, his pop was huge, he had that old Victoria Pavilion in an uproar week after week. My father and I used to enjoy screaming at the top of our lungs AT HOME watching Gama on TV, he was so evil. I only ever got to see him on TV but he was (and probably still is) one of the greatest heels ever. The new generation of heels should definitely take lessons from this guy.
  Troy Desrosier
  In 1987 I went to a stampede fight in Regina. It was the last stop for Stampede befor there Xmas break. Gama was fighting Owen Hart for the belt. Gama had the belt and he retained it. When the match was over a fan (probably a plant)got in to Gama's face and called him many racial slurs, well Gama hit him with the belt. The front plate of the belt fell off and a another fan grabbed it and too off. Owen came out and asked for the plate back but I don't know if it was ever retured.
  Greg Weisgerber
  The Great Gama was one of the best heels in wrestling. He would spend the whole match running from his opponent and later tell Ed Whalen that his opponent should have been a track star because he was running all night long from him. However, Gama was one of the toughest wrestlers in the history of the sport. He knew how to work the crowd and the Karachi Vice gimmick was an all time classic. In fact, the clowns in the WCW should look at old Stampede Wrestling tapes to see guys like Gama in action. They might learn what professionalism and charisma is all about. Best of luck to the Great Gama.
  Dan T.
  I was at the match in Regina. The front plate was found by an old lady . The match itself was all mixed upwith the Yergin Hemler finding Gama 's weapon down the back of Owen's pants . The people went nuts.
  Jolene Fendelet
 It's nice to know that Makhan Singh and Gama Singh are still recognized for their great work.
 gary977@hotmail.com
 I remember seeing Gama Singh on the short lived WWW Superstars of Wrestling (San Jose Version) -- go figure back in 1982. He was the first East Indian wrestler I had seen with all the skills and he still got 'em. It was a shame that WWF couldn't find in their infinite wisdom to keep Gama around for a while.
 Kenn Bhimkumar-Reyes
 Growing up as a kid in southern Alberta, Stampede wrestling was just part of our culture. And the great Gama was just that, GREAT !! His ring generalship was phenomenal. Although my greatest memory happened only recently. At an ECCW show in New West BC, Gama and Akam were in a tag team match against Johnny Canuck and Michelle Starr. The match was hardcore from the start. I kinda got swept up in the moment and threw the chair that I was sitting on up into the ring, hoping the Singhs could use it. Gama had the Cobra on Starr at the time and Canuck hit Gama with my chair!! I felt so bad.. I wanted to apologize to one of my childhood idols for costing him the match.
 Ed Hryciuk, Maple Ridge BC
  We can't belivieve that Vince McMahon hasn't invested in your talent. The WWF is losing the majority of the lowermainland clinetele because the great one has not entered! We hope to see this talent and original professionaliy to show a thing or two to the "wanna bees", like Tiger Ali Singh, who did not last too long in the wwf.
 The great one,*****the Great Gama Singh!
 Baga And Chas
 Being a wrestling fan for the last 20 years, Gama Singh, in my opinion, was, is, and will remain the top heel of all time. Watching Gama run, beg for forgiveness, taunt anyone and everyone throughout interviews, and of course wrestle throughout his career was incredible. In a line up of such incredible star that Stampede Wrestling was filled with, Gama always knew how to get fans to hate him the most- now that's talent! Compared to the heels of today, Gama's 'wrestling smarts' on how to play with the emotions of the crowd are what kept me watching, not the quick flips back and forth from heel to face. I grew up wanting to one day grow to be big and strong enough to kick his butt. Of course being a young fan at the time, I would have been quite insulted being told that one day, I would remember him as one of my fave's to watch of all time. The only sad thing about the career of Gama, is the fact that the WWF hasn't used him. Instead they went to an Indo-Canadian that can't seem to wrestle, or get over. Gama would have us hating him ten minutes after signing a contract! Gama, you rule!
 Navin
 I saw Gama wrestling the Puerto Rican wrestler Apollo - tests of strength, what a battle - until Gama started his awesome cheating ways ! He was such a great heel!!! Always inspired me to be nasty too! Its too bad Indians are so timid - we don't have enough of them in Pro-wrestling. Gama should pass the torch of Heeldom to his timid countrymen! ;)
 The Champion in NYC