Interview: RJ Singh talks retirement, Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn and career milestones
By Sumit Rehal
RJ Singh had his last ever wrestling match in a career vs career bout against Stixx at PROGRESS Wrestling’s Chapter 17. We caught up with the retiree as he got to grips with life outside wrestling
How does it feel to be able to fully focus on your teaching career following your retirement from the ring?
I always knew that when I became Deputy Head it was going to impact on my wrestling career. With the introduction of The New Curriculum it’s quite an interesting time in education. I’m looking forward to all the new challenges that this year will bring, such as helping teachers develop their expertise in the classroom as well as my own leadership skills.
You’ve come along way since breaking through the FWA academy 13 years ago. There’s that famous picture of you and Stixx facing each other from then and now. How would you say British wrestling changed since your debut?
I think the overall production values have certainly improved. You can see many promotions are doing their best to be TV ready. NGW has fantastic sets, Progress has some of the best video editing and PCW has invested in Blu-Ray. The wrestlers themselves are putting in a lot of gym time and branding themselves much better.
However, I do think some of the wrestling needs to return to basics. I see too many crazy stunts that make me wonder ‘where will you go next?’ Perhaps a return to the original formula wouldn’t harm. I think some wrestlers need to remember that matches should focus on drawing the crowd in and engaging their emotions rather than big moves.
What an amazing send off you received at PROGRESS last month! It was quite an experience to hear 700 people chant “Singh Is King!” The crowd even chanted “That Was Awesome” when the entrance finished. How did it feel preparing for such grand entrance knowing it would be your last?
That entrance was an idea that Alex Shane (my trainer and mentor) had about 12 years ago, but I’ve never been able to put it together. I was very lucky that Progress had a similar vision but also the resources to pull it off. I was incredibly nervous because I didn’t actually appear until halfway through the song. Yet as soon as I came out I received a standing ovation, which was such a brilliant moment for me personally. I hope it encourages other wrestlers and promotions to go the extra mile and give fans that real wow factor every so often, as at the end of the day its all about the fans.
In the emotional post match speech, you mentioned that you initially said no to joining PROGRESS, what made you change your mind? How did the fan response make the experience of the farewell for you?
When Jon Briley first emailed me about joining Progress he described it as being like Dragon Gate and ROH. Both are great promotions but I couldn’t imagine myself in that environment, so I nearly talked myself out of it. Jon kept saying to me that I would be perfect for the brand and thanks to his determination we can see Progress has taken on a life of its own.
The fans’ response was incredibly overwhelming and gave me such a sense of achievement. I had no idea that the fans cared so much and I couldn’t have asked for a better send off.
You’ve wrestled the likes of Adrian Neville/Pac and Sami Zayn/ El Generico. They are from a class of men that are heavily respected around the wrestling scene worldwide. Did you ever imagine that these guys would be stealing the show in WWE?
I always knew that Adrian (Just PAC back then!) was something special. I had never seen anyone move like him and fly with such grace. After carving out such a great career in Japan its no surprise to see him wowing the audiences in NXT.
Sami Zayn on the other hand has been such a pleasant surprise. Having been under a mask and basically just uttering phrases for so long I was totally taken back by his promo work. His work has been so engaging and has been the absolute stand out of NXT this year. I am honored to have been in the same ring as them and I wish them both all the success in the world.
What would you say is your most defining moment of your career when you look back?
There have been so many great moments that I’ve had over the year but I always look back at FWA British Uprising 3 and the 3 way match I took part in. I think that match really helped boost my ability to perform in front of a larger audience and contribute to a great show.
I think also the gimmick change to ‘The Bollywood Dream’ gave me a fresh start and let me try things that I hadn’t done before. Considering I said no to the gimmick for so many years, I couldn’t believe how easy it fit when I finally started doing it.
Thank you for your time RJ, what can we expect next from “The Bollywood Dream?”
In terms of wrestling, I don’t think I will be too far from the British scene. I’m actually going to take some time to visit different training schools and work on my own fitness. I guess you’ll see me pop up from time to time. Wrestling has been a part of me for so long, it’s not easy to just let go.
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