Wrestling the Issue
By Salik Shah and Rajendra Thakurathi, Ekantipur
Switching through different sports channels on TV.
Then, honestly, the remote gets stuck.
The rumble-tumble on the TV, mounting, as blood oozes down the temple of a wrestler.
But, the greater surprise comes when we hear Nepali commentary.
Can you believe it.
Growing up watching SMACKDOWN! And RAW-WWE; talking about Undertaker. The actual thought of Nepali wrestlers fighting- never, never land.
But the novelty hits us. Here, too. On TV.
Flashback a decade or so. Dara Singh and Randhawa- leaving spectators spellbound at that stadium covered hall in the capital. Decades ago.
Before that, similar programmes organized to entertain the ruling taste. And estate.
That, also, entertained.
An old photograph- a shot of a poster on a stone pillar of King Pratap Malla and his four children at Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square advertising a wrestling match.
Then. Almost a decade ago. There was this poster running:
OVERCOME DARA SINGH, THE FIERCE ONE.
Never got the chance of overcoming him.
Years ago, in another town, another place, struggling to wrestle with a boy after accepting a "kusti" challenge.
Blame the adulterated DDC MILK for any ho-ha-fem-fam loss. Never mind.
“PLEASE DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME”. A tag pushing scars and scratches into next day’s breakfast cereal and next morning in school.
In August 2004, a heavily built tall man clad in leopard skin and sporting long hair known as the Himalayan Tiger or Bharat Bishural, the only Nepali pro-wrestler along with a few other local players, entertained the local audience as they wrestled at the Bhrikuti Mandap ring.
The strongman from Lamjung, Bishural was seemingly chosen to enter Nepali politics.
Although Bishural didn't make a name in politics, failing to get the premier's post in 2003 when King Gyanendra asked for applications for the post of prime minister with his Nepal Conservative Party actually taking part in the largely boycotted 2006 municipal elections, he is arguably the best known Nepali wrestler.
"Bishural helped wrestling grow in the country," Everest Wrestling Entertainment Association Nepal (EWEAN) Chairman Uddhav Thapaliya says, while pointing out that, "It’s EWEAN and our players struggling to establish it at a professional level."
So far, EWEAN has succeeded in taking entertainment wrestling to homes through Kantipur TV.
Nepali entertainment wrestling has long been outside of the public. But with the introduction of the games on Kantipur TV, the show is now available in many parts of the country.
The players are now gaining some fame under the lights, camera and action.
However, the limited resources are not enough as EWEAN faces difficulties meeting expenses including food, medical and transportation bills during practice games and matches.
On the media front, an experienced Kantipur TV presenter says, "We have tried to show the face of Nepali wrestling to our viewers, especially the kids who are used to watching foreign WWE shows.”
Wrestling the Issue
Wrestlers currently can earn up to 5-6 thousand rupees per game on average. "But most of us have other jobs and income sources to keep our family", the wrestler Deva says, a businessman to boot.
Money and acceptance remain important factors. Again there are not enough sponsors for live shows; the need for a single permanent wrestling hall. “The aversion shown by the NSC to provide halls and equipments for the games has amazed us."
Moreover, some sponsors are less convinced. “Sometimes, when the players are injured during the game, like when Lizard King had his hand broken during a game played at Nuwakot, they had a bare budget for his treatment,” says an insider.
But Nepali wrestling has its fans. Ananta Timilsina, a fan at Rangshala says, the sets are comparable to foreign TV. "They really hit each other. Real blood comes down the body. Some of them look very professional."
While another avid fan of WWE, Sudarshan Joshi, thinks, watching the game live is more electrifying, he also says, “Nepali wrestling lacks expression and charm, because, those in the know agree that the glamour factor is missing.”
The next show is at the upcoming Surkhet Mahotsav. "We will stage the Bulbule Wrestling Show in the Surkhet Mahotsav in December," Thapaliya said. "We expect a good turnout this time."