By NOUMAN KHALIL
Tiger Jeet Singh is a name that doesn’t need an introduction.
He is a humanitarian, Canada’s well-known celebrity, world famous wrestling ambassador, and enjoys a great deal of reputation both in and outside Canada.
In the subcontinent region including India and Pakistan, Singh is recognized as all-time legendary pro wrestler while in Japan he is no less than a ‘wrestling god’.
“They (Japanese) treat me like a god,” Singh said in an exclusive interview with Focus at his home in Milton, Ontario.
Singh’s son Tiger Ali Singh, former WWE star known as Asian Hulk Hogan, was also present.
Both Tigers talked in detail about their fights, experiences, people’s love, their dreams as well as inside secrets of today’s wrestling.
“You will be surprised to know that whenever I go to Japan, people bring their pregnant wives and daughters and want me to touch their tummies because they want their babies to grow up like Tiger,” says Tiger Jeet Singh.
“It’s their love and affection and I am thankful to Japanese people,” he adds.
Tiger Jeet Singh, together with his son Tiger Ali Singh, has wowed wrestling fans around the world for many decades.
Tough and villainous as he’s been in the ring, Tiger Jeet himself has today become an icon in Canada. More, he’s a much loved member of the wider fraternity, and of his community — so much so that the authorities did him the signal honour of naming a school after him.
Perhaps the first time that a school has been named after a pro wrestling superstar.
But he has that effect on people.
Over the years, the 64-year-old Jagjit Singh Hans, known by his ring name Tiger Jeet Singh, has fought wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, Yokozona, Japan’s Antonio Inoki and the list goes on and on.
Throughout his career, the 6 ft 3 in, 260lbs Singh wrestled at an extreme level and was famous for his unique style of coming to the ring while holding a sword in his mouth. In Japan he is also known as most feared man on earth.
In the 70s, Singh became the first wrestler in Japan for 22 years to have beaten Wajima, the then 40-time grand sumo wrestling champion.
In a historic 30-minute long World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship match in Tokyo in 1976, Singh defeated legendary Antonio Inoki before home crowd.
More than 62,000 people watched the electrifying match inside the stadium.
“That fight has a lot of meaning in my life,” said Singh.
After the match the emperor of Japan was so happy and impressed that he not only presented (as a gift) Singh an island off the shores of the country of Palau, but also one each islands to Inoki and his own manager.
Since then, Japan has become Tiger family’s second home, where he is also known as the ‘most feared’ man.
“We love Japan, it’s our second home after Canada,” said Singh.
Recently the Tigers were honoured with The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. They are the only father and son pairing in Canada to be honoured with this prestigious award.
Hence it also was that in 2010, Halton District School Board named a new elementary in Milton as Tiger Jeet Singh Public School. It was the first time that a public-funded school was named after a Punjabi Sikh.
Along with Tiger Jr, currently Singh runs Tiger Jeet Singh Foundation and promotes a message of healthy living, drug-free society and staying ‘Tiger-fit’.
Both Tigers talked to Focus from their home in Milton. Excerpts:
Where did you (Tiger Sr) start wrestling and how?
I was born in Ludhiana, Punjab. At the age of 12 in 1960, I started going to akharas (desi wrestling and kabaddi training centres). We were very young and used to wrestle combined with kabaddi. But then I had a chance to see Dara Singh’s (the greatest Indian wrestler who later turned film actor) matches.
It was the time when I really got inspired from him and started training very hard to become like Dara Singh. That was the beginning of my wrestling career.
When did you migrate to Canada?
I moved to Canada in 1971.
How many great wrestlers have you fought with in your career?
You name it and I have fought with… Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, Yokozona, Japan’s Antonio Inoki, Wajima and so many others.
Tell us about your most memorable matches.
There are many fights that are memorable. It was like yesterday when I fought with Inoki in Japan and Pakistan, and Wajima. Those were real matches…
Real matches? You mean today’s wrestling is not real, is it fake?
Yes, today’s wrestling is not real, this is all entertainment (laughs). There used to be a time when we would actually fight… that wrestling is still alive in Japan.
How was your match with Antonio Inoki in Japan and Pakistan?
My World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship match against Inoki in Tokyo in 1976 earned me an island. After a 30-minute fight I when defeated Inoki, the emperor of Japan was so impressed that he not only presented (as a gift) me an island off the shores of the country of Palau, but also one each island to Inoki and his manager.
In Pakistan, our fight was not just a match, it was a bout to survive and keep the pride of the region – both India and Pakistan.
People welcomed me with both arms open, they gave me so much love, all kinds of support, protection and kept me on their eyelashes. I was state guest of the then President Gen Zia-ul-Haq. I cannot forget those memories that are so close to my heart.
Do you still have ties in Japan?
Absolutely, it’s my second home after Canada. They treat me like a god. You will be surprised to know that whenever I go there, people bring their pregnant wives and daughters and want me tough their tummies because they want their babies to grow up like Tiger. It’s their love and affection and I am thankful to Japanese people.
What was your reaction when Halton District School Board named a new elementary school after you?
I felt so honoured because it was the first time a public-funded school was named after a Punjabi Sikh. I am humbled and so grateful.
To be continued…
By NOUMAN KHALIL