Sonjay Dutt discusses Indian wrestling market, TNA and more

Global Force Wrestling’s, Sonjay Dutt recently took some time to participate in an interview. Dutt shares about his time in TNA, his time on the independent circuit, the Ring Ka King experience, his enthusiasm for competing for Smash Wrestling and his aspirations for Global Force Wrestling. Check out the complete interview below:

Discuss some of your early training under Larry Sharpe & Jon Dalton and working with KYDA Pro Wrestling

Sonjay Dutt: When I was a senior in high school, I found out that Larry Sharpe was over at the Monster Factory in DC about 30 minutes from where I was living. I knew I was turning 18 and graduating high school in a few months. We went up there, me and my buddies, and I spent a little time there and finished up with KYDA which was another school that was a little more affordable for an eighteen-year-old kid that was going to college. And they had regular shows that were running at the time, which was enticing because obviously as a young pro-wrestler your goal is to get on a show and get in front of an audience, and I wanted to tackle that as soon as I could.

Sonjay Dutt
Photo / eWrestlingnews

Competing for TNA as part of their X-Division allowed for a number of great opportunities. Which ones stood out and which does Sonjay Dutt think could have been developed more?

Sonjay Dutt: Better developed, oh man we could be here all day if we wanted to discuss that. (chuckles) I guess to put it in a nutshell, the entire X division at one point was a focal point of the company and it made us stand out and it made us different. There was a reason why guys like myself and Sabin, Shelley, Lethal, the smorgasbord of talent, were hired. It wasn’t because we were household names or we were jacked up guys, we were hired because we were pro wrestlers and we were good at our craft. In the beginning, it was, ‘Okay, let’s let them go out there and let them showcase what they can do and then mix different storylines with these personalities and these wrestlers.

Let’s see what happens.’ They did that for a little bit, then they would pull us back. As far as the opportunities it did afford me, I loved my time there. The experience and the knowledge it gave me was invaluable. When I first started there I was 21 or 22 and maybe 2 ½ years into wrestling and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was thrust onto live pay per views and TV, and you are forced to learn. It’s funny because a lot of people say this, but about themselves, that they hit their stride there and then they are all leaving.

But I hit my stride as a heel in 2008/2009, and then I was gone, but I loved it.

But aside from all the wrestling and getting to see the world and working with some of the best guys and all that talent, I got to spend every day on the road with my best friend in life, Jay Lethal. That’s just the greatest. Hitting the road and living your dream with your best friend, what more can you ask for?

Traveling the independent circuit has provided you with a number of great memorable experiences. What has Sonjay Dutt found to be the benefits of competing on the circuit as opposed to being with a major promotion?

Sonjay Dutt: I loved the independents. I came upon the independents and even being in touch with a major company in the States, I still did independents. My heart always stayed in the independents. I love the independents. I think that really is what allowed me to continue making a good living and being a pro wrestler despite not having that TV time after I left TNA. The fact that I can go out there and dictate my own schedule and I don’t have to ask for permission. I’m not a political guy and I don’t really play the political game.

I just want to go out there and I want to perform, and I love meeting new people. Stuff like this, having highly intelligent interviews and having a discussion with you about wrestling, that lends itself to good things. Being on the independents affords you freedom way more often than being in a major company. At times, you have handcuffs on and you’re answering to someone else, where here I’m answering to myself and what’s best for me and my family.

Discuss your time with Ring Ka King. How did that opportunity come about and could Sonjay Dutt envision its success?

Sonjay Dutt: It was interesting. First of all, I loved that time period, and doing Ring Ka King was amazing. How it came about was, at the time Jeff Jarrett was still with TNA, and this was a Jeff Jarrett project, under their banner. Nobody in that office had anything to do with it other than his team, which was myself and Rudy Charles. Jeff had approached me at the time and said ‘You know I have this deal and I think we’re going to be starting a promotion in India. We’re going to shoot it in India, we’re going to create Indian stars and do this and do that and we’d like you to jump on board.’

With me and him going back many years, me starting in 2002/2003 we go back a long time. He knows that I have my head on straight and could be a liaison between professional wrestling and the Indian culture. I speak the language and know the culture. In the beginning, he wanted someone that could smooth things over and tell them’ let’s try this, let’s try that,’. This would fit well with Indian people. I became really good at the behind the scenes stuff and helped write the shows, produce the episodes.

I went on a talent mission and we had auditions across the country.

To pick Indians and train them and make them into pro wrestlers. One of the guys that I discovered at the time, he’s with TNA now, is Mahabali Shera. So it was a project and it afforded me opportunities to learn so many other things in pro wrestling other than just in the ring and I think that it was awesome. It’s carried on now with Global Force Wrestling and my work there.

Wrestling’s popularity in India appears to be huge and a relatively untapped market. What do you think could be done to address its popularity?

Sonjay Dutt: That’s an interesting question. I think recently WWE has made an effort to start an office in India. There are 1.4 billion people in the country and over the last ten years, there has been a growing middle class that didn’t exist in India before. It was either you had the money or you didn’t have money. There is this growing middle class and this growing young sector that has got money that they didn’t have before, and they are ready to spend it. With a growing economy, why not take pro wrestling there? It’s hard because, culturally, things are done so differently there.

Business is different and that goes with any country. In any country you are dealing with, there are the cultural complexities. I ventured out there myself and I ran a five-night tour in northeast India it was a big success. The problem is, as you said, to tap into that market you need either somebody that has a lot of money here stateside, and knows pro wrestling, or you need to tap into somebody on the ground in India that has the capital, and really understands how pro wrestling is and how to present it to the audience.

I think we really did have that with Ring Ka King.

But for whatever reason, we didn’t get picked up for season two. I think that had a lot to do with the television landscape at the time, with Colours TVR our television network at the time. Our first episode of Ring Ka King had 18 million viewers which were the most-watched pro wrestling show ever. We had something there, I really wish we could have continued.

With a great deal of talent being honed in India, who would you suggest fans keep an eye out for?

Sonjay Dutt: There are some guys that we produced in Ring Ka King during our 26 episode run. We have to keep in mind that these guys were literally plucked out of obscurity and thrown onto television and told ‘Hey, be a pro wrestler’. I want to say maybe two of them had ever watched pro wrestling. That goes for Shera as well who is on TNA now. They didn’t know wrestling. The question we asked at auditions was ‘Hey, you want to be on a TV show, and are you in shape?’ The people came out of the woodworks. Like I said, at the end of those 26 episodes some of those talents really started to understand how to wrestle, how to put a match together

It also involves what it takes to be a successful television character. They are still light years away from being a top-notch performer. I think the total number of days of training they had before they started was 57 days. You can’t take someone out of a remote village in India and throw them in the ring and train them for 57 days, you’re just not going to get it. I’ve wrestled fifteen years and I still am not where I should be. I’m still learning every day and the same goes for anybody else that does this. So for those guys, there are some that really did get it and we’re starting to get it and I think that hey, these guys could have a future in this.

But at the same time we stopped filming in 2012 and they haven’t done anything in wrestling since.

The probability of those guys continuing any kind of career in television and in pro wrestling was slim to none, but it could have happened, but if I don’t do anything for four or five years straight, I’m going to forget it and I’m not going to be very good at it and I’m going to have to start to learn it again. So I guess that’s the issue with those guys.

As part of GFW, the promotion continues to seek growth and explore various means to do so. What can you foresee for the promotion moving forward?

Sonjay Dutt: I think it solely comes down to domestic television here in the States. I think that for anybody to be a viable competitor, or just be a viable entity out there in this day and age, and sure there are other avenues out there like you talked about streaming services and the digital world, the bottom line at the end of the day is you need a domestic television deal. People still sit down and turn their televisions on and find something to watch. So our biggest hurdle and challenge is that. We are working so diligently behind the scenes and trying to secure something domestically.

Internationally, we have great partners with Boulder Creek International out of London, and we’re working with them and that’s just in the UK. We’re working on something with them, trying to secure television in Europe. Trying to secure television internationally is just so huge that it could reap benefits for any company. Like you said, to compete and be a viable entity I think it just solely comes down to a television deal.

Share if you could some of your experiences with other promotions. What does Sonjay Dutt think has continued to make them still a viable option for those on the Indies?

My times have been awesome.  I got to experience a lot of different things, and really, just work with a tight-knit group.  We were all so close and fighting for a common goal, totally invested.  That’s hard to come around nowadays in an independent group.  I don’t think there is anything like that anymore. The hype, the fan base, and general interest in their product aren’t there.  That can be attributed to many different things.

As a father, do you find you’re more guarded about the types of storylines you would entertain being a part of?

To a certain degree, yes, but I’m more concerned, selfishly, to guard my daughter against wrestling altogether.  I don’t think that’s it’s the healthiest thing for her to watch or even know about. She does know daddy is a wrestler and loves that fact.  As she gets older, I’m more comfortable with her watching my matches, and she’s, of course, my biggest fan.

On October 18th, you’ll be competing for Smash Wrestling, arguably Canada’s hottest independent promotion. Talk about your experience with the promotion & what fans could expect to see?

I was with Smash a couple of times. I’ve been at a couple of their shows and I want to say that when I was there the handful of shows they had they were rammed. They were in their initial stages and I think that they are a totally different company right now. I think it’s night and day to what they were to what they’ve become. When you have smart guys behind the scenes and you’ve got the right talent and have your own local talent, that’s what’s happened with Smash. They’ve got a great reputation, not just locally but in the United States. I used to be there every month with another company UWA and they were hard-core, and I fell in love with the place.

I don’t go there like I used to, but every time I do go to Toronto I still see the same faces of hard-core fans that I see at every show in Toronto. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a cool feeling going back to Smash. It’s going to be me and PWG’s Mike Bailey. I don’t know much about him and I haven’t seen him, but I’ve heard he’s one to watch. That’s my driving force here is just getting in the ring with guys that are the next big thing and test my skills and see if I can hang. I think it will be a very interesting matchup.

What does the balance of 2015 and beyond hold in store for Sonjay Dutt?

Sonjay Dutt: Well, we only a few months left in this year and all my focus is on GFW right now and creating a successful new brand of pro wrestling not only here in North America but globally. I guess that goes with the name Global Force Wrestling. We have a really good, strong team and we’re working really hard and we’re trying to arrange things and present pro wrestling in a completely different light than you are used to here in the States and Canada. You can head on over to our YouTube page and check out some of the videos we’ve put up. Our production team is second to none.

They may just be, I think, the best out there putting stuff together and presenting characters and really capturing your emotions. I really have to give it to these guys. Our YouTube page gfwrestling has a lot of cool stuff on there and as well.

Was there anything you’d like to share, encourage, acknowledge or promote?

My twitter @sonjaydutterson and the Global Force website