Tiger Jeet Singh has finally reappeared on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame ballot for the first time since 1999. He had only first appeared on the ballot the year before and was unable to remain on after 1999, getting less than 10 percent of the vote.
Even back then, his failure was puzzling.
Singh was one of the top foreign heel draws in Japanese wrestling history. He should have gone in then given the business he did and his longevity. He’s certainly not a workrate case, but there are plenty of hall of famers, especially from his era who were not great workers. His bloody and brawling style certainly did have a long-term influence on the business in Japan, however.
Soon after New Japan’s formation in 1972, Singh became a notorious heel when he ambushed Antonio Inoki and his then-wife, actress Mitsuko Baisho, in a shopping mall and even slapped Baisho. This was one of the first “shoot angles” in pro wrestling history and it made Singh a draw.
Let’s take a look at major attendances that Singh had during main events in Japan courtesy of Cagematch:
- June 20, 1974: vs. Antonio Inoki for the NWF Heavyweight title in Tokyo – 8,800
- June 26, 1974: vs. Antonio Inoki for the NWF Heavyweight title in Osaka – 8,900
- March 13, 1975: vs. Antonio Inoki for the NWF Heavyweight title in Hiroshima – 12,000
- March 18, 1975: w/ Mighty Zulu vs. Antontio Inoki & Seiji Sakaguchi for the NWA North American Tag Team title in Nagoya – 13,000
- March 20, 1975: vs. Antonio Inoki for the NWF Heavyweight title in Tokyo – 10,500
- June 26, 1975: vs. Antonio Inoki for the NWF Heavyweight title in Tokyo – 10,600
- August 5, 1976: vs. Antonio Inoki for the NWF Heavyweight title in Tokyo – 8,800
- January 27, 1978: w/ Umanosuke Ueda vs. Seiji Sakaguchi & Strong Kobayashi for the NWA North American Tag Team title in Nagoya – 9,500
- April 5, 1979: vs. Antonio Inoki for the NWF Heavyweight title in Tokyo – 8,500
- June 8, 1982: vs. Giant Baba for the PWF Heavyweight title in Tokyo – 9,800
- February 5, 1985: vs. Giant Baba for the PWF Heavyweight title in Tokyo – 10,250
- September 30, 1990: w/ Antonio Inoki vs. Big Van Vader & Animal Hamaguchi in Yokohama – 18,000
- September 19, 1992: vs. Atsushi Onita for the WWA World Martial Arts Heavyweight title in Yokohama – 30,000
As you can see, that is nearly 20 years of drawing large houses in Japan. That includes success in multiple promotions including New Japan, All Japan and FMW. I made an arbitrary decision to list attendances of over 8,000, but if you go and look at his records there are many more attendances of over 5,000 that he headlined even into the 2000s when in 2004, he headlined HUSTLE-6 against Naoya Ogawa in front of 7,758 in Nagoya.
But wait, there’s more!
In 1980 and 1981 he headlined several shows for UWA in Mexico at Toreo de Cuatro Caminos in Naucalpan. Attendances are not complete for most of these shows, but a February 15, 1981 show against El Canek for the UWA World Heavyweight title had an attendance of 20,000. And while he was not a main eventer in Frank Tunney’s Maple Leaf Wrestling, he was near the top of the card getting many title shots there throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s when the promotion was one of the hottest in North America.
Singh’s reach also extended beyond pro wrestling. After he wound down his career, he became a famous philanthropist in the Greater Toronto Area. His Tiger Jeet Singh Foundation is a charity that raises money to help the sick and the poor. And how many pro wrestlers can boast they have a school named after them?
There is no question that Tiger Jeet Singh is a slam dunk for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.