I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking with IMPACT star Rohit Raju, where the former X-Division champion and I looked back on his early run in the independents and how his hard work and perseverance eventually landed him a contract with IMPACT. He also discusses his love of the WCW cruiserweights, how he wants a different legacy for the Desi Hit Squad, getting to represent India as himself and not a stereotype, and much more. Highlights, including the full video interview, can be found below.
What he’s learned on his near 13-year journey as a professional wrestler:
Keep hustling, man, keep hustling. I used to work all the time, like, you know, trying to balance professional wrestling in real life, just trying to be a professional wrestler. And there’s so many people that said, it’s not gonna work. It’s a pipe dream. And when people try to do this, and you know, just a lot of negativity, I knew what I wanted. I knew my potential. And when I first got the look for Ring of Honor, and they started to use me for little things here and there I was like, “Well, if they’re using me, I must be doing something right.” If they’re telling me all this good information and these are some of the best wrestlers in the world I must be doing something right. And that kind of fizzled out. And I really didn’t know where I was gonna go from there. And then I had the opportunity to move. In fact, I said, “Well, I’m definitely not going to let this down.” I kept pushing, pushing and pushing in every opportunity to have and it’s to get my foot in the door with Impact. I kept taking advantage of it, and boom, I finally got signed, I was at the bottom, I worked my way up and am now a former X-division champion, hopefully a two time X-division champion who will be a world champion someday. But the thing is, it doesn’t stop. I mean, you can be at the bottom, and it looks like you’re going to be staying there. You got to keep fighting. You got to keep hustling. You got to keep grinding. As long as you know what you want and you know your worth and you know that you’re good at what you’re doing. You know, sky’s the limit. You honestly just have to keep pushing for it.
On the reaction the Desi Hit Squad was getting from fans and how he hopes the legacy of the group can be improved:
Well, there was definitely boos. I don’t remember any cheers at all. So it was definitely when we got booted out of the building. Whether it was because people didn’t want to see us or whether because they hated us. Legit heat you know? I don’t think the legacy of the hit squad…I don’t think it’s a good one and this is why and I don’t want to be negative but we didn’t do anything. We didn’t we didn’t do anything. There was nothing special that we were doing. There was a lot of momentum and then the momentum stopped and the changing of roster members. This person gets hurt this, that and the other. Now, it would be a little bit different to where I made a name for myself. Shira by himself right now can make a name for himself. Whenever Raj comes back, maybe he can make make a name for himself. And then in the future. When we’ve all made names for ourselves, then we form like Voltron. Then we bring it back because we’re not those guys that were at the bottom anymore. Now we’re somebodies you know what I mean? The hit squad was not success. I think it can be, but that that will have to happen in the future.
His love of the WCW 90s cruiserweights, specifically calling attention to Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio from Halloween Havoc 1997:
One of my favorite matches of all time was Halloween Havoc 97…Mysterio versus Eddie Guerrero. When Rey came out in the Phantom gear, I think it was mask versus title. Rey broke out that springboard backflip, DDT, and he hit it flawlessly. They had a great story. It had drama, The in-ring work was phenomenal. I mean, and then it had it buid it from beginning to end, you’re on a roller coaster ride, you didn’t know what was going to happen. You didn’t know how it was going to end. But you couldn’t wait. But you also didn’t want to get off the ride. That was professional wrestling in a nutshell. Sometimes you have matches where they’re just fireworks, fireworks, fireworks, it’s just stuff happening for no reason. And it’s just like, okay, and you know, to your generic fan, they’ll applaud and chant fight forever and all that nonsense, cool. And then sometimes you’ll have two guys out there that are just going through the motions trying to tell a story and there’s a story but the in-ring work is a hit or miss. This had everything. It had larger than life characters, had people that knew who they were and had people that knew the story they were telling, and they told it, and they told it better than anybody else could. To me. That is like professional wrestling in a nutshell and that was the best of the 90s cruiserweights.
Who he believes embodies the X-Division:
I think AJ Styles right off the bat. I think a when I first started watching TNA Impact, he was the guy. I didn’t know who he was, you know what I mean? He was just I was like, Who is this dude? And he was honestly phenomenal. The stuff he was doing and then watching him grow into who he is today as a fan. It’s awesome. It’s awesome to see that. I loved Petey Williams run as X-Division champion. I loved watching Chris (Sabin). I loved Low Ki. I loved the stuff between Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe and AJ.
How the division is in strong shape today with guys like TJP, Ace Austin, Chris Bey, Himself, and Josh Alexander, who Raju calls a future world champion:
As far as today goes, TJ brings a whole different level of experience to the conversation. I think a lot of people don’t realize that the guy’s been wrestling for 22 years. He’s been absolutely everywhere. He’s been a huge mentor to me backstage. I’ve learned so much, my competence level has improved so much, just from being in the ring with him and talking with him and listening to his philosophy of professional wrestling. He’s been a huge impact on my life. As far as my career. I love the fact that Chris Bey is a young up and comer, he’s so over and the people love him. He has his own style. He has his own swag. I love to see that. Ace Austin…he’s back on top…the King of the Mountain. Two-time X-Division champion. Then you mix Josh Alexander in there who I think is the future of the company right there. I think the guy can be World Champion tomorrow. If they wanted it. I think he could go in the ring with absolutely anybody. So I think the exhibition is fine. Um, I like to when you were talking about my style, I want to be different.
How he tries to implement his showmanship into his ring style, as that is what attracted him to wrestling:
My style, I guess isn’t as over is what people want to see in professional wrestling. They want to see the fireworks they want to see the bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. And I like that… I really do. But I also like the showmanship. I also like the Shakespeare I also like the character work. That’s what draws me to professional wrestling. One of my of my favorite matches was my last match TJP. I thought that story that we told it was, it was the accumulation of so many things. It started off as both of us just kind of being jovial and jokey, and then it came down to being serious. First thing I do is attack him right off the bat. And we’re just going at it. There’s no mask, there’s no nothing, there’s no smoke. It’s just us, trying to win and be the better person. I’m hoping people can see that I can do whatever you need me to do in the ring. You want me to go out there and do catch-as-catch-can… I can do that too. But I also love to be able to tell the story more than anything. Again, going back to the stuff that I enjoy.
On IMPACT moving to Thursday:
I’m excited. It’s a new move. It’s just evolving and keeping the product fresh. So hopefully people will just jump on in and we’ll get new eyes and new viewers as well.
On his run as X-Division champion:
I think it was an eye opener for a lot of people. I was already ready to be in that position, I wanted to be in that position, I wanted that smoke, I wanted that pressure. So me being able to cut promos go out there and have these matches. That’s what I wanted. So I was in my comfort zone, I was ready to show them and everybody else that I deserve to be able to have a seat at the big table. I loved it. I thought it like I said, I thought I proved a lot of people wrong. I thought I opened a lot of eyes. I showed the world that I can be a player and I am a player at Impact Wrestling, especially on the mic. There’s not anybody… I’m gonna say.. there’s not anybody on the roster that is touching on that microphone. And I think a lot of in the world of professional wrestling, there’s not too many people that are touching me on that microphone. Does the rest of the world see that? No, I still think there’s a lot of people sleeping on me. And they’ll continuously sleep on me until there’s a huge wake up call.
Getting to represent India and his goal to continue to work his way up the IMPACT card:
Being able to represent India is really cool…Being able to represent India as me is even better. Not being like a stereotype or anything of that nature because you see that a lot. Impact has always kind of let me do my thing, which has been really cool. And being able to be me but also represent an entire country is really, really cool. Especially being able to share the ring with someone like Shira who’s super over in India, which…that’s fantastic. That means it’s just more eyes on us and to be honest, man, it doesn’t stop. I’m hungrier now than ever, because I had a taste of the top… I had a taste of a championship and now I want it again. I crave it, I need it. So what do I have to do I have is continue to reinvent myself. I have to continue to go out there and and cut these great promos and cut better promos and put on better matches and make sure I’m reliable no matter who they put me in the ring with. I’m putting in good work and they see that, but I want to continue to move up to their card and I don’t want to be here stuck at the X-Division. I want tag titles. I want a world title… I want to be the guy in Impact Wrestling. That’s what I want. And that’s what I’m going to continue to work for.