IMPACT Wrestling star and current X-Division champion Rohit Raju recently spoke to Sports Illustrated to talk all things pro-wrestling, including the influence his late mother had on his career and his love of the cruiserweight division from the 90s. Highlights are below.
Talks about his mother passing away before his wrestling career took off:
I wish she were still here,” said Raju, who was raised by his mother after his parents divorced when he was three. “For the longest time, she was going to school, working, and supporting the family with no help. She finally graduated and became a nurse. No matter if we were dead broke, she knew my love for professional wrestling. She still made sure I had the action figures, and she’d sit and watch with me. I remember finding a yellow Superman shirt from a rummage sale, and she cut the shirt to resemble Hulk Hogan’s. I would wear that and give promos on the tape recorder, imitating all my favorite wrestlers. The fact that she’s not here to share this success, it breaks my heart, but I always keep her close to my heart.
Compares the 90s cruiserweights and the early X-Division wrestlers:
I loved the ‘90s WCW cruiserweights,” said Raju. “They brought such a different style, mixing the Japanese style with the Mexican and the American style. The X Division upped that, and I instantly fell in love with it. I was at Bound for Glory in 2007, watching Chris Sabin win the X Division title. It blew me away. This belt means I am in a top spot in Impact. The X Division is known for high-flyers, but I’m doing something different with the belt. I’m bringing that old-school character work into the ring work. Some people like what I’m doing, and some people actually despise it, which means I’m doing what I should be doing.
Hypes his Bound For Glory multi-man title match:
Everyone in this match, they’re all top-notch, and they each bring something different,” said Raju. “Storyline, I love it, because I’ve been screwing them all over. I’m dangling the carrot every week, but I take it away from them every time. Now people want to see me get my comeuppance, so what will I do to make sure I walk away the champion? It’s an opportunity I’m so happy to have. I worked for this, and it feels good to finally have it.
Loves that he gets to represent India on IMPACT:
I love the fact that I get to represent India, and Impact lets me express myself the way I want,” said Raju. “In order to succeed, you need to let me be me. I can act like a complete jerk, or be obnoxious and over the top, plotting and scheming to get what he needs to get. I’m a pro wrestler, so I hope that’s what comes through more than anything else. Sometimes it feels like people in pro wrestling don’t want you to be a pro wrestler. But 30 years later, who are we still talking about? Flair, Hogan, Dusty. Or Austin and The Rock—the ones that exuded pro wrestling. That’s who I model myself after, the ones that were so good they transcended the normal stereotypes and stigmas.
How he tries to make sure people hate him:
My job is to make people hate me, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing,” said Raju. “I am going to do what I do better than anybody else, and I’m going to make sure Impact knows that and my peers know that. I’ll continue betting on myself. The best is yet to come.