Pro Wrestling League: A launch pad to shine on the bigger stage

Home-grown wrestlers reaped the benefit of spending time with and competing against some elite overseas wrestlers in the Pro Wrestling League.

Babita Kumari of UP Dangal in action against Sofia Mattsson of Haryana Hammers. “It has made a lot of difference to the sport. This was an opportunity for the wrestlers to have another source of income while learning and improving,” said Dipin Kapur, one of the team owners of the Hammers.   -  V. V. Krishnan

There is hope amid hopelessness for Haryana Hammers, which lifted the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) title the last time it was held in 2019.

Having been part of all four seasons of the PWL, it was a gradual progression for Hammers when it eventually emerged as the champion. Now, the Hammers camp feels that the uncertainty over the future of the league — due to a fall out leading to a legal battle between the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and the promoters — can be overcome.

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“There have been challenges. The WFI and team owners have come together to overcome those. A lot of effort, energy, time and investment have gone into it. The learning curve is over and now is the time to run the league efficiently,” said Dipin Kapur, one of the team owners of the Hammers.

The PWL started with a bang in 2015 with a lot of fanfare before it found some hurdles. “Initially there were some teething issues, but nothing major. Team owners have changed. Since it is an expensive proposition, some are willing to continue while some are not. My personal experience has been good, though,” he said.

Like any other league, the PWL faced tough times as far as finances were concerned.

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“It was difficult to get sponsors. Any league takes three, four or five years to reach a stage. For example, Indian Premier League (IPL) took 10 years to break even. There was heavy investment in the first four years of the PWL. I think in seven-eight years it is going to be a viable league,” said Kapur.

In the four years, the PWL projected several lesser-known Indian wrestlers who used it as a launch pad to shine on the bigger stage.

Home-grown wrestlers like Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Pooja Dhanda, Ravi Dahiya, Deepak Punia and Sandeep Tomar reaped the benefit of spending time with and competing against some elite overseas wrestlers — including world and Olympic medallists such as Adeline Gray, Helen Maroulis, Vladimer Khinchegashvili and Haji Aliyev.

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“It has made a lot of difference to the sport. This was an opportunity for the wrestlers to have another source of income while learning and improving,” noted Kapur.

Even as 2020 has been overpowered by the COVID-19 outbreak, Dipin Kapur is optimistic that 2021 will see the revival of the PWL.