Ghulum Mohammed

Ghulum Mohammed

Name: Ghulum Mohammed
Year Inducted: 2015

The Great Gama

In 1931, Nat Fleischer, the publisher of The Ring magazine, came out with a ranking of the greatest wrestlers of all-time. It wasn’t just his opinion; he asked the contemporary and past grapplers about their opinions. From his top six, five of them—Frank Gotch, George Hackenschmidt, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Ed “Stranger” Lewis and Jim Londos—were inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in its first or second year.

Number 4 on the list, The Great Gama, joins them with the Class of 2015.

Gama was born Ghulum Mohammed in 1888, in the Amritsar area of Pakistan; his father, Aziz, was a competitive wrestler, and Ghulum’s brother, Imama, would also grapple and his reputation is almost as great as Gama’s.

Carrying 250 pounds on a 5-foot-7 frame, “The Punjab Lion” (a/k/a the Great Gama) would become a legendary name in India early in the 1900s.

“Gama came out of Punjab to win the championship of India in 1909,” wrote Fleischer. “Several times he took on and licked 15 opponents in a day. In London, he threw an American, Dr. Benjamin Roller, twice in 7 mins. Then he fought a draw with Zbyszko, because the Pole refused to get off his hands and knees for 2 hrs. 45 mins. In 1928, when Gama was 50 and Zbyszko 48, they had a rematch in a mud pit outside Bombay before 100,000 people. Gama flattened Zbyszko in 10 secs.” Zibby took 50K for the fall, according to Thesz.

“With panther-like speed he has tremendous strength, and if, as he often does, he takes his opponents off his guard, his adversary is on his back before he is aware that the bout has begun,” The Sporting Life wrote of him in 1910.

Gama never did compete in North America, though Emil Klank, manager of Frank Gotch, tried to bring him over in 1919. “The wrestling game in this country needs more of the international flavor to make it good,” said Klank today, “To get these men out of India, and bring them to this country will cost me a small fortune, but when the fans of this country see Gama they will understand why I went to the expense.”

Through his tours of Europe, Gama influenced names such as Dara Singh, Jagot Singh and Tiger Jeet Singh, and helped propagate the caricature of an India wrestler, with turban, mustache and unharnessed wrestling greatness. India, with its outdoor rings on oiled sand and different rules, became a “lucrative” place to wrestle for the likes of Lou Thesz because of the reputation forged by Gama.

“Like Europe, wrestling in India was a respected and popular sport; for that matter, India’s tradition was even older and richer, the source and subject of legends,” Thesz told his biographer Kit Bauman. “India’s fans were educated to the real thing, not the American circus stuff, and my credentials as an authentic wrestler served me extremely well.”

Like all great professional wrestling stories, there is a lot of hype and much that cannot be truly documented. Did the Great Gama remain undefeated until his death on May 21, 1960? Did he throw more than 30 Japanese? Did he really move a 1200-kilogram stone outside Nazarbaug Palace himself?

In the end, it doesn’t matter.

The Great Gama is a hall of famer, through and through.

– GREG OLIVER

 

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