Joe Pritchett’s Real Talk: Wrestling with Faith

Joe Pritchett


There isn’t very much that is taboo in professional wrestling. We seem to discuss everything under the sun. Nothing is off limits. Yet there is one topic in which I rarely here discussed; a topic in which I take great interest in. Wrestling can be described as a brotherhood. Men forged together for a single goal, traveling day in and day out to give us the product we see on television and in the arena every week.

Yet there is another brotherhood among wrestlers which is rarely discussed. Men such as Sting, Shawn Michaels, Animal of the Road Warriors, Tully Blanchard, and Ted Dibiase have two things that connect all of them together. They are all wrestlers, and they are all men of faith. I find it fascinating to hear the stories of these men, and what sent them down the path that eventually lead to their acceptance of the Christian faith.

I ponder why these men, all wrestlers, would turn to religion later in their lives. I find myself asking what factors affected this turn, and what, after accepting religion, have they done with their lives since? I think to understand why they chose religion, we must first look at where they were before this turn to faith.

They were all wrestlers. It is well known that the wrestling lifestyle is a very hard one. These men are on the road three hundred days out of the year. They are away from their families and friends at home. They put their bodies through hell every night to please the fans. They are in pain, and the temptations of the road are many.

Whether it be women, drugs, alcohol, or pain killers, we here the same story repeated time and time again by many professional wrestlers. And even more unfortunate, we see the affects these things have on so many of them. We can’t deny the fact that the death rate in professional wrestling is far higher than any other conventional activity. The world of professional wrestling his high pressured, and in an attempt to ease these pressures, the very source of comfort to do so eventually causes many men to crack.

Steve Borden, a.k.a Sting, eventually confronted his wife about many of his problems. “I told her I was taking prescription drugs. I was taking pain killers, I was taking muscle relaxers, and I was drinking alcohol,” he recalled in an interview. Sting, arguably one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of WCW, echoed sentiments many have heard time and time again. Yet his eventual path was not self destruction. In 1998 he turned to faith, to Christianity, and from then on left the many problems he had far behind.

Other examples are abundant. Tully Blanchard was a successful member of the original Four Horseman. They had the well deserved reputation of partying all night, driving fast cars, gambling, sleeping with beautiful women, and drinking lots of alcohol. The Horseman lived their story. Blanchard, in an interview on the former WWE program Confidential, admitted that he was heading toward imminent destruction, and it was not until he became a Christian that he turned his life around.

Shawn Michael’s wild ways are well known throughout the wrestling community. Most all of us know that he had a wild, reckless, “me first” attitude when he departed the WWE after Wrestlemania XIV. Yet when he returned in 2002 he was a new man. He wore his faith on his sleeve for all to see, and the obvious impact, at least on his on air persona, was quite evident.

Since becoming Christians, many of these men have spread their message in different ways. Ted Dibiase is maybe the best example. Anyone can visit his website to learn about his ministry, www.heartofdavidministry.com, and to see how busy this man is since retiring from wrestling in the late nineties. Dibiase, who has readily admitted that he was not exactly an outstanding citizen while on the road as a wrestler, now ministers to people all around the country. He uses his past as a wrestler as a backdrop to share his faith.

Sting, a personal favorite of mine, recently released a DVD called Sting-Moment of Truth, which is a movie he made chronicling his career and more heavily his personal hardships and eventual redemption through his faith. While the movie does have some interesting clips from his wrestling past, he chooses to focus on his acceptance of Christ and the impact that had on him. Sting has promoted the DVD on many Christian circuits in hopes of reaching both a wrestling and a Christian audience.

Tully Blanchard, like these men, also now spreads his message to the masses. He once commented, “”My parents and people from their church had been praying for me for 12 years. God answers prayers. The Lord just took all that stuff away from me — drugs, alcohol…I was just changed.”

Animal of the famous Legion of Doom has a similar story. He was quoted as saying, “We went to AIM (Athletes International Ministries) Convention and that is where Hawk became a Christian. I witnessed to him, Shawn Michaels and Terry Taylor as they gave their hearts up to God also. All the titles I have ever won which have been them all as a tag team does not compare to knowing you have a relationship with God.”

The faith of these men allow them to stay in the public spotlight, using their wrestling career as a backdrop to reach people who normally would not hear the message their faith has to offer. I was surprised to see as I walked into a church one night two signed pictures. One was of the famed Road Warriors, and the other was of Dibiase. My friend, whom I was attending with, informed me that they had all been to her church to speak.

Why, you may ask after reading, is any of this important? I believe it is profoundly important. I am afraid that many of the men I watch on television every week will unfortunately be gone before I have a chance to fully appreciate them. The destructive habits that that a wrestling lifestyle aids is well documented, and in my eyes, very scary. It is unfortunate to see so many talented people, people who we look up to every week, lose their battles with drugs, alcohol, pain killers, and depression. We hear the stories about past wrestlers such as Curt Hennig, Crash Holly, The British Bull Dog, Hawk, and Brian Pillman. They all share one thing in common, which is their addictive lifestyle, formed in order to deal with the rigors and stresses of a life in wrestling, leading to their eventual downfall.

The reason why it is important to note these men who have overcome this is because they have taken a step that so many failed to take. They found something else which was far more potent than drugs or alcohol. They found something positive in which they could structure their lives around. They found something that would not break them down but build them up and lift the spirits of not only themselves but all of those around them.

I’m not saying that every wrestler should turn to Christianity. The point of this column is not to endorse a particular faith, but to celebrate those who beat the system before it beat them. I hope that in the future more wrestlers will find something positive that they can count on in order to deal with the pressures of their careers. It hurts to see so many talented individuals who we grew up loving pass away because of the destructive choices they made in an attempt to stay afloat during their careers.

I look to Shawn Michaels for proof that these destructive patterns which so many wrestlers have can be beaten. I look in the man’s eyes, at his face, and in his expressions when he is in front of the camera. He is a changed man. Wrestling and all the negative things that go along with it no longer control him. He embraces God and his family, and because of that the Shawn Michaels that steps into the ring every week is a better wrestler. I will go so far as to say the reason he is wrestling today is because he found God. And I will also go so far as to say that I hope many more wrestlers will find something positive in which they can hold on to. Because if they do, it will be better for themselves, their loved ones, and in the long run us as fans as well.

Until next time, this has been Joe Pritchett’s Real Talk, real talk from a real fan!

Feel free to contact me at jepritch@udel.edu!

MSN: showtime1up AIM/YAHOO: jordanprill

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