Christian wrestlers playing with fire

Christian wrestlers playing with fire, by Geoff Robson - September 2000
(Credit: Anglican Media / Southern Cross Online)

Next month, World Championship Wrestling hits our shores for a series of shows in Sydney and other major centres. As the first full-scale tour staged in Australia by WCW, the tour is a clear sign of the growth of pro wrestling, both for WCW and its rival World Wrestling Federation (WWF).

Wrestling programs regularly top US cable TV ratings, and popularity in Australia is booming, with the Sydney show selling out in a matter of hours, and a second Melbourne show added to cope with the huge demand.

But the runaway success of wrestling has been tied to an increase in violence, obscenity and sexual innuendo in the ongoing storylines. WCW writers have admitted to watching the Jerry Springer show for inspiration.

The increasingly explicit storylines have forced many Christian professional wrestlers to take stock of their involvement in the industry. Ted DiBiase, once known as ‘The Million Dollar Man’, now runs his own evangelical ministry known as ‘Heart of David Ministries’. He says he is disappointed that wrestling has ‘taken the low road’ in its chase for more money.

“I do not want to be associated with (the programming) they are airing now … I can no longer let my children watch,” he said.

DiBiase is remembered, among other things, as former manager of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, probably the most popular of the current crop of superstars.

Austin is best known for introducing ‘the gospel of Austin 3:16’ – now a slogan adorning countless T-shirts – after defeating a Christian wrestler who professed his belief in the Bible.

“‘Austin 3:16’ is blasphemy any way you look at it,” says DiBiase. Just as disturbing are reports from America of ‘copycat’ incidents leading to a number of deaths: A 12-year-old boy convicted of second degree murder after repeatedly body slamming his 18-month-old cousin; a seven-year-old boy who ‘clotheslined’ his three-year-old brother to death (investigating police said, “he did not want to hurt him … he just wanted to wrestle with him”). There are countless other reports of children and even adults being seriously injured from mimicking wrestling moves.

WWF boss Vince McMahon, in attempting to defend his organisation, managed to hit on one of the main dangers wrestling poses to children: “Our superb performers, as though in a classic cartoon, get knocked down over and over, only to get up again like Wile E. Coyote. So why is the WWF held to a different standard?”

McMahon seemed to miss what an increasing number of studies (and common sense) suggest: young children can distinguish cartoons and even movies as fictitious, but wrestling – packaged as a regular, authentic sporting event – blurs easily into reality, often with disastrous consequences.

The standards set by professional wrestling are a reminder not only that sport has become an entertainment industry, but also of the sometimes subtle dangers that such an industry can introduce.

Ted DiBiase now spends his time encouraging young people to turn back to God, away from the temptations and machismo portrayed by wrestling. “

What drives people to these things?” he asks. “Whether it’s the world of wrestling, Hollywood, professional athletics or the travelling salesman if you will, we are all tempted by the same things. Of course, as a Christian, the thing that’s missing in these lives is Jesus Christ.”


Anglican Media / Southern Cross Online

Ted DiBiase official website

Power Wrestling Alliance

World Wrestling Entertainment


Ted DiBiase


Bobby Riedel


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