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   Mon, May 16, 2005



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Winnipeg church turns to wrestling
By ROCHELLE SQUIRES - Winnipeg Sun




Christianity and wrestling have more in common than you may think, says Winnipeg Christian wrestling promoter Louis Hendrickson.

Following a traditional church service yesterday at St. Philip's Anglican Church with hymns and prayers led by priest Brian Flowers, members of the mostly-elderly congregation were treated to a wrestling match in the basement.

"My goal is to entertain them with the wrestling show while sending them the message that God and Jesus is important," said Hendrickson, the born-again Christian wrestling promoter known to local rasslin' fans as Lawrence Fozzworth III.

Others in the church were equally enthusiastic about the wrestling mini-card, held in the hundred-year-old church basement.

"I'd love to see more youth here, and maybe this will bring them back," said 29-year-old Christy Bettess, a member at St. Philip's and the former youth group leader. "Our youth group closed down two years after all the youth grew up. Now it's mostly an older congregation."

Yesterday's two-match mini-show featured six mostly-Christian wrestlers from Winnipeg.

"They're not all Christians, but we're working on them," said congregant David Bain, who does outreach work for the church and is the brainchild behind the wrestling-in-the-church concept.

There are only about 40 members who regularly attend the Norwood-area church.

"God always wants a packed house, and that's my goal," said Bain, adding he believes wrestling is the perfect example of the battle between good and evil and will help bring in newcomers.

Wayne Stanton, the ring master at yesterday's event and owner of River City Wrestling, echoed Bain's mantra at the start of the first match when he charged the 35-member audience to get in the action.

A wrestling match is like your relationship with God and the devil, "you pick your hero and you cheer him, and you boo your enemy," said Stanton.

The priest, who was also in attendance, admitted he wasn't much of a wrestling buff but is willing to give it a try.

"I have a lot to learn about wrestling, but I thought it had potential to reach out to the young people," said Flowers, adding he'd like to see his congregation grow to 400-plus members.

But not every member of the dwindling congregation was as open-minded about the event.

"For 55 years we've been going to this church. It was a lot different when we started going," said Doug Bradley, who was in the audience with his wife, Kay. "But if this is what it takes, then I guess we'll go with the flow."

Bain and Stanton have plans to launch a summer event that would include four big-name Christian wrestlers who would fight on Saturday and preach on Sunday at four different churches.