On Wrestling and Religion
By JOHN F. MOLINARO -- SLAM! Wrestling
Today's stars wrestle with their faith
As the battle lines between the 'religious right' and the WWF are being
drawn over the content of WWF TV programming, both sides are digging in
Eddie Guerrero. Courtesy WCW.
Caught in the crossfire are the forgotten casualties: pro wrestlers
grappling with their Christian conscience and the stigma of the
If you're surprised that many wrestlers are religious and open about
their faith, you shouldn't be. A long list of former wrestling stars such as
Ted DiBiase, Ernie Ladd, Nikita Koloff and Tully Blanchard became
more involved in their faith after leaving pro wrestling. Many of today's top
stars, including WCW star Sting, ECW manager Francine
and Eddie Guerrero
are practicing Christians.
"Everything I have or accomplished in wrestling is because of our Lord
Jesus Christ," Guerrero told SLAM! Wrestling recently.
Guerrero is pound for pound one of the best wrestlers in the world.
Years of training under the watchful eye of his legendary father Gory
Guerrero and three older brothers helped him prepare for the demanding
rigours of the wrestling industry.
Yet, more than anything else, Guerrero credits God for his success in
"He is my saviour and is responsible for all the gifts I have."
You might think that wrestling and religion don't mix. The inherent
violence, the back stabbing politics, the high levels of
macho-testosterone surging through the veins of beefy, muscled-up
bruisers; these aspects of the mat game would suggest that pro
wrestling is incompatible with the tenets of Christianity.
"If anything, (wrestling) gives me more courage to kind of do what I
do, because it's not an easy lifestyle," said Jericho, a devout
Christian, reminding fans on his website
"that Jesus is the reason for the season
and to give thanks to him for all we have."
Jericho is open about his faith in God, considering it vital to his
"You kind of need something else, something like the Lord watching over
your shoulder to make sure that nothing happens to you. It's more of an
extra incentive, an extra kind of shove."
Religion is a taboo subject among some of the wrestlers. Some are
vocal about keeping religion out of the locker room. Others are not so
offended, welcoming the chance to start some form of religious dialogue.
Chris Jericho battles Eddie Guerrero during their days together in WCW.
For Jericho, religion rarely gets in the way of his wrestling career.
"It's never really been a problem..." continued Jericho. "(Wrestling
is) not all about going up to the show, and getting messed up and trying
to pick up girls and stuff."
Some wrestlers who have been open about their religious beliefs have had
a hard time.
"(My being a wrestler) gave me a lot of problems ... with certain church
members," remembered Don Leo
a major star in the '60s and '70s, who was born in Utah, and raised a Mormon. "A lot of them didn't like it."
The WWF and WCW have come under attack recently by parent and religious
groups. They contend that both groups' product, already violent in
its very nature, is slipping further into the territory of sleaze and
As WWF owner Vince McMahon and WCW writer Vince Russo continue to push the limits of good taste in wrestling, some pro wrestlers are finding it difficult to reconcile their profession with their Christian faith.
"It's a daily struggle for me," admitted Guerrero. "Some of the stuff
we do on our TV, I don't agree with because of my Christian beliefs.
It's very hard."
"I'm caught in the middle a lot of times. I don't always agree with the
(storylines) they program me in but I can't complain too much because I
want to be a good employee."
Jericho tackles the problem head on and has little trouble combining his
Christian faith with the direction of the WWF.
"It's all up to the individual character to kind of regulate what he'll
do, and what he doesn't do. I try not to swear on the shows. I'm not
going to say that I haven't, but most of the time I specifically try to
stay away from that, and as far as the sexual content, I will stay away
"The violence, well it's basically a television show that's based around
violence, and I'm playing a character," continued Jericho. "The
character may not be a Christian, but the real life Chris Irvine
(Jericho's real name) is, and once again, the WWF product isn't really
geared toward that segment, but I try to do my best to keep it as clean
as I can, and just try to do what I can within the realms of where I
-- with files from Greg Oliver and Alex Ristic