Turn the other cheek?
How about break the other arm?
In the world of Ultimate Christian Wrestling, the meek aren’t exactly blessed.
Usually they’re bashed, bounced and power-bombed.
Perhaps the most extreme among extreme evangelists, these good news bruisers are primed to put Satan in a sleeper hold.
A loose network of pro and semipro wrestlers, UCW is the brainchild of Rob Fields, an otherwise mild-mannered English teacher at Woodstock High School. Fields, who lives in Canton, has been body-slamming for God since last summer and claims more than 200 souls saved.
At each UCW event, matches alternate with testimony, gospel and prayer. Fields’ crew wrestles for little or no pay, and the boss takes no salary, using the love offering collected at weekly matches, plus sponsor support, to cover costs.
He reaches a unique audience, said Keith Harper, 32, aspiring wrestler, owner of Professional Dry Wall Services and sponsor of a recent match. “He can pull people that wouldn’t dare step in a church house to hear about God.”
That’s been the evangelical mission since the first century: Go where the people are. Today, the gospel message is being packaged with a wild variety of human interests, from punk music to weightlifting.
And Fields is convinced that Christian wrestling will get people inside the gospel tent. “It’s live and loud and in your face, but it’s something you can bring your mom to.” Judging from the action at a match this month in Holly Springs, the UCW is as bone-crunchingly “real” as the televised variety.
Witness Fields (aka “Rob Adonis”), a 6-foot-4, 285-pound package of ministerial menace, getting trounced by Lee “Lover Boy” Thomas, with a succession of choke holds, chin blasters and a thunderous flying leg drop from the top rope.
When Thomas and his manager, Mr. Evil, gang up on the hapless Adonis, pounding him and stealing his UCW belt, we have to wonder, is the first going to be last tonight?
What would Jesus do?
Very likely he might try the Adonis Suplex, a patented “finishing” move (in wrestling parlance) that sends Thomas crashing to the mat and puts the championship back in Adonis’ hands.
“How many Jesus Christ fans do we have in the house?” Adonis hollers after the finish, to a cheering response.
“There is only one reason we need to be making noise tonight,” he tells the audience of about 200 gathered in the Zoom Town roller rink, somewhere amid the kudzu on the outskirts of Holly Springs, “and that is the Savior, our living Lord.”
Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair’s former partner in World Championship Wrestling, offered his own testimony during a break in the Holly Springs match and stood ready at the altar call — a regular feature of UCW events — to counsel any new believers. Though none approached the ring that evening, wrestling, he said later, can win souls that conventional worship can’t. “If you’re fishing, and you don’t catch fish, change bait.”
Fields started out in the secular wrestling world, learning the ropes right out of college, wrestling on the weekends while teaching at Woodstock High School during the week.
Then a voice spoke to him on June 3, 2003, the morning of his 27th birthday, telling him to get the garbage out of his wrestling. “I woke up in a cold sweat.” On July 27, he staged his first UCW match.
His precepts are simple: No blood, no profanity, no rude gestures, no scantily clad divas. Even the UCW “heels,” or bad guys, refrain from insulting their opponents or any fans. Other organizations use the same formula. A Christian Wrestling Federation based in Rockwall, Texas, has been putting on “clean” matches since 2001. This restraint doesn’t seem to disappoint the fans. John Rowell, 34, a Woodstock resident and a manager for a Marietta chain-link fence company, approved UCW’s head-knocking evangelism and brought his 8-year-old son Tyler to the Zoom Town match.
“There are other ways, other than going to church, to get the word out,” he said, adding that wrestling encompasses universal themes. “This is good and evil.”
In one match a pair of bad guys had bested a babyface — a good guy — and were ready to power-bomb the fellow through a folding table when “Adonis” stepped in to offer himself as a Christ-like substitute. Boom. Through the table he went.
But, as one learns from Corinthians, and from the “Rocky” movies, you shouldn’t count out a babyface before the bell.
“My message,” said Fields, “is even when you’re down, you’re not really down. Your job as a Christian is to keep kicking. It’s not over until Gabriel’s trumpet sounds.”