SALT & LIGHT
Wrestling with the Darkness
By Elliott Ryan
I started watching professional wrestling when I was seven
years old. It was very different back then. Sure, it has always
been about people acting like they were angry at each other and
pretending to fight each other. It used to be an over-the-top,
melodramatic exhibition of good vs. evil. But in the late 1990s,
it became something worse. It became something perverse and vulgar
that was less about an athletic exhibition and more about shocking
television designed to push the envelope of what was appropriate
on prime time television.
So I was not unfamiliar with the product, when I recently heard
about the death of another pro wrestler this weekend. In a business
where people work injured and self-medicate to deal with the pain,
it seems death has become all too frequent of an occurrence.
But this article isn't about the evils of pro wrestling. It is
about something good.
On Sunday, I came across a news article about the death of a professional
wrestler named Eddie Guerrero. It saddened me because I knew of
Eddie's life story. And I knew about his faith.
Eddie came from a family that was deeply entrenched in the wrestling
business. When I watched wrestling as a kid, I remember seeing
his brother Hector wrestle live in person at a local arena. He
had several other brothers who wrestled and also a nephew who
still wrestles. That nephew is the person who found Eddie dead
in his hotel room. He was found dead in the bathroom of his hotel
room with his toothbrush still in his mouth. Apparent cause of
death was a heart attack though autopsy results are pending.
Eddie’s adult life had been marred by addictions. He became
a slave to pain killers after an injury which was worsened by
alcoholism. He was released by the company he worked for several
years ago as a result of showing up to work "in no condition
to perform." If Eddie had passed away at that point, his
life would have been a sad story but not entirely atypical from
other wrestling deaths.
But Eddie went to rehab. He dealt with his addictions. And he
turned back to God. See, Eddie was a born-again Christian. Eddie's
faith in God deepened as He gave Eddie the power to overcome his
demons. He got rehired by the wrestling company that had previously
fired him. And he lived his faith out in front of the other performers.
He has made several public comments about how his faith helped
him and his family through the storms he endured. By all accounts,
Eddie had been clean for the last four years. Perhaps all the
damage done by his years of hard living had already taken its
toll on his body though.
On television this week, a wrestling tribute show was held in
Eddie's honor. So I tuned in to see what the wrestlers had to
say. It was actually a very touching show. There weren't any interviews
from wrestlers about how they wanted to beat someone up. All of
the comments on that evening dealt with their memories of Eddie.
To see 300 pound fighters openly sobbing on national TV is surreal.
Many wrestlers mentioned how Eddie was a man of faith and they
knew he was in a better place. One of the league's champions talked
about how Eddie used to read his Bible to him when he was discouraged.
But the most interesting comments came from a wrestler named Shawn
Micheals. Shawn also accepted Christ a few years ago. In his comments
on the tribute show, he talked about how he and Eddie had encouraged
each other in their faith. He said that Eddie's witness to the
rest of the locker room continued even in death. He then told
how earlier that day, all of the wrestlers in the company joined
together in prayer. He stressed that they prayed in the name of
Think about that. The roster of the largest pro wrestling company
in the world joined in prayer in Jesus' name. And then it was
mentioned on their weekly TV show which airs all over the world.
Jesus calls us to be a light in the darkness.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill
cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it
under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives
light to everyone in the house." -- Matthew 5:14-15
Eddie Guerrero was that in life and death. I hope that those
wrestlers and their fans take time to think about his life and
his witness. If it causes them to pause and think about their
spiritual lives, then God may bring something good out of a terribly
sad day for Eddie's family and friends.
When I was a little kid, I looked up to wrestlers. My young faith
and my interest in wrestling combined to lead me to pray for the
salvation of all the wrestlers I watched. I seriously prayed that
regularly for years as a child. My prayer for wrestlers all began
when one of my favorite wrestlers got in a car crash that he barely
survived. He never wrestled again. So I prayed for him and that
led to praying for all the wrestlers.
Twenty years later, many of the wrestlers I prayed for are Christians
today. In fact, the wrestler in that auto accident is a Christian
today. One of my other favorite wrestlers named Sting accepted
Christ, left the wrestling business and has had a movie made last
year about his turn to Christ. (Read
Sting's interview from the 700 Club). A bunch of those wrestlers
I prayed for now speak in churches about their Christian faith.
It seems that every few months I hear about another wrestler I
prayed for accepting Christ.
I told someone as a kid that I was praying for professional wrestlers.
That person just kind of chuckled. But I am glad I did it.
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of
your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the
hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious
inheritance in the saints..." -- Ephesians 1:17-18
peace with God.
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