Once a bear attracted quite a following in faith-based wrestling. This wasn’t a case of the bear’s retiring from the ring and then taking up religion, as sometimes happens. It was still at the height of its career. No, the bear was simply among the first to recognize a role for wrestling in big-time religion. It all began one night in a sold-out arena, after the bear, to the screaming thumbs-down of its fans, had just squeezed an opponent’s ribs until they gave way. The bear looked out into the spotlight-threaded darkness, into the popping flashbulbs, and had a revelation. These multitudes hungered for something, it realized. That was why they came here night after night, city after city. They had gathered together in search of something to believe in. And then the bear had its second revelation of the night. What the screaming crowd sought was something to hold onto in confusing times. Outside the ropes, in the chaotic world of life’s uncertainties, telling right from wrong was tricky. Inside the ropes, the smash-mouth struggle between good and evil was easier to follow. Seized with this recognition, the bear dropped its unconscious opponent to the mat, grabbed a microphone from the ringside announcer, and began to shout in all directions. “Listen to me! Listen to me, all of you out there! I know what you’re looking for! I know what you need!” The crowd rose to its feet as one in response, uncertain what to expect but ready for anything. “You want the Match of Matches! You want the Final Showdown!” The crowd broke into cheers of agreement. Drawing in a deep breath, the bear then turned to the nearest television camera and issued the biggest challenge of its career: “If you’re out there, Prince of Darkness . . . if you’re out there . . . listen up!” The crowd went wild. Shouts of “Prince of Darkness! Prince of Darkness!” echoed through the air. “Oh, you can call yourself ‘The Wily One,’ or you can call yourself ‘The Archfiend,’ and you may think you can’t be whupped. But I got news for you! Armageddon’s comin’!” “Armageddon’s comin’! Armageddon’s comin’! Bring it on!” “I dare you to meet me, no holds barred, at next month’s ‘Doomsday in Dallas’!” “Doomsday! Doomsday!” The chant ran in waves around the arena as the bear, pumping its arms defiantly overhead, stalked down the aisle to the showers. Later, however, as “Doomsday in Dallas” approached with no sign of the Prince of Darkness, the bear began to wonder if it should have put a little more into the challenge. Was it a bit flat? It sounded good each night the bear repeated it in towns large and small, but were the taunts strong enough to draw the Devil out? What if he didn’t show up? On the other hand, what if the Devil did show up but refused to go down for the count? It would be absolutely in character for him not to take the scripted fall. Then again, suppose he did take the fall? What would that do to future ticket sales and television ratings? How do you hold your audience share after Doomsday has come and gone? This was serious. Religious wrestling, the bear realized, needed the Devil far more than the devil needed it.
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans