One of the more unusual books about wrestling you’ll find, this is one man’s tale of the parallels he finds between wrestling (mainly WWE) and religion (mainly Christianity.)
The book follows a set pattern with each chapter beginning with a recollection of an incident or aspect of wrestling and then an explanation of a related element of religion or Biblical story. For example, the opening chapters compare the issue of planning a match vs calling it in the ring with taking similar approaches to delivering a sermon; the story of Paul Heyman sitting in uninvited at a Dusty Rhodes booking meeting to the need for churchgoers to listen to and learn from religious teachers; and the need to avoid the edge of the ring in a Royal Rumble to the need to avoid temptation as a believer.
It’s often an intriguing set of comparisons and includes some less well-known wrestling moments. For example, I was particularly struck by an examination of two Mick Foley promos about moments being more important than statistics and how that relates to members of the religious community being overly concerned with the raw numbers of their congregation and forgetting to view members as individuals.
Other comparisons seemed more of a stretch and, for non-believers at least, would best be viewed as very loose parables rather than exact comparisons, for example a likening of Bret Hart being screwed in Montreal to the betrayal of Jesus, or DX continuing and thriving without Shawn Michaels being reminiscent of the disciples continuing their work after Christ’s death.
In some ways it’s a cleverly organised book given the diverse potential audience: the more direct comparisons and shorter examples come at the beginning, while later on the book moves to looser parallels and more extended quotations and explanations of Bible scripture.
There’s also a chapter on explicit references to religion in wrestling characters and storylines, though it doesn’t go into great depth. In particular, there’s little exploration of the way many religious characters have been portrayed negatively, but that this has usually been in the form of the character misusing religion for personal gain, rather than attacking faith itself. It was also surprising to see no mention at all of Austin 3:16.
For those who are opposed to religion and wary of feeling “preached to”, parts of this book may feel too much. However, you don’t necessarily have to be a religious believer to find at least parts of this book of interest, particularly where the parallels are drawn to human nature in general rather than specific Christian rituals and stories.
[Thanks to the author for supplying a review copy.]