Taking God to the Mat: The Biblical World of Pro Wrestling

By Dart, John | The Christian Century, September 19, 2006 | Go to article overview

Taking God to the Mat: The Biblical World of Pro Wrestling


Dart, John, The Christian Century


THE LURID AND violent world of World Wrestling Entertainment, which claims an audience of 50 million worldwide, includes microphone-grabbing diatribes by rival wrestlers, "candid" camera shots from the locker rooms, the ringside connivance of wrestlers' girlfriends, and the dramatic on-screen and ringside presence of WWE owner-impresario Vincent McMahon.

This blue-collar opera, as it has been called, also draws on biblical images and themes, according to Hugh S. Pyper, senior lecturer in biblical studies at the University of Sheffield in England. Pyper says the Bible provides "a ready set of imagery ... of power, destruction, revenge and judgment.... I cannot now read the book of Judges without casting the characters in a WWE extravaganza." He was referring to the Old Testament text focused on idolatry, divine punishments and the story of Samson and Delilah.

Not that one needs a doctorate in biblical studies to catch the WWE's biblical references. A promotional video for the "Armageddon 2003" matches features chapter-and-verse citations from Jeremiah 30:3, Joel 2:31, Zephaniah 1:8 and Revelation 16 superimposed on scenes of a city in ruin. "No soul shall be saved," intones an ominous voice. Another show is titled "Judgment Day."

WWE sold millions of T-shirts bearing the motto "Austin 3:16" after "red-neck" wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Jake the Snake Roberts, who played the role of a Christian believer who was always citing John 3:16. Stone Cold trounced his pious opponent, crowing, "Austin 3:16 says, 'I whipped your ass!'" Pyper found it interesting that the Gospel citation was "turned against the Christian kill-joy."

Speaking at a meeting in Scotland of the Society of Biblical Literature, Pyper urged fellow academics not to dismiss such popular use of religious imagery. "It is precisely the areas of most difficulty to liberal and rational biblical scholarship--apocalyptic and the supernatural, especially demonic, realms--that seem to be the areas where the Bible appears in popular culture ... in terms of the monstrous and the fantastic," he said. "It is as if a dark side of the Bible in our culture is being rediscovered."

McMahon not only pushes the envelope on biblical references but breaks many of the old rules against revealing the fakery and predetermined outcomes of wrestling entertainment. Pyper said McMahon plays a role that is "uncannily close" to that of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible. Like God, McMahon is owner-creator of a spectacle--in his case wrestling--as well as "a character who appears on stage in that spectacle."

Several years ago, champion wrestler Bret Hart was leaving the franchise. By custom, he was supposed to lose his title before leaving by a disqualification rather than by a defeat. Pyper reported that in the show McMahon was at ringside as Hart was being pinned, instructing the timekeeper to ring the bell ending the match after two counts instead of waiting for a third count. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Taking God to the Mat: The Biblical World of Pro Wrestling
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.