Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Wrestling Hall of Fame

My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 3, 2022, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

I must confess that I have never been interested in pro wrestling. When I was growing up, my family didn't have a television in our home. In high school, many kids talked about a new TV program, WWWF Championship Wrestling. When they spoke of Bruno Sammartino, Chief Jay Strongbow, Killer Kowalski, and Andre The Giant, I had no idea what they were talking about. 

As I got older and had a family of my own, I occasionally saw wrestling on tv. The flashy costumes, bragging, and posturing didn't entice me to continue watching. But I couldn't avoid it altogether, as wrestling became a part of American culture, and names such as Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper became well known even outside wrestling circles. With its popularity, many people began to ask questions. Is it a sport or a show? Is it real or fake? I heard many lively debates on the subject.

As the years have passed and wrestling has become even more popular, the debate has waned. People know the answer, and the sport no longer tries to hide it. In an interview, professional wrestler Kurt Angle said, "pro wrestling is not fake; it's sports entertainment. We go out there, and we perform, and a lot of what we do out there is real, but we're not going to insult anyone's intelligence - there is a predetermined winner. It's just the fans don't know who it is, and that's what makes it so intriguing."

In a How Stuff Works article by Ed Grabianowski titled "How Pro Wrestling Works," Ed wrote, "The skills of the wrestlers do not determine the outcome of the match. Instead, writers work on plots and storylines well in advance, and every match is another chapter in the story. Who wins and who loses is all in the script.

Does that mean that wrestling is fake? It's true that the plots are predetermined, and the moves are choreographed. Wrestlers aren't really trying to beat up and injure each other. Sometimes, the bitterest enemies in the ring are really best friends, and the outlandish stories surrounding the characters are usually not true. However, simply calling wrestling "fake" is like calling an action movie fake. When you see a movie, you know that the actor didn't really jump a burning car over an exploding bridge, but you're still entertained."

I recently learned the story of a wrestler who had a storied career in the 30s. There was no television then, so most people have never heard of him. He was a trash-talking, rough and tumble wrestler. His moves were not choreographed, and the outcomes were not predetermined. He had a record of over 300 wins and only one recorded loss in twelve years of wrestling. At 6 foot 4 inches, he towered over most of his opponents, and his 185-pound fighting weight made him a lean, mean fighting machine.

During his time, wrestling wasn't very organized. It was mostly a show of strength. But there were competitions where people watched and gambled as the toughest men took each other on in a style of wrestling called collar and elbow. Common rules stated that each man shall take hold of the collar of his opponent with his right hand, while with his left he must take hold of the elbow. Both men shall stand up breast to breast, with limber arms, and show fair play.

With his impressive career in which he suffered only one defeat, Abe was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992 as an Outstanding American. Abe's entry on their website states, "Born in a log cabin in Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln received little schooling as his family moved through the wilderness. Growing up in Illinois, he clerked in a store, studied law, served in the Black Hawk War and took part in political talk of the day.

In the rough and ready style of the frontier, "catch as catch can" wrestling was more hand-to-hand combat than sport. Lincoln, an awesome physical specimen at 6-feet-4, was widely known for his wrestling skills and had only one recorded defeat in a dozen years.

In 1860 he was elected President. Lincoln recognized that the Union was threatened by the moral issue of slavery. The Civil War began soon after his inauguration. Lincoln met every crisis with poise and courage, and in January of 1863 issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves. He was reelected in 1864 and soon had the satisfaction of knowing that the Union had been preserved."

I wonder how many of Abe's wrestling opponents told people they had once wrestled the President of the United States. As I thought about Abe's wrestling career, I thought about another instance when someone unknowingly wrestled with someone famous. You can read about the wrestling match in Genesis 32: 24, 25 (VOICE). "Jacob stayed behind, left alone in his distress and doubt. In the twilight of his anguish, an unknown man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw he was not winning the battle with Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob's hip was thrown out of joint as he continued to wrestle with him." 

Jacob was at a crossroads in his life. He didn't know what to do. His brother Esau was coming to meet him, and Jacob did not know whether to flee or to face his foe. Jacob sent his family across the stream and was left alone to think about his history with his brother. At that point,  a man confronted him, and they wrestled all night. Jacob knew he was not wrestling with an ordinary man but God himself. God could have crushed Jacob, but He did not. Instead, He blessed Jacob and changed his name and course in history.

Gentle Reader, Like Jacob, we too wrestle with decisions, and sometimes, even with God. "God, why did you allow this to happen to me?" "God, why am I struggling so much with this issue?" We've all asked these questions at one point or another. If you are wrestling with God today, remember His record. He has never lost, and He never will. He is willing for you to wrestle with Him, but in the end, you must submit. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the lowly. Humble yourselves, then, under God's powerful hand, so that he may lift you up at the right time. Throw all your care upon him, because he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:5-7 (NTE)

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