Fans Tag Team Faith & Wrestling at Mercy Road Church
Writer / Josh Brown
Photography provided by Wrestling Theology & Josh Brown
Wrestling Theology started out with a simple question: What does it look like to incorporate faith into a passion for wrestling?
It’s a question that took some time for founder Rich Abbott to figure out.
“I was new to Christianity at the time, and a friend of mine said to me, ‘You are a big wrestling fan, and you talk about it all the time. Maybe you should combine your newfound faith with your love for wrestling,’” Abbott says. “Through some prayer and talking with friends, it just hit me to start doing viewing parties.”
The earliest days of the group started with WWE Pay-Per-View watch parties. Abbott would gather the group together to watch matches, make new friends and, where the opportunity arose, bring faith into the conversations.
The idea quickly caught on and it wasn’t long before the group started to grow. A big part of that growth is that the group isn’t exclusive to Christians only, but it is open to the public and tailored more as a wrestling community that can talk about life, support one another and discuss spiritual beliefs.
“The group actually started about 50/50 Christian and non-Christian,” Abbott says. “There are a lot of wrestling fans out there that just don’t have friends that like wrestling. So I thought, let’s put us all together and we can have real conversations while watching wrestling about faith and where everybody is at in their life.”
Abbott’s main goal has always been to bring a community of wrestling fans together, Christian or not, and share their passion while also having encouraging conversations that leave the door open for people who might have more questions about Christianity or Jesus.
“We aren’t forcing this and making it a bible-teaching session,” Abbott says. “We are more just having normal conversations. When we started doing viewing parties and going to shows, well if we were going to a show three hours away, you have friends in the car and as you talk about wrestling and other things you can talk about faith, prayer requests or just lead by example. I try to always ask for prayer requests, even if you aren’t a Christian, because you can pray for people regardless of where they stand. It’s never something that has scared people off.”
As Wrestling Theology has grown, it has also evolved. The group still hosts viewing parties, but now they even host live wrestling shows and conventions of their own at Mercy Road Church.
“At every wrestling show we have something about faith, hope and love included with the wrestling,” Abbott says. “I have always said we will never do a corny wrestling storyline with a faith part. Our wrestlers aren’t wrestling the devil or something goofy like that. The matches are very good matches. We want to make sure that everyone who comes out is entertained.”
The matches include wrestlers from all over, and Wrestling Theology has even gotten a few former pro wrestlers. Cody Deaner spoke at Wrestling Theology’s first show last April. Deaner, a Canadian wrestler, is most known for his work with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). At the show, Deaner shared his testimony and his story of faith during the intermission.
The community response since Wrestling Theology started doing live shows has been strong. More than 200 people showed up for the group’s latest show.
“We have people that come out to our shows just because, quality wise, they are really good,” Abbott says. “Our events are free with a suggested donation at the door. Usually, $10 a person will cover the costs for the shows. In the future, we hope to pair with local charities and make those donations go to them.”
All of Wrestling Theology’s upcoming viewing parties are held at Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple. At the end of March, Wrestling Theology crowned its first champion in its Rise of a Champion show. Former wrestler and WWE writer, Jimmy Jacobs, will challenge the champion for a match on April 20 that will be hosted by Wrestling Theology as well.
For more information, visit Wrestling Theology’s Facebook page at facebook.com/WTFWrestlingTheology. Mercy Road Church is located at 2381 Pointe Pkwy in Carmel, or you can visit them online at mercyroad.cc.