I hate admitting this, but the secular world has defined and solidified the standard for entertainment. You don’t put the word “Christian” before the words “video game,” “wrestling,” and “super heroes” to find the highest quality and best production values. This is not to mock the hard work and professionalism of Christian entertainers, but to bring forth a few patterns.
Christian entertainment is always about an evangelistic message (AKA seriousness about personal eternity)
Christian entertainment has nowhere near the budget of secular entertainment
Christian entertainment is most successful at reaching the 8-15 year old crowd
Which is why I have mixed feelings about Ring of Glory: The Great Commission. It was a wrestling event with a huge emphasis on getting people saved or strengthening their faith. It seeks to honor my favorite Savior of the Universe. It was written by Vince Russo, a man who believes that the Christian faith should come out in the ring. He is also the man who many blame for killing the WCW with his story arcs.
This event got wrestlers like Jazz, Bo Buchanan, Disco Inferno, Spike Dudley, X-Pac, Mike Sanders, Air Paris, Erik Watts, Mark Jindrak, Kevin Northcutt, Jimmy Rave, D-Lo Brown and Trinity. These guys had their heyday in the late nineties and early 2000’s in WCW, ECW, and WWE.
The Promo opens with a powerfully voiced narrator talking about how God created the Heavens and the Earth. The darkness has taken over the world, but many brave men will fight for the honor of God in the ring.
The event opens in what looks like a high school gymnasium. The crowd size is pretty impressive. The set design: not so much! The set design is three silk blankets draped over a door. I am not sure if they are following the theology that ministry needs to be toned down to give God all the glory or if they used up all their budget on X-Pac.
Scott Hudson (former WCW commentator) explains that this is going to be an amazing night of wrestling.
The arena goes dark with red spotlights and the official heel of the night, Percy Pringle, comes out to tell the audience that wrestling is all about being bad, sinning against your fellow man, and being scum. No bones about it, Ring of Glory is going to feed you a message about right and wrong. Also, the sound quality in Percy’s mic is horrible! I cannot make out a single word he is saying. It just sounds like southern garbling.
Then there are the backstage interviews. Female personality, Goldylocks, interviews Jazz (former women’s WWE champion). She says she will stick by her husband, Mack, in his match against Bo Buchanan. Imagine that interview with no dramatic timing and long drawn-out sentences. The wrestling personalities talk too quick.
Scott Hudson gives the play-by-play for each match. He does his best and tries to act surprised by all the in-ring shenanigans, but he seems lonely without some color commentary.
Jazz turns on her husband Mack and Bo Buchanan wins the match. Oh no! The first match was a swerve of the night. Apparently Percy, the evil manager, has won over Jazz.
Cut to an interview with Jimmy Rave, Sal, Air Paris and CJ Summers. They will be in a Stairway to Heaven match (that is Christian for ladder match). All four of them explain how they got into wrestling. Not sure if any subscribe to the faith, but they have good stories.
SIDE NOTE: The Stairway to Heaven Match will have a sword of the spirit hanging from the ceiling. WHY NOT A BELT OF TRUTH???? HOW DO YOU NOT HAVE A CHRISTIAN WRESTLING PROMOTION WITHOUT A BELT OF TRUTH???? IT HURTS!!! #biggestoversightintheworld
The second match involves Erik Watts and Mike Sanders explaining the true meaning of Christmas. To them, the true meaning of Christmas is that the audience worships them and gives them gifts (what?). D-Lo Brown comes out and starts sharing his testimony. He believes that the world does not revolve around him. I actually like his in-ring personality. He keeps the professionalism of a pro.
Disco Inferno comes out and agrees to be the tag partner of D-Lo Brown. Insert good back-and-forth wrestling moves, some botched spots, good heat from the audience, and D-Lo’s veteran skills. Oh no! Disco Inferno turns on D-Lo and joins up with Erik Watts and Mike Sanders. Disco Inferno’s finisher is the Village People’s Elbow. Second swerve of the night! Will we see a good guy win?
Percy once again comes out and explains, in southern garbles that I cannot understand, that unrighteous actions are what make a good wrestler. He now has a stable of Erik Watts, Mike Sanders, Disco Inferno, and Jazz. Degradation X? NW nO?
Mike Sanders, Disco, and Erik Watts are backstage. They are being incredibly silly. It’s actually pretty funny. The heels in this show are probably the most entertaining.
Next up: Jason Sensation introduces wrestling legend Ron Simmons to the ring. They say that he is the first African American to become champion. Ron says he couldn’t have been there without God’s help. He receives a trophy for his hard work. Then things get awkward! Jason Sensation does an impersonation of Ron and Ron looks like he is going to strangle him. That clearly wasn’t thought-out.
Oh no! Disco Inferno challenges Jason to do an impersonation of him. He starts to beat on poor Jason, while the other bad guys come out. D-Lo comes out to make the save. He gets beaten up too. Luckily, Ron Simmons comes to the stage. In a very comfy beige sweater he beats up four men. Ron lets D-Lo do his signature frog splash on Disco Inferno.
Spike Dudley has a match now with Mark Jindrak. Mark Jindrak sees an old bearded man in the ring and starts threatening him. Spide Dudley comes in for the save. Scott Hudson says this is just like David and Goliath. He keeps saying it just in case we don’t understand Christian literature. Somewhere, Tolkien is spinning.
Mark Jindrak tosses Spike Dudley around the ring a few times. Spike gets a loose sunset flip for the victory. That was just like David and Goliath. But then Goliath puts David through a table.
Kevin Northcutt comes out with Percy. Percy hands him scissors for no reason at all. He faces off against Sean Waltman (X-Pac). The match has all the good spots of an X-Pac match, but it was a little on the low-intensity side. X-Pac does a spinning heel kick and ends with a jumping face smash. The match ends, and the scissors that Percy handed Kevin are never spoken of again.
The Stairway to Heaven Match: CJ, Air Paris, Sal, and Rave battle like true indie cruiserweights. CJ hits a very good hurricanrana. Air Paris nails a few awesome arm drags. Sal does a moonsault, but Air Paris is not close enough to get hit by it, so he has to run into it. Sal and CJ get eliminated via pinfall. Rave and Paris throw each other into cheaply made ladders. The match goes on for a bit too long, but Rave ends up getting the sword. This is probably my favorite match so far.
This match also has Vince Russo doing guest color. I am thrilled he is a believer and that he has some clout in the wrestling world, but for the life of me I cannot stand his Jersey accent. It was like Jersey Shore for Christians.
Percy makes ANOTHER appearance. He tells Rave that he has until the end of the night to join him. I think he says that; I couldn’t understand him.
Rave is in an interview. He starts freaking out about the decision. Will he take the narrow road of good or the wide road of evil? Really? At this point even C.S. Lewis thinks you are being too obvious in your interpretation.
Jazz comes out and starts heckling the audience. In a very sluggish kind of way, she searches for wrestlers to face her in the audience. Lo and behold, Trinity from TNA is in the audience. I can’t recognize Trinity because she is actually wearing clothes that cover her up. Jazz heckles Trinity for a few minutes. Raine, from TNA, who is sitting next to Trinity, actually runs to the ring and starts beating up on Jazz. The bell rings. Jazz starts beating up on Raine. Raine is very good at looking like she is being abused. Trinity runs to the ring and starts fighting Jazz. Apparently, you can switch partners in a non-tag match and it is totally legal. Trinity does a moonsault. She goes in to cover Jazz. No wait! She lets Raine cover Jazz for the three count. All the while Jazz lies their patiently waiting to be covered.
This match was actually on par with popular female wrestling in America. That isn’t saying much because we still don’t take it as seriously as Japan does.
Finally, Percy comes out with his newfound stable for the last time. He garbles about how Jimmy Rave needs to join him. But wait! An older guy with a mustache and a goatee comes out. He is holding a broom. I think he owns this promotion, but no one has really introduced him. Or he may be the guy who preaches at the end of every Christian-sponsored sports event. He is the guy who usually starts off with “We had a lot of fun tonight… but!”
Preacher Guy starts saying that Percy used to be Satan and that he did lots of evil in the Garden of Eden. Then Preacher Guy says he will never take over his Father’s Kingdom. At this point I am not sure if Preacher guy is being a reincarnated Jesus or just a brave believer. Preacher guy says that everyone has a choice to follow the world or follow Jesus.
This prompts Disco Inferno, Erik Watts, Mike Sanders, Mark Jindrak, and Kevin Northcutt to go loco crazy on Preacher guy. Meanwhile, Rave is holding a giant sword of the spirit and looking confused. They handcuff Preacher Guy. He starts posing like a crucified Jesus.
Kevin Northcutt is asked to punch Preacher guy, but Preacher Guy gives Kevin a discerning stare. Kevin starts defecting against Percy’s team. Suddenly X-Pac, D-Lo and a guy that looks like a Latino Randy Savage save the day. Kevin Northcutt is the hero!
Preacher Guy gets back up on his feet and tells Rave to look into his heart for Jesus. Rave gives Preacher Guy a hug. It is actually a pretty touching moment. This segment has no commentator so it has a lot of deafening lulls and confusion.
All the heroes in the ring stand up for their faith, while Preacher Guy says eternity is much more important than entertainment.
Cut to a special scene where AJ Styles shares at a different event about how proud he is that people believe in God! Yayy! I like AJ!
Needless to say, Ring of Glory had only one more show before it got closed down. That is the reality of pro wrestling.
Here’s what I liked about Ring of Glory:
– Wrestlers sharing their personal stories like D-Lo
– Actual impressive wrestling moves that connected (Urinagi Backbreaker, Moonsault, Japanese Armdrag)
– Christians are allowed to throw people through tables?
– A good collection of mid-card-level wrestlers (You get bonus points for knowing who Erik Watts and Mike Sanders are)
– The use of good and bad motifs in the storyline.
– The Heels are hilarious
– AJ Styles
– Ron Simmons fighting people in a beige sweater
Here’s what needed some refinement:
– Confusing things happening in the ring that weren’t explained
– Low sound quality
– Maybe add a little ring decoration to spice things up
– Some moves were botched (even happens in the WWE).
– Long awkward pauses
– Vince Russo’s voice
Which brings me to the point of this ridiculously long article! There was once a time when people went to Christian artists, musicians, and athletes to see things get done with the highest quality. The church was the pinnacle of entertainment. But Ring of Glory shows us that when the focus is evangelism (using creation to talk about the acts of Jesus) it also becomes a slight lesson in humility. You can’t blame the visionaries. They just wanted to use their talent to share the most important message in the world. I guess what I am learning here is that we are currently at a great disadvantage when it comes to marrying Christian truth with entertainment. If entertainment is the focus then the truth usually gets muffled (right, Switchfoot?). If the truth is the focus then the quality goes down.
Can Christian truths and high production values be in other forms of entertainment?
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