Once a bear attracted quite a following in faith-based wrestling. It wasn’t a case of a bear’s retiring from the ring and then taking up religion, as occasionally happens. This one was still at the height of its career. No, this bear was simply the first to recognize a role for wrestling in big-time religion. It all began one night in a sold-out arena, after the bear, cheered on by screaming fans, had squeezed an opponent’s ribs until they gave way. The bear looked out into the spotlight-threaded darkness as it dropped its writhing foe and had an epiphany. These multitudes hungered for something, it realized. That was why they showed up night after night, city after city. They gathered together in search of something to believe in and dedicate themselves to. And then the bear had its second epiphany of the night. What the screaming crowd really sought was something to hold onto in confusing times. Outside the ropes, in the chaotic world of life’s uncertainties, telling right from wrong was tricky. But inside the ropes, the smash-mouth struggle between good and evil was easier to follow. Seized with this recognition, the bear stepped over its now unconscious opponent, grabbed a microphone from the ringside announcer, and began to shout in all directions. “Listen to me! Listen to me, all of you out there! I know what you’re looking for! I know what you need!” The crowd rose to its feet as one in response, uncertain what to expect but ready for anything. “You want the Match of Matches! You want the Final Showdown!” The crowd burst into deafening agreement. Drawing in a deep breath, the bear then turned to the nearest television camera and issued the biggest challenge of its career: “If you’re out there, Prince of Darkness . . . if you’re out there . . . listen up!” The crowd went wild. Shouts of “Prince of Darkness! Prince of Darkness!” boomed through the air. “Oh, you can call yourself ‘The Wily One,’ or you can call yourself ‘The Archfiend,’ and you may think you can’t be whupped,” the bear continued. “But I got news for you! Armageddon’s comin’!” “Armageddon’s comin’! Armageddon’s comin’! Bring it on! Bring it on!” “I dare you to meet me, no holds barred, at next month’s ‘Doomsday in Dallas’!” “Doomsday! Doomsday!” The chant rang around the arena as the bear, pumping its paws defiantly overhead, stalked down the aisle to the showers. Later, however, as “Doomsday in Dallas” approached with no response from the Prince of Darkness, the bear began to wonder if it should have put a little more pep into the challenge. Was it a bit flat? It sounded good each night the bear repeated it in venues large and small, but were the taunts strong enough to draw the Devil out? What if he didn’t show up? On the other hand, what if the Devil did show up but refused to go down for the count? It would be absolutely in character for Satan not to take the scripted fall. Then again, suppose he did take the fall? What would that do to future ticket sales and television ratings? How do you hold your audience share after Armageddon’s come and gone and there’s no rematch? This was serious. Religious wrestling, the bear realized, needed the Devil far more than the Devil needed it.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans