Like in most sports, faith is found all throughout wrestling. But also like any job that requires men and women to be away from home, temptation is everywhere. On top of that, wrestling has something other sports don’t–storylines that at times push the levels of good taste and morals to the limits. Occasionally for some superstars, they can’t keep those lines separate and sink into depths of questionable behavior.
Sometimes, when a superstar doesn’t know where to turn, they turn to a higher power (no not Vince McMahon) and turn to religion to seek solace, advise, and life lessons. Some might think that there’s no place for wrestling and religion to intermingle. For those that know how the business works (or at least used to work), between the backstage politics and drugs, alcohol and steroids; with the levels of sin in wrestling, every superstar might need to attend confession every now and again.
Whether superstars speak openly about their spirituality and religion, or whether they keep it private, for the most part, once the below people found sanctuary in their belief, it kept them on the straight and narrow ever since.
It’s common knowledge now, but admit it–you were shocked when you first learned that the original degenerate, the guy who humped the ring, shoved the Canadian flag up his nose, told everyone to suck it, and consistently had no issue with showing his derrière on national television found Jesus. When Shawn Michaels left in early 1998, it was clear if he didn’t get help, he might have ended up another wrestling tragedy. But when the Icon returned with Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all this through him, who gives me strength”) emblazoned on his shirt, it was clear the boy returned a changed man.
In the mid–eighties, few men were as scary as Nikita Koloff, the innovator of the Russian Chain Match. After retiring in 1993, Koloff became born–again. Not only is Koloff a religious man, but he’s also a rock star preacher, as part of the cast of the Lifetime TV show, Preacher’s Daughters. You would think with his thick frame and a nickname like “The Russian Nightmare,” he wouldn’t have too much of an issue keeping his daughters in line. However, a reality show without conflict would be sort of boring, right?
The Superstar, who once famously tore Bob Backlund’s title in half and had one of the best wars of words ever with the American Dream, was a preacher himself in his youth. However, it was after his retirement and rehabilitation from years of steroid abuse that Graham started making more headway in not just the religious community, but the sports community as a whole, speaking to high school athletes on the dangers of steroids through the Phoenix First Assemble of God’s Athletes International.
In both the professional fighting and wrestling worlds, Ken Shamrock is known as “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” but you might not have known that he’s also the most dangerous servant of God. His mother would introduce him to the Lord at ten years old and while he was a troubled kid, he never lost sight of the great almighty. “I’ve never really gone out and told people, I’m Christian, I believe in God and that is the reason why I’m successful. That is the reason why I’m still here doing what I’m doing,” Shamrock said in an interview.
Kurt Angle has amazed audiences since winning Olympic gold. Between WWE and TNA, Angle has wrestled against just about every top name, from Ric Flair to Samoa Joe. However, Angle’s drive had been his undoing. Never truly been satisfied with successes and fighting through pain led Angle to fall to the addictions of pain pills, PEDs and alcohol. Angle took the WWE up on their policy to help employees past and present get clean and found the Lord too. In an interview, Angle said: “Basically putting God first…What I do is a job. My marriage and my kids are more important than that. I don’t think I ever looked at it that way until now.”
Not one, but two of the biggest degenerates ever make this list. Road Dogg was another drug addled wrestler who needed salvation and was saved. “God intervened in my life,” Dogg said in a 2003 interview. He would spend 21 days in jail for a DUI and was humbled by the experience. Citing God as the reason, he would end up in a rehab facility for six months, so that he could become a better family man to his wife and two kids. Jesse James’ recovery story is not only a great wrestling story, but as a Gulf War vet, he’s an inspiration to the entire nation.
Ted DiBiase played a heartless, soulless rich jerk who only loved money and during the old school days of wrestling, heels like The Million Dollar Man were also expected to play their parts outside the ring. Along with drugs and alcohol, DiBiase also turned to another of the road’s temptations–infidelity. DiBiase regretted what he had done and sought help from a friend who happened to be a minister. Repent and apology saved his marriage and he even opened up his own ministry, the Heart of David, named after Psalm 40. He’s been doing the Lord’s work ever since – speaking at men’s meetings, schools, and even prison inmates.
Even the Total Package needs a little help sometimes. After the shocking death of his girlfriend, Miss Elizabeth, Lex Luger entered a particularly difficult dark part of his life. Sadly, the dark times got worse, Luger overdosed in 2005 and spent a few months in jail in 2006. There, he began to fully accept Christ into his life. One year later, The Narcissist would suffer a spinal stroke, rendering him paralyzed. However, thankfully through his faith, he was able to make a recovery and walk again with the help of a cane.
Quite possibly one of the smoothest technical wrestlers ever in the ring, Tully Blanchard dominated the eighties either by himself or as one of the Horsemen. In 1989, the road rigors caught up to Blanchard as he tested positive for drugs. Several weeks later, he would become a Born–Again Christian. His life outside the ring has been much more rewarding, as he serves as Director of Behind the Walls, helping make a positive impact on as many prison inmates as possible, helping accept responsibility and atone for their crimes.
If anyone needed help getting on the straight and narrow, it was Alvin Burke, Jr, better known to fans as MVP. After joining a gang, it was clear that his life was going down the wrong path. While serving nine years of an 18 year sentence for his part in an armed robbery and kidnapping aboard a cruise ship, MVP converted to Islam and even changed his name to Hassan Hamin Assad and the strange ring gear he wears to the ring actually covers up a huge Malcom X tattoo on his chest. These days, the leader of the Beat Down Clan claims to not be practicing any religion, but one things for sure–the world of Allah definitely helped him get out from behind bars.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the biggest star of all time also puts his faith in the almighty. While there is probably a huge section of wrestling fans who believe that Hulk Hogan sold his soul to the devil to achieve the huge levels of fame he has in the industry, it was actually praising the Lord, that helped make The Hulkster the man he is today. The evangelical Christian is a fan of Joel Osteen and believes that faith and belief in God should last forever. That same faith helped him through his son being arrested and his wife leaving him.
Sometimes it's a shock knowing how religious a superstar is, simply because it's seldom spoken about and judging from how their celebrity comes across in the media, you would never guess. Chris Jericho is that type of superstar. Wrestler, rock star, host, dancer, writing, podcaster - the man leads a busy life and his faith in the Lord helps keep him centered. His belief is vital to his success, which you can see when he says "you kind of need something else, something like the Lord watching over your shoulder to make sure that nothing happens to you. It's more of an extra incentive, an extra kind of shove."
The Road Warriors spent years decimating everyone in their path on their way to the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, they had their fair share of issues as well. Enter the man upstairs, who in 2003 first touched Joe “Animal” Laurinaitis, who after finding Christ showed him to Michael “Hawk” Hegstrand. At a conference, Animal revealed that he had his whole family baptized by Nikita Koloff, while Hawk cut a promo on the Devil, threatening to kick his butt. Helping to save Hawk might have been Animal’s greatest accomplishment, as the perennial addict finally got clean and stayed clean until he passed away.
In a twist on religious wrestlers is Jake "The Snake" Roberts. We all know that the man's depravity unfortunately knew no bounds. When he got saved in the late 90s, he returned to the WWE as a bible thumping Born-Again Christian, complete with a new snake named Revelations. However, it wasn't until the Snake slithered farther down the rabbit hole that he really got saved by DDP. What the Lord started, DDP was able to help finish and the work Jake put into saving himself finally found him clean, taking his rightful spot in the Hall of Fame.
Some of the men on this list were some of the most hated heels in the industry's history, but no one gets more heat than Vince Russo. Russo gets X-Pac Heat, Heel Heat, and just plain I Hate This Guy Heat. Depending on who you listen to, the guy is responsible for the death of WCW, has had a huge role in the downfall of TNA, helped in the eradication of American values during the Attitude Era, and possibly, although this is unconfirmed, shot JFK. However, he's tried to reform his ways too. He was Born Again in 2003 and even started up his own faith-based promotion, which ran for two shows - Ring of Glory.