ROCKWALL (CBSDFW.COM) – A wrestling match might be the last place you’d expect to find someone preaching the gospel. But a group of wrestlers in Rockwall have made a ministry out of it. Call it professional wrestling with a message.
It’s a Saturday night in Rockwall. Fans packed into a warehouse on County Line Road have paid $5 a pop to see a 15-Man Smack-down, the kind of spectacle wrestling fans expect.
“It’s kind of like the male dominated soap opera. It’s action. It’s adventure. It’s the adrenaline. And, I think the testosterone,” Philip Barron said.
But you won’t find the WWE brand of wrestling here. This is the CWF, the Christian Wrestling Federation.
“We use Christian rock music in our entrance and exit music. Our announcer will tie in some scripture, maybe about faith, hope, love,” said founder, Rob Vaughn.
“We’re clean, first of all. We’re very family friendly. There’s no offensive language. There’s no half dressed women. There’s no finger language or beer drinking,” Barron said.
Barron has been a CWF Wrestler for nine years. He remembers wondering how to mix wrestling with Christianity. Then he turned on the TV. Someone was already doing it. That someone was Rob Vaughn.
Barron, who’s 5’7″ had always thought he was too small to wrestle. He’s turned into one of the best wrestlers CWF has. In the ring, he’s “Phil the Real Deal Bishop.”
Barron will tell you their wrestling is real too.
“Broke my wrist. I have dislocated my shoulder. I have broken ribs. I have rolled my ankle. I’ve had several concussions,” he said.
Their storyline is always the same though, the struggle between good versus evil. “And good always wins,” he added.
Like other wrestlers, the men practice their feats of strength. Unlike other wrestlers, the men incorporate bible study into their practice. It gives them strength to lead others to Christ.
“Usually about the second or third match, one of the guys stays out and shares their testimony,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn founded CWF as a ministry 12 years ago. He’s a former professional wrestler who didn’t like the world wrestling had to offer.
“I got into pro wrestling and after about eight months of it, I really didn’t like it at all. Didn’t like the people that were coming to the shows. Didn’t like some of the wrestlers I was wrestling against,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn didn’t grow up in the church. But he made a commitment to Christ early. He was in the seventh grade. Now, he helps others make that commitment at his wrestling matches.
“We actually walk people through a plan of salvation and have an altar call,” Vaughn said.
Sure enough, after the matches, one of the wrestlers steps into the ring and speaks into a microphone. Looking at the crowd, he says, “If you want this forgiveness that Jesus offers, you can have it.”
There’s a show of hands, many belonging to children who raise one hand and wipe tears away with the other. The wrestlers pray for these fans themselves.
Barron made his commitment to Christ at the age of seven. He’s a former youth pastor who always gravitates toward the kids in the crowd.
Surrounded by a handful of kids, Barron tells them, “The ABC’s. You gotta Ask Jesus in your heart. Believe He’s the Son of God and then Confess your sins.”
CWF has taken this ministry to 30 states and three countries so far. Does it make a lot of money? “No, we’re not rich at all,” Vaughn said. They count their riches in the number of souls they say have been saved.
“We’ve done almost 500 events in the last 12 years. That we know of, almost 20-thousand people have come to know Christ at our event,” Vaughn said.
Ayrus Gaines, who everyone calls Ace, is their newest wrestler. He’s been with them for a year. Gaines was raised in the church. But it wasn’t until about 20 years ago that he became serious about it. His family was involved in a bad accident. The vehicle flipped and was totaled. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
“I knew that God was watching over us. That’s when I decided to take my Christianity really seriously,” he said.
Gaines enjoys the men he wrestles with and what their purpose. “They come for wrestling but at the same time they get a really powerful message. It’s a beautiful thing every time,” Gaines said.
“You picture them walking down an aisle at church or you picture them with a family member or friend somewhere. But you don’t picture them coming to a wrestling ring. I don’t think people ever pictured that when they thought ‘I’m going to get saved at a wrestling event,” he said.
“It’s absolutely amazing to watch it,” Barron said. If it seems like an unlikely setting for the gospel, it should be remembered Jesus began his ministry with unlikely disciples.
For more information on the CWF and a couple of big events they have coming up in June, log onto their website at http://www.christianwrestling.com/
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