WINTERVILLE, Ga., Dec. 20, 2005 -- Some say the United States is in the middle of another spiritual awakening. Christians are being converted through all sorts of nontraditional means -- Christian rock, video games, movies and even car racing -- but pro wrestling?
Every weekend, Canton, Ga., middle school teacher Rob Fields becomes "Rob Adonis" -- leader of Ultimate Christian Wrestling, a league based in Georgia.
Two Christian wrestling leagues operate across the South, visiting churches, colleges and other arenas throughout the country.
"This is what God's called us to do," Fields said.
Inside the ring, no one's turning the other cheek; it's more an eye for an eye. But the larger mission is saving souls. The Book of Genesis tells of Jacob wrestling with an angel, but otherwise the Bible doesn't say much about the entertainment sport. For those involved, however, that's the point -- to attract new audiences.
"Wrestling is what we use as a means to bring people here," said Pastor Curtis Parker of the nondemoninational Harvest Church in Athens, Ga., which hosts the event every other Saturday night. "But ultimately, my goal is that they hear the message and hear the Gospel."
Fields says the idea for the group came in a dream after he spent four years on the "sinful" secular pro-wrestling circuit.
"Certain towns there were more drugs, and certain towns there were more women backstage, and certain towns the alcohol just flowed like water," he said. On his birthday in 2003, Fields awoke in a pool of sweat after realizing his higher calling.
Bible Stories as Plot Lines
Ultimate Christian Wrestling's story lines and characters represent morality tales. "Beautiful" Bruce Biggins has been portrayed as the league's Judas, selling out Adonis' character.
After roughly two hours of fairly typical if low-rent wrestling -- headlocks, "street fights," cheap shots and the like -- comes that little something extra. This past weekend's main event came right out of the Book of Revelations, with a depiction of God and Jesus judging the main characters harshly on Judgment Day. Only one got to heaven.
Even "God's Property" Billy Jack -- a crowd favorite, a good guy who does good deeds -- was dragged to hell for not being a "true" Christian.
"I don't want to go to hell!" screamed Billy Jack as wrestlers portraying demons carried him off.
When it was over, the "passion pile drivers," followed by a sermon by Fields, inspired two dozen fans to become born again. Many were inspired specifically by the travails specific characters went through -- whether Biggins, Billy Jack or others.
"I used to not believe in God or his miracles, but now I have lots of reasons to believe in his miracles," said Christy Fowler, an emotional 13-year-old.
"You just got to forgive people and move on," said Don Lester, another convert, who said God spoke to him that night.
Fields says almost 900 others have been converted, though he admits the violence may not be for everyone and hears his share of criticism.
"We just tell them, this is not something that everybody is going to enjoy," Fields said. "We're trying to appeal to is that wrestling crowd, and we're trying to get the wrestling crowd that typically doesn't go to church, doesn't really abide by any faith or have any beliefs in Christianity."
And what would Jesus think?
"I think he would enjoy the show," said Fields. "He would say, 'Well done.'"
Andrew Miller contributed to this report.