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Saying Bye to My Mistress Pro-Wrestling

Authors Note* In British English Mistress means teacher.

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Last Autograph I ever signed as Jimmy Pipes

On February 22nd, 2013 I began my professional wrestling training at Back Breakers Training Center in Scranton, PA. I was trained by head trainer and owner Justyn Glory, and at that time, assistant trainer Jon Redbeard. I started the same day as my training partner Claudio Taglianni.

Being a pro-wrestler was my dream from the ages 3-18 . I backyard wrestled with my friends Bill and Tim Maticic throughout high school. We moved furniture and mattresses to their backyard to wrestle for 2 hours after school and before their mom got home so she wouldn’t know we used the furniture. We filmed it. One time I taped over a one hour portion of my families cross-country road trip to California by accident.

My first memory as a child is pro-wrestling. I saw it on TV. My parents bought me a ring with action figures and that fueled the fire. We would vacation to Wildwood each year where wrestling shows would run on the boardwalk. At one show, I met King Kong Bundy and took a picture with him in the ring. At another show the now deceased Chris Candido took a trading card I had of his likeness and traded me a signed picture of his ring valet in a swimsuit. I’ve since thrown it away.

To be honest, I always preferred going to indie shows in gyms or outdside than to WWF/E events because I wanted to meet wrestlers not just watch them. I wanted to get in the ring not take a picture in front of it. As a teenager, I was obsessed. I wrestled in high school hoping it would get me in shape for when I began training.

In 2006, I went to an outdoor wrestling event at Burlington County Community College put on by the United Wrestling Coalition (UWC) because my friends Dave and Jen Puca’s aunt and uncle were the promoters. After the show, a wrestler body slammed me in the ring, and they let me run the ropes.

Ironically, my last match 12 years later was in a UWC ring.

But at 18, one conversation in my grandma’s basement while lifting weights with my brother had me decide I would go away to college instead wrestling school. When I went to college I stopped watching wrestling, gave up on the “dream” and occasionally checked in on my hobby.

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That time Keating painted my face

And I can say wholeheartedly, I was glad. I met Jesus in a new and powerful way, so my heart and entire life became spoken for. In many ways, I no longer needed wrestling.

In 2013, I wouldn’t say I needed wrestling either, but I needed to find myself. At that point in time, I was living clouded and made decisions from memory. Time and circumstance conveniently allowed me to train so I did. And for months I was depressed while I trained. I trained out of obligation not out of joy, convincing myself that as I committed to action the joy would come.

Wrestling gave me something to do and was a way to cope with pain. Wrestling became a teacher and a confidence builder. So I trained for 7 months and had my first match in August of 2013 with my training partner Claudio.

I wrestled while studying theology. I wanted to embrace pacifism but wrestled with the contradiction of engaging in a performance of fighting. I often questioned why I would pro-wrestle as a hobby while endeavoring to become a minister and was at times frustrated by the fact that it seemed to complicate me unnecessarily. At that time, my identity was fragile enough to confuse myself.

But I enjoyed improvising a story in 6-12 minutes. I loved the idea of portraying a character who was a lounge singer, who made lavish claims that he was a platinum artist but could not sing very well. I loved the idea of wearing a singlet backwards and painting a tuxedo pattern on it so it would look vaguely realistic under a sport coat and fedora.

I loved having creative freedom within the context of not having to decide how long of a story to tell or who won or lost. It works well with my personality because I am the type of person that colors in the lines not draws the picture. You give me parameters and I will push the creative boundary, but don’t give me a blank canvas.

Wrestling slowly helped me be able to dream again and was my creative outlet when my heart struggled to find an outlet.

But wrestling also reminded me that even as character who was arrogant, I couldn’t lay aside empathy. I think Jimmy Pipes was always accidentally endearing. Children and old people didn’t like seeing him get beat up or lose. But he also didn’t necessarily deserve to win.

Wrestling also taught me about love. I had countless friends and family support my hobby, even at times I did not expect them to. Some will never care about wrestling, but they care about me. I had a girlfriend who went to several shows with 20-25 people in attendance to see me even though she disliked wrestling.  Wrestling provided  opportunities for me to see that people who love me embrace some of my eccentricities.

Wrestling also taught me that I don’t have to matter on a platform. There is far more value to what happens behind the curtain than in front of it: showing respect to fellow wrestlers, thanking promoters and bookers for opportunities, helping each other improve, receiving criticism. There is also far more value to what is done outside the ring than inside: Signing autographs for kids, talking to fans, taking pictures with them so they have something to remember you by.

The things pro-wrestling taught me are in part the things that make it easy for me to walk away from it. Wrestling helped me to realize that all of the important things exist outside of wrestling. Because wrestling is just a performance. It’s not a lifestyle, it’s not the greatest thing ever. It was an outlet and there are better outlets. For me there are better causes and callings.

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The Jackson clan at Coplay, PA AWF

In my mind I’m leaving behind something I enjoyed in exchange for many somethings I will enjoy more and make a bigger difference with. I can say goodbye easily because I’m infinitely more excited about what I’m saying hello to.

So how do I summarize and highlight my last 5 years. With a list of fun facts:

 

  • I only wrestled 58 professional matches which is not a lot, nor is it an admirable accomplishment. A pro-wrestler that reads that would question how serious I was (I would answer not serious, I always called it a hobby).
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    Olde Wrestling Ohio Photo Cred: Jeff Colb Photography

    I wrestled in 2 states (PA, NJ), performed in 3 (OH).

  • I won 1 title, the UWC US title and held it for about 6 months. I lost it in UWC’s 1000th match for their promotion to my friend Definitely Donnie. I wrestled Donnie (Matt) 4 of those 58 matches.
  • My name Jimmy Pipes has appeared in at least 5 issues of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. This is a bigger deal to me than it should be, but I like things in writing so I get giddy thinking about it.
  • One of my matches on YouTube has over 3,000 views largely b/c of the “gay pro-wrestling fan community”, but only that one match because the other guy in it was more attractive than me… I’m guessing.
  • I got to perform for Olde Wrestling in Ohio, which was also a huge deal to me because I loved the originality of their promotion.  I love their graphic design (Check them out https://www.oldewrestling.com/)
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    Myself, Mr Ooh La La and his manager

    I wrestled Mr. Ooh La La, an indie wrestling veteran who once talked to me for an hour after a show in PA giving me advice, feedback and sharing his story. Our match was the easiest match I ever wrestled and was extremely fun.

  • My Godfather Jimi Beam, designed the logo on my trunks. I am so thankful for his life, he was one of the funniest, happiest people I have ever met.
  • Current WWE champion AJ Styles put me in an arm bar at a seminar while his sweatpants were falling way to low below his waist.
  • My last seminar was with the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, who also was the first wrestler I ever met when I was 7. His seminar was a waste of $60 but such is life. He loves Jesus so that’s enough.
  • I got booked once because someone said I could actually sing. I was booked to sing the national anthem which I sung part of. It was interrupted when a wrestler knelt during the anthem. It was in a church. It was the weirdest show I’ve ever been to.
  • My last match was with Fredo Majors for the UWC Heavyweight title. I lost, but it felt like I won with how many friends who came out and my dad being there. Fredo and Bobby Banks were hilarious and the crowd was phenomenal.

It’s easy for me to be done when I believe God is laying out so many more great things for me to walk into. But I still want to honor this part of the journey, mostly the people I met along the way. But I am also grateful to God for remembering my childhood dream and allowing me to live it out in some small way. But the next set out of dreams to live out… not something I can say goodbye too.

Wait For It

5 months through 2018, I have accomplished 5 of 18 of my goals for 2018.

  • Go to India
  • Go to the Royal Rumble with my brother
  • Land a standing back-flip again
  • Teach through Book of Revelation
  • See Hamilton on Broadway/ (and Avengers Infinity War)

This Saturday 6/2 I will accomplish my 6th.

  • Wrestle my last wrestling match (Give up the hobby)

4 other goals are in progress and are can be reasonably completed

  • Bond with Dad and brother (Rangers Game)
  • Read more books for pleasure (Lord of the Rings Series, Poems that Make Grown Women Cry, The Last Arrow)
  • Obey my next big ministry step (Chaplaincy)
  • move once in less

4 other need considerable improvement

  • Legitimately clean up my diet
  • Introduce 3 people to Jesus
  • have more fun with my grandma
  • more time in prayer and worship

The other 4 hopefully will happen

  • go to another concert (maybe 2)
  • take another hiking trip (with Brian and Josh)
  • let myself find romance
  • 18- I haven’t decided what this one is yet

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Goals have this way of lingering in a state of being within reach and waiting for an opportunity to accomplish them.

I went to see Hamilton on Broadway this week. In reflecting on the show, there were two things that surprised me.

I came away liking Aaron Burr’s character and the actor that played him most.

The song I was most excited to hear live, Satisfied, was overshadowed for by Wait for It.

I liked Wait for It most because it explores when one waits for opportunity or potentially watching life pass by as opposed to grinding and fighting for what you think what you want.

It plays well with Burr’s internal struggle of his evaluation of an underdog, immigrant, in Alexander Hamilton. He questions how and why Hamilton keeps taking opportunities that Burr assumed were meant for him while Burr plays it safe in the middle.

It also plays well with Hamilton’s My Shot, which in the end lends itself to the suggestion that Hamilton throws away his shot in a duel when Burr does not. Burr’s shot hits leading me to wonder, “Is this what Burr was waiting for?”

What I love most about the story Lin Manuel Miranda chooses to tell is the power of moments to make legacies, the power of choices and the choices of others to shape our future.

In the last 30 minutes of the show, Hamilton is depicted as a humbled man who throws away his shot whose legacy is only preserved by his wife Eliza and her sister Angelica.

It’s the most powerful moment for me.

The woman he hurts the most, chooses forgiveness and chooses to tell a version of the story that makes beauty out of his life by living a better story.

I love how these women are portrayed in spite of the time in which they lived, and I love how powerful it portrays the foreigner. I love how it challenges entitlement but it also explores the power of unction to overcome.

I would argue though, that the unction to overcome as an underdog and entitlement to hold onto what you feel you deserve are two sides of the same coin. One is trying to take, the other is trying to keep, both are subject to grasping at power.

And as I reflect I realize something about myself. At some point in my life, I chose to be the type of person that persistently surrenders areas of my life that others might perceive as powerful.

And I do this because I have a belief whether it is true or not that my power is found in the time, mercy and forgiveness I offer to others. And I find this painful.

I find it most painful when it affects my hope or rather when it exposes that my hope has been misplaced or when my hope has been deferred.

I hate that the pain that shakes my hope feels and affects my chemical composition more than any other pain. I hate how it sends me into introspection searching high and low for where I went wrong only to potentially realize that what I was looking for doesn’t exist.

Somehow its easier to accept that I did something wrong to affect my hope rather than accept that there was nothing I could do to keep it right.

But to end this Wait for It piece on a positive note, the truth about hope is it is resilient and versatile because you can shift its place. Hope in what demonstrates to you that it won’t leave once it arrives. Then wait for it.

 

 

 

 

The Praying Gospel: Are you Curious?

John 17 – We are all 20-year old gypsy train wrecks

We made it this far. The last large exposition from Jesus in the Gospel of John is one long prayer. It is a prayer for glorification, a prayer for the disciples, and a prayer for contagious joy and complete unity among all who will believe in Jesus.

In short, He is praying for the fulfillment of all he set out to accomplish. I’m not sure logistically how this prayer was recorded in its fullness. It’s hard to believe that as Jesus prayed, John was scribbling this all down. Perhaps, God gave John a supernatural memory for this specific moment.

512201c4-012e-4eb3-83df-1b4c76e60230But I also imagine that this prayer or at least parts of it were common prayers of Jesus.

And I would propose that they were not prayers common of Jesus only from the past but are prayers Jesus prays now. Scripture tells us in Romans 8:34, that Jesus is alive and intercedes for us. Furthermore I believe Jesus enjoys this responsibility.

Can I share a story? It’s my blog; I suppose I don’t have to ask.

May 4th – 6th I was in Charleston, SC looking for a place to live. It was a somewhat fruitful trip in that regard, but the reality is, on paper, my future salary will barely cover my rent and car payment. For a season, I lived with a lot less on $700 a month for 6 months so I’m certain God will take care of it.

I’ve learned not to rely on paper which is funny because there was a time when I lived in the world of fiction and story-telling because I felt I could imagine a better reality than the one God was allowing me to live. I lived on paper so long as I was holding the pen and would not limit my imagination. I operated this way so I could be the author who chose what I was to suffer.

I wanted to choose what I would suffer so I wouldn’t be held accountable to what God was asking me to offer.

But as God is wont to, the story He is writing has been better. Other than apartment searching, bad sunburn, good Mexican food, and getting depressed by the lingering loneliness that often tries to color my life (that took a turn), Sunday morning I prepared to leave Charleston.

I had to be at the airport by noon, but ultimately decided to pop by church anyway. They had a free breakfast that I paid $20 for because I was hoping to get more out of my last couple hours than chocolate chip pancakes, some gross southern grits dish, coffee and juice.

I met two people, a guy named Kent who was helpful in connecting me with an elder and was genuinely enthusiastic. The second person I met a breakfast was a train-wreck who also was visiting the church.

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She told me she has visited 14 churches and hasn’t found one she liked. She also told me she moved from the Northwest to protest horse carriages. She also told me her best friend died the week prior in upstate New York. She also told me she travels to the Philippines often. Needless to say I listened, said its important to find community, and could not wait to lose her before service whilst questioning what of her story was true and why God manipulated my kindness to meet someone so exhausting on a day of rest.

If you subtract most everything from the tale of her life, I’ve been the 20 year-old gypsy girl at church because some older woman who cared invited her.

And I’ve probably exhausted strangers and friends with tales that I myself have struggled to find truth in. It wasn’t hard to see her wounds even if she was feeding me a spoonful of lies. Her story might have been better than the grits if it wasn’t so draining.

I said a prayer, sat in the back of the sanctuary and was hoping God would speak to me during worship since that was all I would be staying for.

One song, not a clue what it was and then they prayed for a pastor going on sabbatical for a month and invited someone to share a testimony.

The guy was introduced by the pastor as Ben. He shared for about a minute and my Spirit had this heightened sense of awareness. I liked the way he spoke and began to get pretty vulnerable.

Then one passing statement caught my intention. He said God called him to full-time ministry and joy filled my inner being. The sense of knowing I began to feel felt supernatural. Then a few sentences later he said God opened a door for him in the ministry of pastoral care as a hospital chaplain. He shared more about what God had brought him through while I squirmed in my chair filled with excitement.

He ended with the thought of: “Stay curious about what God is doing.”

I met Ben during communion, exchanged numbers after confirming we would be chaplain residents at the hospital together in August. I believe Jesus prayed for this. I also believe Jesus knew it would happen. I also believe it needed to happen.

As much as I’d like to say, taking a step of faith in the direction of my calling is easy, my resistant disposition has not done me too many favors. My introspection does more harm than good sometimes. The moments where I feel like God sees me helps me to say yes.

I need those moments to sustain me in through a transition still 3 months away.

I didn’t talk much about John 17 but I will leave us with this passage from it:

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” John 17:13

The Overcoming Gospel: Are you Over?

John 16

John 16 is the 3rd of 4 chapters of very long expositions from Jesus. This chapter in particular, deals with Jesus leaving. He is explaining to his followers that when He leaves, the Holy Spirit will come and fill them. The Spirit will also give them knowledge.

Then he talks about not being seen.

Then he talks about being seen again.

There will be mourning, then rejoicing.

It is also the third chapter in a row where Jesus makes a statement like this:

“In that day, you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

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He concludes this exposition, letting the disciples know they will be scattered and scared and confused, but to take heart and have courage. It is all apart of the plan for Jesus to overcome and conquer in a way, vastly different from their expectations.

Jesus is hyper-aware. He says, “you will all leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”

That awareness is for you and for me. Maybe more for me than for you.

John 16 is suggested to take place in the last 2 weeks before Jesus’ crucifixion. At this point in time, Jesus has tamed his ministry and focused a lot more on his followers and friends instead of the crowds. The crowd mentality was no longer the prescription for his mission. They would soon turn against him.

*In wrestling there is a word that describes one’s popularity. The word is “over” If you are over, it means you are popular with the crowd, if you are “putting yourself over” it means you are going to great lengths, often at someone else’s expense, to become popular with the crowd.*

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At this point, Jesus is putting himself under, and will give off the appearance that he is sinking his own ship. He is making the unpopular decision in the present hour because he anticipates the promise of the future hours.

I think I live in that state. Or at least I live in the face of a temptation to live without purpose in order to be comfortable in the present.

For the second time in my life, I am preparing to leave a comfortable job with prospect of promotion to pursue ministry (what I feel called to do). I don’t know if it’s more or less painful this time. I don’t even know if it is more or less lonely.

But I hoped it wouldn’t be lonely at all. More specifically, I hoped that by 30 I wouldn’t be the same status of single I was at 20.

I didn’t think I would be confronted with the lies of being less desirable now that I’m older as I prepare for a career that will place me on paper as someone less likely able to provide. I didn’t think I would grow accustom to expecting rejection.

Which is why life inversely is so strange. Why then do I seemingly have the courage to follow God into hospital chaplaincy and why was I so convinced that the one 600 miles away was the better choice? Why does the process have to be difficult? or rather why do I make it difficult?

I’ve often discussed with my roommate, who formerly served in the military, was a semi-professional rower,  is in great shape, finishing his PhD in Physics, and loves Jesus wholeheartedly about what we are doing wrong. (I’ll put him over not myself)

But it’s not so much what we are doing wrong, it’s what we might be doing right.

I’m sorry to say, but it seems that trying to live an obedient, faithful life of seeking and serving does not make you more desirable to the masses. It doesn’t even make you more desirable to most people in church. Some days it doesn’t make you desirable to yourself.

But it does keep you tender-hearted towards Jesus and others.

I am willing to concede that it makes you more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, although there are days I’m not certain of that, if I’m being honest. I said it makes me sensitive not certain *shrug*.

And one thing I can say in confidence is I am way more sensitive, aware, and optimistic about the hurting and suffering of others.  Even when I have a multitude of doubts about what to feel about myself. When someone is vulnerable I can smile and see beauty. When someone is experiencing holy joy I can rejoice with them.

I can see when I can’t see myself.

My brother helped me with a budget last night that did not look promising come August.

But my calling didn’t come from a spreadsheet or a bank account. It didn’t come from my future spouse or my wavering optimism regarding whether or not she exists. It didn’t even come from supportive friends and family.

My calling came from the One who overcame the world.

The only way I share in that is if I follow my call from Christ in faith. That’s how I overcome.

Walk despite reasons to worry,

love despite rejection,

hope until you don’t need to anymore.