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Media analysts have uncovered a new culprit in the growing culture of violence among American youth: professional wrestling. Long considered boorish and pretentious, televised wrestling is now regularly full of vulgarity, obscenity, and sexual innuendo. Critics say professional wrestling reinforces sexual and ethnic stereotypes and communicates to young people that violent, vengeful acts are morally acceptable. Also, commentators allege that televised professional wrestling has matched feature films and network television in arousing violent behavior in children, especially preadolescent boys. As professional wrestling has become a Goliath of mass-market entertainment, Christian groups have turned a critical eye on the industry, calling for advertiser boycotts, among other things. But new criticism has emerged from within the wrestling community itself. Two former professional wrestlers, both now Christians and active in sports ministry, have gone public with complaints about their former profession.

Not Proud of Wrestling

Heavy steroid use helped enhance the physique of "Superstar Billy Graham" en route to bodybuilding titles and then the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) championship in 1977. A 56-inch chest and 23-inch arms helped Graham, whose given name is Wayne Coleman, become WWF heavyweight champion, as he rode a flamboyant and arrogant persona to become one of the most despised "heels" in the business. (A heel is a wrestler who assumes a hateful personality in the ring.) But steroids took a toll, including the need for both hips to be replaced and Graham losing three inches from his 6-foot-4 frame because of degenerated disks in his back. Graham now refuses to watch WWF or its competitor, World Championship Wrestling ...

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May 22, 2000

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