Caprice Coleman lifts his opponent from the mat onto the turnbuckles as fans try to keep track of the action. A moment later Coleman wraps his legs around the man’s arms and flips him over so that he comes crashing down to the middle of the squared circle for a picture perfect no-hands hurricanrana. The move looks devastating enough to be a finisher, but this is not a singles match. Before Coleman can stand to see the result of his actions, his partner has hit a frogsplash that leads to victory.
After the match the fallen Tadarius Thomas gets attacked by his partner, Qt Marshall to set up an angle for Ring of Honor. The man who scored the pinfall Cedric Alexander is already drifting out of the audience’s minds and Coleman is an even more distant memory. Yet, the reason Coleman has achieved his status in the United States’ third biggest wrestling promotion has nothing to do with hogging the glory. His faith has prepared him better than that.
“I’m just the light, that I hope some people might see,” Coleman said. “I really just want to be able to show people that you can live a life of integrity and still be one of the greatest wrestlers in the world.”
The 35-year-old Coleman began his in-ring career in the 1990s for the Organization of Modern Extreme Grappling Arts, but before this he had started building a foundation capable of sustaining a lengthy tenure in an unpredictable industry. He was called to preach at age 14 and it assisted him as early in his athletic career as preparing to train.
“It helped me integrity wise to uphold my standards and faith wise never to give up,” Coleman said.
The man’s solid mindset is matched by his lack of wrinkles and defined abs. Some wrestlers may let themselves go early, but it is unlikely you will see Coleman competing with a gut concealing T-shirt on at his next independent show. Matt Jackson of The Young Bucks tag team has wrestled with Coleman and talked up his appearance and ability.
“He told me his age and I didn’t believe him then and still don’t,” Jackson said. “He’s more than willing to step out of his comfort zone, brings enthusiasm to the ring and can hang with the young guys.”
Being this flexible comes with a price and there is a reason Coleman’s style has been called high risk. Matt’s brother and tag team partner Nick mentioned a match where Coleman separated his shoulder.
“Instead of quitting and fighting another day he continued the match until it was over. For that I had a lot of respect for him as a performer,” Nick Jackson said.
The ability to survive is not limited to in-ring injuries.
“The soul comes first. If you have vices that this sport makes it easy to access, it might be best for you to exit,” Coleman said. “This is where the Bible states it is better to cut off an arm and make it in, than to keep it and go to lose everything else.”
Instead of letting his vices grow Coleman instead let his faith develop. He has become Pastor Caprice Coleman at the First Baptist Ministry Church in Southern Pines, N.C.
Wrestler Jimmy Rave is unsurprised that Coleman could excel in a position that requires talking. Rave has wrestled with Coleman throughout the United States and began working with him at NWA Wildside roughly 11 years ago.
“After wrestling, maybe my second TV taping, I knew then he was the real deal. But what put Caprice in perspective for me is the first time I heard him cut a promo. He was untouchable,” Rave said.
Rave expressed that believing in something no matter what it may be is vital. Coleman regularly makes the nearly 400-mile drive up from North Carolina to Baltimore, Md. for Ring of Honor television tapings. Factor in that Coleman is wrestling at a lot more locations than just Baltimore and some idea of his time on the road can be understood. At this point shared beliefs and good company are all the more important.
“It’s very significant to have faith in a dark business like professional wrestling,” Matt Jackson said. “You need to stay positive and focused and it’s nice to have people like that in your locker room. Having faith keeps you level-headed.”
At the thought of wrestlers he has faith-based discussions with the first name that Coleman mentioned was Mark Briscoe. Briscoe is known for his merciless in-ring offence, foul mouth and being one of the biggest bad asses to be raised on a chicken farm (well at least in wrestling). Oh yeah, he is also missing a few teeth after his brother Jay knocked them out accidentally with a chair shot.
“Briscoe works in the youth group for his church. Mainly just praise report type stuff,” Coleman said. “They are all supportive of my ministry in their own way.”
Sometimes wrestling and religion mix more directly than just having a place to draw strength from. A.J. Styles introduced Coleman to the Christian Wrestling Federation, a promotion that Coleman continues to work for sporadically.
“The difference with them is that they have Christians that just happened to be wrestlers. Not wrestlers that happen to be Christians,” Coleman said. “The difference, they might not all be great athletes, but their mission is souls. There’s also testimonial and a message during the show.”
Coleman said that contrary to what some believe not everyone wrestling on a Christian wrestling card believes in Christianity. Instead these promotions accept individuals beyond their own faith and if a talent performs well then they will be brought back.
Outside of Christian wrestling promotions, larger companies have also used religion in their storylines. Coleman mentioned Shawn Michaels’ transformation from “The Boy Toy” into a Born-Again Christian as a positive example of how Christianity can be implemented in the squared circle. Michaels’ character was tied to the performer’s real life redemption story of recovering from drug abuse and making amends for past irrational behaviour. Yet, sometimes when religion is tied to a wrestling storyline that draws on real events, it is not always positive.
“I like what they’ve done with Shawn Michaels. However with Jake “The Snake” [Roberts] and [Reverend] Devon and some others it starts off good but then they always pull out personal issues to contaminate everybody. Everybody has faults,” Coleman said.
Coleman’s favourite Bible verse is Philippines 4:13. In the King James Bible the line reads, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Looking towards his future this quotation may be worth keeping in mind.
The pastor would like to travel to Japan and Europe to wrestle just to see how crowds would react to his in-ring performance. He has travelled abroad before including a trip to Kuwait. If he travels overseas and is in even one match then he will have done infinitely more wrestling than he did in Kuwait. As he explained the sport that he loves is illegal in the county following a tour the WWF did where main event heel, Vader confronted a talk show host after being asked if wrestling was a work.
“During an interview Vader actually struck one of the hosts when he asked him the crucial question … after this they just took the biggest route and made [wrestling] illegal,” Coleman said.
The ring veteran thinks about more than just new places to perform including dream opponents. For Coleman, one name comes to mind: Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler has been revered by many critics in the online wrestling community, but is far from the biggest name in wrestling. This stands in line with the list of wrestlers he would have liked to perform with in the past: Curt Hennig, Jerry Lynn, 2 Cold Scorpio, and Brian Pillman. Like the careers of these four men, Caprice’s in-ring tenure cannot last forever. Looking five years into the future he said his spot in wrestling could be much different.
“Hopefully the world by then will have seen what I have to offer and I am able to continue to live my dream whether it be wrestling, commentating or managing,” Coleman said.
For Coleman wherever his wrestling career takes him and whatever success he finds, whether working with Dolph Ziggler, traveling to Japan, commentating or anything else it will be through Christ.
- Nov. 12, 2021: Caprice Coleman believes in ROH’s future
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Daniel Johnson is a freelance reporter from Medford, Massachusetts. He is also the founder and owner of The Johnson Transcript and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.