The world of professional wrestling is often associated with stories of sinners and saints. However, this tale is different. This is the amazing story of The Masked Saint, Christopher Whaley: wrestler, pastor, and real-life vigilante – a man whose actions profoundly impacted the lives of many.
“Life Imitates Art” – The Tale of The Masked Saint: Christopher Whaley
We have often heard the phrase, “Life imitates art.” Or is it, “Art imitates life?”
It’s a paradox we’ve grappled with for many years.
Some of the heels in professional wrestling, the men and women fans were genuinely terrified of, were, as we’ve come to realize in real life, genuine gentlemen and sweethearts, the salt of the earth.
Killer Kowalski is the very first name that comes to mind. A man who struck fear into the hearts of fans for decades was universally loved and respected by his peers.
On the flip side of the equation, some were admired and cheered by millions for their in-ring persona but lived a life diametrically opposed to the one they portrayed in the squared circle. Let’s not name any out of professional courtesy.
Another famous catchphrase is “Practice what you preach.” This is a story about a man who preached what he practiced.
Although The Masked Saint was not a household name in professional wrestling, he was undoubtedly one of a kind.
Christopher Whaley: Early Days
Christopher Whaley was born on August 7th, 1954, in Central Florida.
Growing up, Whaley had frequent bouts of pneumonia, resulting in many hospital trips. During these down times in a local medical facility, the future Masked Saint became acquainted with the wild world of the squared circle.
In the early ’60s, although a decade or so removed from its Golden Era television heyday, professional wrestling still had a foothold in the American household.
As a Floridian, Whaley’s initial exposure to the sport was Championship Wrestling from Florida, one of approximately thirty wrestling territories that was prevalent throughout the United States at the time.
Health Struggles Early in Life
Initially owned by Clarence “Cowboy” Luttrall and later Eddie Graham, the Championship Wrestling from Florida promotion featured stars such as Graham and his son Mike, Hiro Matsuda, Sam Steamboat, Tarzan Tyler, and The Great Malenko, an evil Soviet who, while not committing heinous acts in the ring, was a lovely gentleman named Larry Simon from Newark, New Jersey.
Only in professional wrestling, right?
Malenko would eventually transition from in-ring performer to trainer, producing a galaxy of stars, including his sons Dean and Jody, Kane (Glenn Jacobs), 1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac (Sean Waltman), Marc Mero, and even a Saint.
Eventually, one of young Whaley’s doctors identified the genesis of his health issues. It seemed that young Christopher had 192 undiagnosed allergies.
Once these allergies were properly treated, his health experienced a fantastic turnaround. This same doctor suggested that Chris join a gym to build up his muscles, which were lagging from years of non-use.
Parallels with Bruno Sammartino
A parallel can be drawn here between Christopher Whaley and Bruno Sammartino, who is seen by many as the greatest professional wrestler of all time.
Sammartino grew up in the hills of Italy at the height of World War II and experienced significant health issues (rheumatic fever) in good part due to malnourishment and living in substandard conditions. Sammartino came to the United States in 1950 and, at the age of 14, weighed a mere 83 pounds.
At the suggestion of a friend, Bruno visited a local gym and, as he is often quoted, “knew that something good was here for me.”
Similarly, Whaley attacked the weights with gusto and quickly gained muscle and strength.
Whaley continued his weightlifting regimen throughout his college years and into early adulthood.
Help Wanted: Professional Wrestler
At 24, while perusing the Tampa Tribune, something caught his eye. Christopher Whaley told Dan and Benny In The Ring podcast, “There was a big ad in there. Wanted- Professional Wrestler. It was in the Sports section.
“I jumped up out of my seat, and I ran over to my wife, who was grading papers, and I showed her the ad. She just kind of rolled her eyes.
“I immediately went in, packed a bag, and drove over to Tampa. I walked in, and there was this guy that I watched as a kid, The Great Malenko. That’s how I got hooked on it.”
Whaley’s years of weight training and discipline paid dividends, as he could withstand the grueling and rigorous requirements of the “evil Russian.”
Training With Boris Malenko
The future Saint enjoyed training with Boris Malenko and his two sons, Dean (“Man of a Thousand Holds”) and Jody.
“I think [Malenko] was the best in the business at training wrestlers, but he was also a great guy,” Chris explained about his experience.
“Whenever I left Florida and went to Texas to Seminary, I called [Malenko] and asked him if he could help me. Those were the days of the territories, and they did not look very favorably on independents. Those days, you either knew somebody or you were related to somebody.”
But when I went to Texas, I called him up; he told me who to talk to in Dallas.
“‘Talk to Bronco Lubich!’
“That was the first person I looked up,” Chris continued.
“I was able to get on out there and work, and it was just a great help to me.
“I kept in touch with Malenko as much as I could. He died of leukemia. It was a real heartbreak.
“I still see Jody just about every other month; they have the Legends’ Lunch over in Tampa at O’Brien’s Pub. Buggsy [McGraw] is usually there; Buddy Colt used to be there until he passed away. B. Brian Blair, Bob Cook, there’s always some great names.
Whaley’s first match occurred six months after he began his training.
As he recounted it in his book The Masked Saint – Husband, Pastor…Hero, “I can remember my first match like it was yesterday. [My opponent] was bigger than I was and had obviously been wrestling a lot longer than I had.
“My adrenaline was flowing strong. Within five minutes, I had a broken nose and mat burns on my elbows and knees. But every time I got into the ring, I learned a lesson that helped me prepare for the next match.”
Christopher Whaley wrestled for ten years in Texas and Florida under a hood as The Masked Saint. Amongst his more renowned opponents were “Adorable” Adrian Adonis and Mark Calaway, who went on to become one the greatest ‘gimmick’ wrestlers in the history of the business as The Undertaker.
Miss Edna’s Great Influence on The Masked Saint
Before we delve into the heroic deeds of The Masked Saint, one more bit of backtracking is in order.
In life, we tend to meet people who make an indelible and permanent footprint on our journey, regardless of when they cross paths with us. For Christopher Whaley, one of these people was Edna Williams, or “Miss Edna,” as she was known in the neighborhood.
Miss Edna was a God-loving, elderly black woman who befriended young Chris when he moved to his new community in Central Florida in the early 1960s. Re-read that last sentence and let the significance of it sink in. An elementary school lad and an older black woman. In the Deep South. In the early ’60s.
Miss Edna would provide young Chris with generous slices of wonderful homemade apple pie made with love. But Ms. Williams also provided the future Saint with generous portions of wisdom gleaned from both the Bible and the great philosopher Edmund Burke.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” was not only committed to Christopher Whaley’s memory, but it became emblazoned in his heart and soul.
Christopher Whaley: A Real-Life Saint
So what makes The Masked Saint so unique?
If Whaley had merely wrestled as The Saint to hide his identity while serving his congregations for the ensuing decades, this story would not have much intrigue.
William James Myers, who the wrestling world knows as George “The Animal” Steele, wrestled as The Student in his early years to avoid being spotted by the high schoolers he taught or coached football.
But regarding The Masked Saint, so many more layers of the proverbial onion need to be peeled.
Real-Life Acts of Vigilantism
In his his book, The Masked Saint tells a story that occurred early in his ministry.
A young lady approached the young pastor after services, visibly displaying signs of physical and emotional abuse. Yet the woman implored Chris to not involve the police and to stay away from her dangerous husband.
Remembering the words of Miss Edna, Pastor Whaley visited the bully and tried to convince him, via reason and logic, to change his ways.
When conventional methods failed, enter The Masked Saint.
Finding the ‘gentleman’ at his favorite watering hole, The Saint requested that the wife-beater cease his brutish behavior.
Although massive, The Masked Saint twisted this man so severely that he resembled an Auntie Em’s pretzel.
As he bid farewell to what was left of the bully, Whaley issued the statement: “I am The Masked Saint, and I am not going to let injustices like this happen anymore.”
Exit Pastor Whaley, Enter The Masked Saint
On another occasion, Pastor Whaley was asked by the local Child and Family Services office to keep an eye out for two young girls who regularly attended his services with their aunt.
The girls were in the foster care of the aunt and her live-in boyfriend while their parents were recuperating from a severe car accident.
Whaley visited the house as a pastor would generally do with his congregation. He was rebuffed and summarily dismissed from the home by this boorish excuse of a man.
Again, confronting this shell of a man in a non-sanctioned match in real life, he made speedy work of him, leaving a warning that there was more to come if he ever harmed those young girls again.
Taking Action Against Racism
Upon learning that a member of his congregation was a member of a faction – we are not talking about DX, nWo, or The Four Horsemen, we’re talking The Triple K, The Masked Saint decided to pay him and four of his flunkies a visit at their favorite venue; a secluded spot in the woods.
The Saint handily disposed of the five jobbers with various dropkicks, body slams, arm drags, and an occasional well-placed elbow.
One could opine that Chris performed his due diligence as a pastor by visiting these men and attempting to reason with them.
An argument could be made that he thus already went above and beyond the call of duty. But as Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go two with them.” (Matthew 5:41, NKJ Version).
The Masked Saint went that extra mile in pursuit of justice.
The Masked Saint: Going That Extra Mile in Pursuit of Justice
The moral of the story here is: The Masked Saint’s life was an amazing one.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
You can hear more from The Masked Saint, Christopher Whaley, in his interview with Pro Wrestling Stories’ own Benny Scala and Dan Sebastiano on the Dan and Benny in the Ring podcast:
These stories may also interest you:
- Amazing Acts of Heroism by Wrestlers Outside the Ring
- 10 Masked Wrestlers Whose Identities Were Quite Obvious!
- Mr. Olympia Unmasked: Secret Story of Jerry Stubbs
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