Wrestling with God: 10 Stories of modern day warriors who came face to face with the Creator

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Bonham, Chad. Wrestling with God: 10 Stories of modern day warriors who came face to face with the Creator. Tulsa, OK: RiverOak Publishing, 2001. See Chapter 1, “Tatanka,” pages 15-35.


This chapter outlines the wrestling career and spiritual path of professional wrestler Tatanka (Chris Chavis), born in Pembroke, North Carolina, in 1960. Chavis is the son of Stoney and Patricia Chavis. Chavis's family moved to Hampton, Virginia, where Chavis, in 1976, was a member of the state's championship high school football team. Chavis attended James Madison University for one year, but left to work with his father at a Newport News shipyard. His next career change was a move to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and involvement in bodybuilding. Chris began selling memberships for Bally's Health Club and was soon averaging $100,000 a month in sales and earning a lucrative income. Chavis met wrestling promoter Bobby “The Kid” Rogers, who urged him to consider a career in professional wrestling. After researching the sport, and in spite of his parents' objections, Chavis went to Larry Sharpe's Monster Factory, a New Jersey wrestling training center. His first contract was with George Scott's North American Wrestling Association (later called South Atlantic Pro Wrestling), headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. There, Chris was known as “War Eagle” Chris Chavis. In 1990, he was <i>Pro Wrestling Illustrated's</i> runner-up for Rookie of the Year. Chris's next move was to Vince McMahon's WWF, where he began wrestling as “Chris Chavis.” WWF was eager to promote his Native American heritage, so Chris chose the name Tatanka (Lakota for “Big Bull” or “Big Buffalo”). With the WWF, Chris had a series of year-long feuds and developed signature moves: the tomahawk chop from the top rope; and his fall-away slam, called “Papoose to Go,” “End of the Trail,” or “Indian Death Drop.” In 1996, Chavis took some time off from wrestling, started a family, and also rededicated his life to Christ. When he returned to wrestling he joined the independent circuit. In 2000 he was able to buy his trademark name Tatanka, which the WWF had allowed to expire. He began increasing his appearances in the U. S. as well as other countries, wrestling an average of 13 days a month and sometimes as many as 21 days a month. He considers himself an “apostolic prophetic evangelist” and has converted numerous people in the wrestling business to Christ. His priorities are “. . . to help clean up wrestling's tarnished image by creating a cleaner, more wholesome product, and to draw attention to the message of Christ” (pp. 33-34).

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Tatanka | Chris Chavis | Lumbee wrestlers