“The Masked Saint” is based on the true story of the life of Chris Whaley, a professional wrestler who became a Baptist minister and was able to use his wrestling talent to bolster his new career in a church that was in desperate need of members, funding, and spiritual support. The film is adapted from Christ Whaley’s book of the same name, published in 2009.
Mask - Wikimedia - Attribution "ToMar"
In the film, the main character is named Chris Samuels (Brett Granstaff). When Chris was a young boy, he was bullied at school by older, stronger boys. Since he was sickly, he watched wrestling on late night television and became interested in the sport. He was able to best the boy who had bullied him at school. Chris had another problem; his father left when he was about ten years old.
One Last Wrestling Match
Chris married his high school sweetheart Michelle (Lara Jean Chorostecki) and they had an eight-year-old daughter Carrie (T.J. McGibbon). Chris was anxious to end his professional wrestling career, but was prevented from doing so by Nicky Stone (Roddy Piper), a ring official, who wanted him to stay on for one more professional bout, facing “The Reaper” (James Preston Rogers), who was 6’5” and weighed 300 lbs. Chris, who wrestled under the title “The Masked Saint,” looked like the winner at first until “The Reaper” put Chris’ leg in a lock and broke his leg.
Roddy Piper - Wikimedia
Chris is Assigned as a Baptist Minister
After a short rehabilitation, Chris was able to achieve his dream to become a Baptist Minister, for which he had prepared educationally. He was given a job at the West Baptist Church in Rolling Spring, Michigan in a neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks. The previous minister had lasted three months, and the one prior to him had stayed seven months.
Chris was greeted by the Chairman of the Board, Judd Lumpkin (Patrick McKenna); the choir director, Mrs. Beasley (Joan Gregson; and church member Miss Edna (Diahann Carroll).
Miss Edna explained to Chris privately that Judd Lumpkin was very generous in his financial support of the church but the congregation did not like his blowhard ways, and now the number of parishioners was half what it used to be. Chris agreed to go door to door to invite residents of the neighborhood to join the church. The door was slammed in his face several times. One woman, Mindy, with a little girl Ashley said they used to belong to West Baptist but did not attend any more. When her husband Ray came in, he was incensed at Chris and told him to leave.
Diahann Carroll - Wikimedia
Chris Meets His Congregation
At the first church service over which he presided, the choir was totally off key, and Mrs. Beasley did not play the organ well. Chris tried to give a sermon on faith but appeared unprepared and the congregation was not interested. Judd Lumpkin pulled his funding from the church and Chris was left with a leaky roof and unpaid utility bills.
Miss Edna Has an Idea
When they moved into their own home, they learned quickly that their neighbors were Mindy and Ray. Miss Edna brought some cookies to Chris and Michelle and invited Chris to her home for a talk. She showed him a wrestling magazine she had with his picture on the cover. She invited him to a wrestling match where “The Reaper” would wrestle with “The Iceman Cometh.” When Chris noticed that “The Reaper” was doing a leg lock on “The Iceman Cometh,” he jumped in the ring to prevent “The Reaper” from breaking his opponent’s leg. “The Iceman Cometh” then succeeded in winning the bout. Nicky Stone reminded Chris that “The Reaper” had a bounty of $20,000 on his head and it might be worth it to Chris to return to the ring.
On his way home, Chris spied a man beating up on his pregnant wife and intervened. The husband was furious and left. The wife told Chris she had been praying to God for help, and suddenly he was there. She said “You are a saint.”
Lara Jean Chorostecki Wikimedia
Michelle Goes to the Hospital
When Chris reached his house, he learned from his next door neighbor Ray that Michelle had passed out in the bathroom and was taken to the hospital. He rushed there and found that Michelle had hit her head when she fell after feeling light-headed, but she was all right. In fact, she learned that she was pregnant.
Chris Makes Some Strides with the Congregation
When Chris spoke to his congregation again, he told them that they had lost their funding. He asked for their help in their areas of expertise, such as bookkeepers, carpenters, plumbers and other occupations, and his congregation, which was now increasing, agreed to help out.
A young girl walked into the service, named Valerie. She was a known prostitute who wanted to join the congregation. Several members were up in arms about her being there and spoke their peace. Chris said to them “If any of you are without sin, cross this line I have here.” Nobody moved. And Valerie joined the church.
Michelle and Chris were going over their own books and realized they needed money. Michelle said “Miss Edna and I think you have a gift.” Miss Edna said to Chris “Where in the Bible does it say ‘You must not wrestle’”?
Mindy Joins the Choir
At choir practice, Chris heard a beautiful voice. It was his next door neighbor Mindy. Later, he heard Ray arguing with her. He told Ray “Like it or not, Mindy and Ashley have found a home in the church. You should hear Mindy sometime. She has an amazing voice.”
Chris made a stop at a Diner one day; it happened to be in the process of being robbed. The waitress was trying to signal him. He went outside, put on his Mask and fought off the intruders who fled.
When he returned home, Chris had a message to stop by the church. When he arrived, he was shocked to see that vandals had been there, and had written on the walls “Get Out,” and “This is my Town.” Papers were strewn all over.
Wrestlers - Wikimedia
Chris Reveals His Decision to the Congregation
Chris explained to his congregation that he was planning to go back in the ring. It is not unusual for young ministers to work a second job to supplement their income, but it is most unusual to do it in the wrestling ring. Chris learned that Ray wanted to come to the next service. He apologized to Chris for his behavior. The man who vandalized the church was Jojo, whom Chris had caught beating up his wife. He told Jojo to come to church and seek forgiveness. He even noticed Judd slinking back into church.
It was the night of the Main Event. Chris “The Saint” Samuels would fight unmasked for the Heavyweight Championship against “The Reaper.” Predictably, “The Saint” won the match.
The Cast Members
The man who portrayed Nicky Stone, the ring official, is in reality Roddy Piper who was a famous professional wrestler between 1984 and 2000. Sadly, he died in July 2015 before the film “The Masked Saint” was released to the public. James Preston Rogers, who portrayed “The Reaper,” coached Brett Granstaff, who played Chris Samuels, with his wrestling moves. Granstaff did a magnificent job showing his prowess in the ring.
Chris Whaley, the author of “The Masked Saint,” received his wrestling training from the legendary “Great Malenko” and wrestled professionally in Florida and the southeastern states for ten years. He quit professional wrestling in 1988 to study theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This film is family-friendly and won Best Picture at the 2015 International Christian Film Festival.
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