Grace Christian Fellowship in Williamsburg recently welcomed Nelson Simpson, Terry Allen, and Bradley Cain to speak about their professional lives and what brought them to accept Jesus Christ.
Professional wrestling fans know them as Nikita Koloff, Magnum T.A. and Lodi, three men who are no stranger to talking to a crowd.
In 2015, Koloff came to the church with fellow wrestling legend Lex Luger.
Pastor Gerald Mullins said he spoke with Koloff when originally planning the event prior to the COVID–19 pandemic in 2020 about who else he could get to share their testimony.
“He said, ‘Hey! How about Magnum TA?’ I said, ‘Sounds good!” Mullins said noting that Allen was one of the biggest stars in the NWA in the mid 80s, feuding with none other than Koloff, who was known as, “The Russian Nightmare.”
In addition, Koloff suggested bringing one of the next generation of wrestlers, leading to the addition of Cain.
Cain joined the successor to the NWA, known as WCW, in the early 90s as part of the group known as Raven’s Flock.
Mullins asked each to share the story about how they got into professional wrestling and how they came to know Jesus.
Koloff, who is actually from Minnesota, said he didn’t grow up dreaming of being a wrestler.
“My passion was weightlifting and football,” Koloff said noting the football dream died after suffering multiple broken legs while playing in college.
However, one of his college teammates was Joe Laurinaitis, who would go on to wrestling fame as Road Warrior Animal.
“I had lined up a tryout with the USFL when I got a call from Joe who recruited me into professional wrestling,” Koloff said explaining that the promoter, Jim Crockett, Jr., had asked Laurinaitis if he knew any big guys who wouldn’t mind shaving their head and becoming a Russian.
“He (Laurinaitis) made the phone call and shared with me the storyline of a nephew for Ivan Koloff,” Koloff said adding that it didn’t matter to Crockett that he had no wrestling background.
“So, I had a five-minute conversation, sight unseen, to make sure he understood that before I showed up in Charlotte, North Carolina on the day he said to be there,” Koloff said noting that he arrived and was introduced to the current World Tag Team Champions Ivan Koloff and Don Kernodle.
“Crockett said, ‘Take a look at your new partner,’ and Nikita Koloff was born in the hallways of Charlotte, North Carolina that day,” Koloff said.
Starting out, they got around Koloff’s lack of microphone skills by explaining that since he just came from Russia, he didn’t speak any English.
“Now my English has improved a lot, right?” Koloff asked. “Amazing, right?”
To add to the Russian Nightmare image, Koloff would come out with chains draped across his body and no shirt to show off his physique.
“So far so good,” Koloff said of transforming the Minnesota native into the Russian Nightmare.
The following night things got even more real as the Koloffs were scheduled to wrestle in a tag team match in Raleigh, North Carolina, in a televised event.
“We got there late. No time to get in the ring,” Koloff said. “They showed me a couple of basic things in the dressing room prior to my television debut. Fortunately for me it was a short match. It was 11 seconds and I had my first win. And because of the Russian character, I was instantly hated.”
Koloff said while he was successful in the wrestling business, later becoming the world champion before he walked away in 1992, he was unfulfilled.
“I said I was going to walk away by the time I was 35. I was technically 33 getting ready to turn 34,” Koloff said.
“I’m on this path in search of what life holds next and I realize that something is missing,” Koloff said.
What he referred to as the “ah ha” moment came on Oct. 17, 1993, when he walked in to attend a church service.
“I sensed something was different,” Koloff said. “When an invitation was given at the end of the service to surrender your heart, surrender your life to Jesus, I’m like, ‘Ah ha! I’ve never done that.’”
“I know the story, but today’s the day that it makes the move from my head down to my heart,” Koloff said explaining that he encountered Jesus that day.
From that day on, Koloff said everything changed including his attitude, motives and thoughts.
“At age 12 I had planned out my life,” Koloff said. “For the first time in my life, I found someone else had a plan for my life. God had a plan for my life.”
Koloff said since that moment he has worked to develop that relationship with God each and every day.
“It kind of parallels my wrestling career. I never dreamed I would become a wrestler,” Koloff said. “I never dreamed I would become an evangelist, a missionary, a minister. I’m thankful and grateful that God had a plan for my life.”
Allen said he did have a wrestling background, wrestling as an amateur in high school and college.
“I really had aspirations of one day going to the Olympics,” Allen said noting that dream ended with the boycott by the United States of the 1980 summer games in Moscow.
“I was working security in night clubs in Virginia Beach,” Allen said explaining that he frequently ran into professional wrestlers from the old Mid-Atlantic territory when they were in area.
“I had been a fan of wrestling when I was a little kid but never thought of myself as being a professional wrestler,” Allen said.
However, he learned that the top wrestlers at the time were making six figure salaries, which appealed to him.
Buzz Sawyer was the wrestler that got him started in the business.
When Sawyer left to go work in Portland, Oregon, Allen followed him out there.
When Allen arrived and spoke with Sawyer, he showed him the basics in about two hours, and the next night he was in the ring.
“My goal was always to be the world’s heavyweight champion,” Allen said explaining that he moved on to work in San Antonio, Texas, and then to Florida.
Allen explained that it was wrestling great Andre the Giant that came up with the name Magnum TA.
“He said, ‘You kind of look like that Tom Selleck guy on that Magnum P.I. You should be Magnum TA,’” Allen said noting that he didn’t know who Magnum TA was but he liked it.
From there, it was a matter of developing the Magnum TA character.
Allen took the Magnum TA character and moved on to Mid-South Wrestling.
While working at Mid-South, he began to hear about the Russian Nightmare, with whom he would feud with over the United States Heavyweight Championship.
“I had the most memorable series of matches in my lifetime with this fellow over here,” Allen said referring to Koloff.
“The friendship that we developed as a result of that, and then what happened after I had a career ending accident in 1986, supersedes that by leaps and bounds,” Allen said. “It is very special.”
Allen said he grew up in church and his family was in church every Sunday.
Like any other relationship, Allen said a person’s relationship with God is either growing or declining.
“My relationship with the Lord started young,” Allen said. “He embedded himself in me, but I wasn’t mature enough and didn’t have the mentoring people around to me giving me the examples of how to grow that relationship.”
As he got older, Allen said he went down a path that wasn’t God’s will but he was allowing him to make choices.
“I had taken a path that was my agenda and what I wanted to do,” Allen said noting that he has sacrificed so much to become world champion.
That goal was about to be realized in 1986 when NWA officials told him that he would soon hold the title.
The car accident, in which Allen broadsided a telephone pole, ended that dream.
“My prayer incessantly while I was in the hospital was for him to give me the strength to endure what was ahead of me,” Allen said. “I never asked him to heal me. Because to me it was something that I needed to learn to cope with.”
Five months after the accident, Allen got out of the hospital and had to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
“He was waiting for me to ask, ‘What do you want from me?” Allen said. “Because I had never asked him what his will was for me.”
In that time, Allen said God has consistently opened doors that he could not open himself.
“He has made things happen that could only supernaturally happen,” Allen said noting that he started and later sold a telecom business with no background, and later worked at a billion-dollar company with no experience in the role.
“Just countless times I can tell you of things that he has unequivocally done that has given me wisdom and discernment to do things that were not of me,” Allen said.
Cain said the best part of his story was that he grew up watching Koloff and Allen duke it out in the ring.
“I idolized these guys like you wouldn’t believe,” Cain said explaining that he and his younger brother frequently wrestled.
“He frequently had to face the brunt of my professional wrestling wanna-be desires,” Cain said of his brother.
Growing up in the Carolinas, Cain said each month when wrestling came to the Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, his father would take his brother and him to see the action.
While they normally sat higher up, Cain said he convinced his father to purchase front row seats for a show that featured Koloff.
“Up until that point there was one guy that intimidated me and that was my dad,” Cain said. “I’m up on the rail and Nikita walks out and just stares at me,” Cain said. “This guy back in his heyday was absolutely ferocious.”
On the other side, Cain said when Allen came out, the crowd went absolutely crazy.
“The roof came off of that place,” Cain said.
While in college, Cain said he got into bodybuilding and became a personal trainer.
A friend, who was in the local wrestling scene, told him he had a friend who was in the wrestling business that needed to get into better shape.
“Maybe you guys could trade out,” Cain said the friend suggested explaining that Cain could help the wrestler get in better shape and the wrestler could help Cain with his wrestling moves.
“When I started wrestling school in 1995 it was a ring in a barn,” Cain said.
The wrestler turned out to be CW Anderson, who would spend several years with Extreme Championship Wrestling and on the independent circuit.
Two months later, Cain had his first match and he began working on the independent circuit.
After another wrestler saw Cain and his tag team partner one night, he suggested they go to Atlanta where WCW had set up its Power Plant wrestling school.
“Each month they would have 20 to 40 guys show up,” Cain said of the Power Plant. “It was a three-day tryout. By lunch of the first day half of the guys would have quit.”
“At the end of the third day, of the 27 of us that had started there were three of us left,” Cain said.
While at a bar one night, Cain said he saw Scott Levy, who wrestled under the name Raven.
At the time, Raven was just coming into WCW.
Raven offered Cain the job to be his personal trainer, and later his personal assistant.
“After about three or four months, Raven got Cain a job going out on the road with him.
In addition, Raven pushed the idea to WCW management for the group that would become known as, “Raven’s Flock.”
To be part of the flock, Cain was going to mimic rock star Billy Idol in appearance and mannerisms.
“I had a day to get this done,” Cain said. “But here I go from doing indy shows to Raven making a phone call and I’m sitting at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan getting ready to go on live TV.”
After he dyed his hair, got the chains and outfit, and got the sneer down, it was then that WCW management told him that Billy Idol had copyrighted the look.
“You are 100 percent Idol, so we can’t call you Billy Idol,” Cain said the WCW lawyers told him. “How about Idol backwards is Lodi?”
“So that’s where my name came from,” Cain explained.
Cain said he was raised in the church.
“We had an open-door policy. If the church door was open, we were there,” Cain said. “We never missed church.”
While Cain wasn’t a superstar, he was a character on four different wrestling video games.
“When I got the first quarter royalty check, it was for $37,000,” Cain said in addition to the regular paycheck.
At the time he was wrestling, Cain said one of the biggest issues in the wrestling industry was drug use.
“We are not guaranteed you are going to make it to 39,” Cain said explaining that they had all buried a lot of friends.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t go out in public or perform if I wasn’t inebriated or high,” Cain said explaining that it resulted in him losing his job with WCW.
That along with a second neck injury sent him spiraling down, but he reached the point where he sought help.
“I got sober from all the drugs and came back to wrestling,” Cain said. “But then, because I didn’t have the drugs in my system, I started drinking a lot.”
Cain said he was a functioning alcoholic. One day, a friend at the gym asked him to start going to church with her around 2006.
“I had a wonderful pastor there,” Cain said. “For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a pastor that wasn’t preaching to me, but he was teaching me.”
Cain said in 2009, he quit drinking entirely.
Looking to become more involved in the church, Cain said he asked for a church job, thinking he would be asked to work in the parking lot or pick up trash.
“He said, ‘I think you would be a great youth group leader,’” Cain said. “He told me, ‘You’re a professional wrestler. You’re just cool. I’m just a pastor.’”
With that, Cain took on leading the high school group.
“I kid you not, my very first time going in with sophomores and juniors, I wasn’t going to bring up the wrestling stuff,” Cain said. “I was just going to talk about getting a job, going to school and being a personal trainer. There is this kid in the front row, who yells out, ‘You’re Lodi!’”
When Cain admitted to his alter ego, the teen replied, ‘My older brother plays you on video games!’”
“All of the sudden I was the coolest guy there,” Cain said.
Cain said he did return to wrestling, teaming up with Scotty Matthews to form, “Team Fearless.”
During his Lodi days, Cain said he would come out to the ring with signs saying things like, “We hate this town.”
In conjunction with Matthews, the duo has proclaimed their devotion to Christ.
“Now I come out and I put Bible verses on our signs,” Cain said.
“I’ve taken wrestling, which I love, and I now use it to spread the Gospel,” Cain said. “That has been really, really fun for me.”