Ohio Valley Wrestling, Louisville’s celebrated professional wrestling concern, recently crowned its first openly gay wrestler champion: Amon, the Demon Marquis of Hell.
Hold on. So the demon isn’t gay, the wrestler is gay. He also used to be a pastor. We mean, the demon used to be a pastor. But the wrestler used to be a pastor, too. Well, he used to be a full-time pastor — now he’s just a part-time pastor.
Look, it’s a little convoluted, OK? But it is professional wrestling, so that makes perfect sense.
Stu Perry is a local wrestler, openly gay man and a Christian. For the last six years, he has been a part of Ohio Valley Wrestling, shunning and chiding audiences as the judgmental and vicious Reverend Stuart Miles: The Pastor of Disaster.
“Hello, sinners” is his often-used greeting, yelled with glee before he launches into how the audience, presumably mostly Christian, are very bad Christians. Insider was there the night The Pastor of Disaster debuted, and the audience hated him immediately.
Perry is a Louisville native, and, like a lot of wrestlers, his love of the art dates back to childhood.
“When I was a little kid, I had tons of wrestling action figures. And I would sit in my room for hours, nobody needed to watch me or anything,” Perry tells Insider. “I would pretend to be Jim Ross, I’d do the commentary with my action figures. I wrote down in a notebook all the matches, and who won, and who was the champion.”
He lost track of wrestling as he got older. Later, beginning in college, Perry started worrying about his health and fitness level, and he decided to do something about it. He tried a flurry of different fitness activities.
“I thought of wrestling, and I looked up OVW, and I thought I was just going to do the 10 weeks of training and one match,” he says.
Perry spent most of that six years as The Pastor of Disaster, a character he created.
“What they always say is, ‘Take a little piece of yourself and cartoonize it,’ and that’s the best way to act,” he explains. “If it’s something you know really well, it’s something you can fake really well. I was a full-time youth minister for six years, and that’s where the Rev. Stu character came from.”
He’s no longer a pastor full time, but he still travels to churches and talks about Jesus. When he started wrestling, he used the wrestling persona of the Pastor as a way to catch kids’ eyes and attention.
In conversation and on his Facebook page, Perry talks about Jesus with an earnestness that seems unexpected coming from the creator of the outsized, heavily satirical Pastor of Disaster. To some, that love of Christ might also seem like a weird juxtaposition with Perry’s sexuality, as so many of the headlines about the Christian faith involve anti-queer political stances.
But Perry doesn’t see a contradiction.
“I’m gay. I love Jesus. He loves me,” Perry says.
Perry partially came out when he was 15, limiting the disclosure to his family and a few friends. He was and is a passionate evangelical/Protestant Christian. A few years after he started telling people he was gay, he got a chance to deepen his personal relationship with Christ by working full time in ministry, as Adventure Christian Church’s youth pastor.
But he faced a tough decision.
“I went to them in tears and said, ‘Hey, I would love this, but I need you to know I’m gay,’” says Perry. “And they looked at me and said, ‘Stu, we love you. And we think you can do great things here.’”
Despite coming out to his family and employer, romance wasn’t a big part of Perry’s life. He didn’t actually have a boyfriend until last September. When he finally did find a partner he felt passionately about, his semi-out status ended, and Perry went public.
“I had a boyfriend. And I wanted to be able to take him around and not be like, ‘Hey, here’s my friend.’”
Though his family accepted and loved him when he came out to them, when Perry introduced them to his boyfriend, that ended.
“They told me that if that was how I was going to live my life, they had no interest in participating in my life anymore,” says Perry.
Perry has only seen his family twice since then.
“I guess it was, like, they were OK with me being gay, but not living gay? Which is how a lot of Christians see it,” he says. “Be gay, but just don’t give in to that.”
When Perry went public with his sexuality, he also told Ohio Valley Wrestling.
“When I came out publicly to the wrestling company, Michael Hayes, Scott Cardinal, Adam Revolver — all of them were, like, we don’t care,” says Perry. “They came to me said, ‘If anyone in this locker room ever gives you crap, come to us and we’ll beat the f*#k out of them.’”
Coming out didn’t alter the way the wrestlers treated Perry, and he is doing great at OVW. The Pastor of Disaster, on the other hand, is going through a rough patch, and it started with a moment of bad onstage communication.
The Pastor was allied with Paredyse, who is, ironically, a gay character played by straight wrestler James Long.
“Paredyse came toward me — now Paredyse and I know each other well, so we’ve messed with each other during matches, playing pranks on each other, so I thought that’s what he was doing, so I knocked him out with the belt,” says Perry. “That was the wrong move. He was trying to get me to double super-kick Paul Burchill with him.”
The moment had to be justified with a story.
“We decided Rev. Stu got possessed by a demon, and that’s what caused him to knock out Paredyse,” explains Perry.
Thus was born Amon, the Demon Marquis of Hell.
The character took off, and The Marquis started getting big matches. And then, the big moment came for Perry. Amon was in a title bout against reigning champion and longtime fan favorite Michael Hayes. Frequently, wrestlers don’t know the outcome of a match until just before they go on stage, and Perry didn’t get word of Amon’s imminent ascension until moments before the match.
The victory was a huge moment for Perry. And while he’s no longer a full-time youth minister, he does still work full time with kids at Uspiritus, a psychiatric treatment facility for children who have been removed from their home.
OVW gives free tickets to Uspiritus, so Perry’s charges often come to see him wrestle.
“I get handed the belt, and I look over at my kids and they are screaming and cheering, and I started crying. I’m trying to keep it together because I’m a demon. A demon wouldn’t cry,” says Perry.
Professional wrestling is a fascinating slice of real and fake — real athleticism and fake victories, true friends and fake feuds, real pastors and phony demons. Perry has found a way to mix it all together and be his truest self, despite the contradictions people might see in his staunch evangelical christianity and his sexuality.
Perry continues his youth ministry part time, and there he has found another seeming contradiction. His demon, The Marquis of Hell, helps Perry teach about love.
“I walk out in the Amon gear, and I say, ‘This is what we see in people, this is what you might think of someone.’ And I’m able to talk about being gay. Then as I’m preaching, I take off the Amon gear, and I say, ‘This is what Jesus sees. He just sees a normal person.’”
You can see Perry as Amon, the Demon Marquis of Hell, every Wednesday at Ohio Valley Wrestling’s weekly TV taping, and on the first Saturday of each month at OVW’s Saturday Night Special, at The Davis Arena, 4400 Shephardsville Road. For more info, check out OVW’s website.