In the professional wrestling business, there are many temptations that each competitor deal with constantly. Oftentimes, the fame, mixed with the physical toll, lead wrestlers to infidelity, drug and excessive alcohol use, and even suicide. For former WWE star Kris Pavone, known in WWE as Caylen Croft, a path of darkness was looking him right in the face.
During his time in WWE, he became the Heavyweight Champion for the then-developmental promotion, Ohio Valley Wrestling, as well as the Tag Team Champion for Florida Championship Wrestling, which was WWE’s developmental promotion before changing to NXT. However, even with all the promise happening in his life, he did not build a relationship with God.
“I always believed in God, but I kind of viewed him as a pinch hitter,” said Pavone. “Not someone who I could have a personal relationship with.”
Despite this view he had on God, former WWE Tough Enough winner and OVW Heavyweight Champion Matt Cappotelli became a beacon of light in his life, witnessing the gospel to Pavone in word and in deed. Sadly, the world had to say goodbye to Cappotelli, as he passed away from brain cancer in June of 2018. Pavone shared how Cappotelli was a great influence on him to commence his journey as a Christian.
“We met in 2003. I was training in OVW at the time and him and John Hennigan won Tough Enough III. And they came… I think it was February of 2003. I got to know Matt, and almost immediately I remember he was a strong man of faith,” said Pavone. “Over the next few years, we became good friends. Particularly, me, him, and Joey Mercury were really good buddies. I know he inspired Joey a lot, too. So, Matt was the guy that he walked the walk, so to speak.
“So, I always admired that about him, and I would always think, man, I knew God was the answer to everything. And I just thought I couldn’t have that relationship, that’s Matt’s thing. And, [things were good]. I was in WWE, [had a] developmental contract, and was on my way up to the main roster anytime now. I was kind of the top guys in developmental at that time. Meanwhile, my personal life was pretty much out of control. You know, drinking all the time, being wild and crazy. Less time for God, you know.
“And then it all kind of came to a head when [I was teaming] with The Miz and me and The Miz were going to debut on SmackDown and literally days before we were supposed to [debut], we were gonna debut that Tuesday… and Sunday, I got fired. That weekend I was partying, getting really crazy and ended up in the hospital, nearly died from everything I was putting in my body.”
When his life came crashing down following his release from WWE, Cappotelli called Pavone to his house and started ministering to him. Although he agreed, he felt that he was not ready to fully surrender to God. However, Pavone would soon reflect on the seed that was being sown in his life from Cappotelli, and realize that what he thought about Christian conversion was the opposite of what Christ desires.
“I used to think that I gotta clean myself up and then come to God, where it is the opposite,” said Pavone. “It’s change from the inside. They way I live my life today is not like, ‘oh I should, look at me, I’m so good,’ It’s Christ goes to work on us in the inside, and our true selves come out. Our desires change, and the road becomes more and more narrow.”
Along with being an art teacher, Pavone spends a good portion of his time influencing people on his podcast, The Kris Pavone Show, which can be seen on Facebook. You can hear the full interview at this link.