PHILADELPHIA – A Web site founded by a priest that featured images of young wrestlers in bikini briefs was voluntarily shut down after questions were raised about its content and purpose.
The Junior Professional Wrestling Association site offered to sell photos and videos of the wrestlers, purportedly for charity. The site displayed teen-agers and young men with nicknames such as "Johnny Heartbreaker" and "Bad Brad" in wrestling poses.
The Rev. Glenn Michael Davidowich, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church in suburban Mont Clare, founded the wrestling association in 1999. Some matches were staged in the church rectory.
Tony Karl, director and Webmaster, defended the association as "sports entertainment" and a legitimate fund-raising tool. In a statement, he said "unfair attacks and embarrassment" forced the Web site to shut down last Wednesday.
"We are not, have never been, and will never be pornographic or sexual," the statement said. Rather, the association was a "makeshift attempt to mimic and spoof pro wrestling."
Karl declined a phone interview. Davidowich did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
The Web site's stated purpose was to raise money for Tomas Mejia, a California teen who was paralyzed and suffered brain damage in a 1994 auto accident.
According to Karl, a priest in California, the Rev. James Curran, established a fund in 1994 to help pay the family's medical bills and formed a similar wrestling venture.
But Mejia's mother, Marcela, said Monday she has not received money from either wrestling organization. She said Curran did pay some of the family's bills several years ago.
"I don't know dates, I don't know anything," she said.
Karl said the association sent checks totaling $5,760 to the fund administered by Curran, whose organization, Con Ganas Sports Entertainment, shut down last year. A spokesman for Curran, now a pastor in Stone Mountain, Ga., did not return a phone call Monday.
Davidowich resigned from the association in February 2001 after his bishop confronted him with parishioners' concerns, Karl said.
Karl said he found nothing wrong with the wrestlers' attire: "The majority of our wrestlers are athletes who are proud of their healthy and fit appearances, and feel they are dressed appropriately for wrestling entertainment."
People aged 16 to 30 have wrestled for the association, including about 25 minors who had parental consent, he said.