The Monster Factory’s Legacy Continues to Grow
By Joseph Feeney III
Just like any other skilled profession, whether it be a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, a boxer, a chef, you need to go to school to learn and perfect your trade. Professional wrestling has a long storied history of trainers and students, whether it be Verne Gagne with the Iron Sheik and Ric Flair, whether it be Shawn Michaels with Bryan Danielson, Paul London, and Brian Kendrick, or whether it be Les Thatcher with Nigel McGuiness and Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose.) Where you come from means a great deal in the professional wrestling business. Your past and your reputation means almost everything, and nowhere else comes with the pedigree that The Monster Factory in Paulsboro, New Jersey does.
In 1983, perennial star pro wrestler and manager, “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe, along with the legendary, original “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, opened up what was then, the first pro wrestling “school.” They called it The Monster Factory, and the name surely fit. Their first star student was a young man with a head covered in flame tattoos. He was 375 pounds, a former bounty hunter, he could do cartwheels, and he eventually had his pro wrestling debut in Studio 54. His name was Bam Bam Bigelow, and he would go on to be a former ECW World Heavyweight Champion, and a WrestleMania main eventer.
Originally, Rogers wanted Sharpe to train his son, but he soon found out he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. The first ever WWWF World Heavyweight Champion then bequeathed the school, and its name to Larry. He envisioned Larry as the face of the school, and the head trainer. Rogers eventually moved to Florida, and left Sharpe in charge, with his full blessing. In the following years, Rogers would always point prospective wrestlers The Monster Factory’s way.
Throughout the years, trainees continued to enter those doors, and leave as monsters; King Kong Bundy, The Pitbulls, The Godfather, Tatanka, Tony Atlas, and a seven foot tall kid named Paul Wight. Paul Wight became The Giant, and is now fifteen year WWE veteran, The Big Show. A quiet kid from Ireland came over to train. He left as “The Celtic Warrior” Sheamus, who is now the current United States Champion, and a former WWE Champion. And The Monster Factory is not only responsible for some of the beasts and ass kickers in the business. Some of the best technical wrestlers and some of the best characters the world has ever seen, were trained in the very same ring. Chris Candido, Cliff Compton, D-Lo Brown, The Headbangers, Raven, Rocco Rock, and Sonjay Dutt all trained at The Monster Factory, and all have held championship gold in major promotions such as WWE, ECW, WCW and TNA. Also well-known and recently showcased on his DVD and Blu Ray, Paul Heyman also got his start here, as a photographer.
For a long time, The Monster Factory was synonymous with the words “pro wrestling school.” It started a trend, where schools began to pop up everywhere, a few good, but most bad. When The Undertaker wanted to begin to train in pro wrestling, he went to a school that was set up by veteran “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer. He was trained for a few sessions, but when he showed up at the school on time one night, Buzz Sawyer was gone, along with The Undertaker’s money.
Today, there are many schools. Some are run by veterans just looking for a payout. Some are run by guys with a handful of experience on the Indies, who have no business training in the first place. There are reputable programs, run by legendary names such as Booker T, Team 3D, and Lance Storm. Schools come and schools go, but The Monster Factory has now been around for thirty one years. And much like everything else in the world of professional wrestling, it has begun to evolve, and that is thanks to the vision of current owner, Danny Cage.
Danny Cage grew up as a wrestling fan, and used it as an escape from a tumultuous upbringing. He used to call The Monster Factory’s answering machine, and listen to the show updates, messages from Larry Sharpe, and he dreamed of one day entering the ring himself. After some roadblocks thrown in his way, he began to train in September of 1998, at the height of the Attitude Era. A riskier style of wrestling was prevalent then, and due to adapting to the times, Cage was out of action due to a back injury in 2002, and retired for good in 2005.
Danny’s love for the business remained, and he began to help train up and coming wrestlers with a friend of his. At the same time, Larry Sharpe wasn’t happy with his current training staff, and he reached out to Danny and his friend to take over. Soon enough, Larry was so impressed with how the Monster Factory’s fortunes had changed, that he placed total control and ownership In Cage’s hands in 2011. Much like Rogers had done before him, Sharpe passed the Monster Factory on down to a protégé of his own. ““That’s why I think it’s so weird and surreal that now I own the place that pretty much saved my life. I owe it all to Larry. He doesn’t realize it,” says Cage today.
Today’s Monster Factory has been described by everyone from JJ Dillon, to Joel Gertner, to Gerald Brisco, to Cliff Compton, to Kevin Kelly as a “mini WWE Performance Center.” In early 2012, Danny began a working relationship with the Paulsboro, NJ wrestling team, and soon The Monster Factory was housed in the Paulsboro Wrestling Room. It houses amateur wrestling mats, a fully equipped gym, showers, heat, air conditioning, and the best looking ring in any school or Indy promotion in the country. “It’s the premier school to train at. I’d tell the people thinking pursuing this to take it seriously! You get back what you put into it. If you just want to wrestle so you can say you do it to friends and stuff, it may not be the place for you,” says current student as well as tag team champion, Mike Spanos.
Training today’s crop of students alongside Cage, are seasoned veterans such as Bill Wiles (Billvis Wesley) and The Blue Meanie. Ring of Honor star QT Marshall is frequently in The Monster Factory to help train the up and comers as well. Also featured are frequent seminars, hosted by a who’s who in the business. Les Thatcher, Kevin Kelly, Cliff Compton, Colt Cabana, Rip Rogers, Gerald Brisco, Bob Evans, Joel Gertner, and more, have all been there to share their various experiences and knowledge. “Today’s Monster Factory is amazing. I wish we had that type of facility when I first started. I am always in the area now that I have relocated to NJ, so I have taken over Monday and Friday nights for the in ring training. The wrestling industry has changed, so at the Monster Factory, we have adapted as well,” states current Monster Factory trainer and Ring Of Honor wrestler QT Marshall.
Much like in the past, today’s Monster Factory is respected all across the wrestling world, and is a breeding ground for the superstars of tomorrow. Former student Tommy Maclin was spotted during a Gerald Brisco seminar, and is now training at the WWE’s state of the art Performance Center. He is currently a member of the NXT roster and has been seen on NXT’s programming on the WWE Network. The Bloodbound Warriors, Grey Wolf and Red Scorpion, who are a frequent tag team on The Monster Factory Pro Wrestling live events, were recently featured on an episode of Ring Of Honor on Sinclair. QT Marshall and Rhett Titus, both Monster Factory Pro Wrestling regulars, are also regularly featured on Ring of Honor television and live events. And the momentum certainly won’t stop there.
Wrestling legends, such as the late Paul Bearer, aren’t and weren’t afraid to send students of their own on the path to the legendary school in New Jersey. ”After Paul passed away, I felt a little lost.” offered wrestler “Brutal” Joe Gibson. “I started thinking about things and remembered a conversation we had a couple of years prior, about me relocating. I was dead set on going to Ring Of Honor. He mentioned the Monster Factory because of Larry Sharpe’s reputation. He said it would be a smart move, but like a complete idiot I wasn’t listening then. After he passed I realized I had to do something. I wasn’t satisfied with where I was and knew in order to get better I’d have to leave my comfort zone. So I contacted the Monster Factory and spoke to Danny Cage and Larry Sharpe and it was a no brainer.”
On a monthly basis, Monster Factory Pro Wrestling puts on live, family friendly shows, right there at the Paulsboro Wrestling Room, in Paulsboro, New Jersey. Alongside current students such as Michael Spanos & Clutch Adams, Billy Damiana, Tim Hughes, Leon St. Giovanni, Anthony Bennett, Chad Kensington, and Monster Factory Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion Luis “The Punisher” Martinez, stars from the past and present, such as The Headbangers, Cliff Compton, Colt Cabana, QT Marshall, Rhett Titus, and D-Lo Brown appear. The shows are highly regarded amongst wrestling journalists, and are consistently receiving positive reviews. The fans in attendance, some aware, and some not, are having the privilege of truly seeing tomorrow’s superstars.
Along with the seminars, the live events, and the excellent training facility, The Monster Factory will soon break through on another medium. Starting later this year, Monster Factory Pro Wrestling TV on Roku will begin, and Roku subscribers all over the world will be able to watch today’s stars, as well as archival footage from Larry Sharpe and Dennis Coraluzzo events with promotions such as the WWA. Alumni such as Chris Candido, Tatanka, The Headbangers, and Raven will all be featured.
And The Monster Factory also recently made headlines all across the world, with the addition of their newest student; former UFC performer, Matthew Riddle. Riddle was a standout star on “The Ultimate Fighter” television program, and he scored what was termed “the knockout of the century,” by Rampage Jackson, when he defeated Dan Simmlar, and broke his jaw in two places. Riddle is a lifelong professional wrestling fan, and with his drive, skills, and natural ability, he is a strong addition to an already stacked roster.
Simply put, just as it was from its inception in 1983, today, The Monster Factory is the place to be for any aspiring wrestler. Students who know this have travelled from near and far, from various states in the US, to many European countries. There is nowhere else who will get you prepared, physically, mentally, and politically like The Monster Factory will. Between Danny Cage, Bill Wiles, The Blue Meanie, and all the veterans who come through to give back, it is an experience like no other. As their momentum continues to grow, not only does the future look bright for the trainees who bust their ass every night of the week, but it looks brighter than ever for the continued prestige, legacy, and success of The Monster Factory.
And for those who feel the itch to join the crazy, intense, unique world of professional wrestling, heed the words of current trainee and wrestler, and New Jersey Amateur Wrestling Hall Of Famer, Billy Damiana:”Be prepared for sacrifice and hard work. You will push yourself to the absolute limit and you be hurt. You will be sore and you will miss time with family and friends. Instead of going out and partying, you will be cutting promos, eating right, and training as well as traveling. Days will be long. You will question why you do this and how much you really love it, but if you’re tough enough you will last. And if you are tough enough, the best place for you to become your absolute best, is at The Monster Factory.”