After badgering Larry Sharpe for an interview at a 1991 wrestling fan convention outside of New York City, the “Pretty Boy” allowed me to follow him to his hotel room. As we got to the hotel room door, Sharpe, who had recently wrestled his retirement match, muttered, “If you want this damn interview, it’ll have to be while I’m in the shower.” I don’t recall a lot of shower details, but I do recall that the former WWWF star and owner of the Monster Factory—one of the most successful professional wrestling schools—was ultimately gracious in sharing stories of his life in wrestling.
Sharpe: The first sport that I ever went to was professional wrestling. It was in 1957. My father took me to the Camden, New Jersey, Convention Hall. I didn’t realize that the town I lived in, Paulsboro, New Jersey, was a hub for professional wrestling. Haystacks Calhoun, Wild Red Berry, Bob Orton, and Smasher Sloan lived there. Plenty of wrestlers lived there. I saw former champion Buddy Rogers at the Camden Convention Hall, and he impressed me. I told my Dad, “That’s what I wanted to do when I get big.” That night, back in Paulsboro, we bumped into Red Berry at a little diner. I asked him what I had to do in order to become a professional wrestler. I was a kid in seventh grade. He said, “You need at least 10 years of amateur experience.”
I wrestled seventh and eighth grade. I wrestled four years in high school. I was 13-1-1 in my senior year of high school. I went to Gloucester County College. I was seeded fourth in the nation, NCAA. I was the first one at the College to have an undefeated season two years in a row. I transferred to Trenton State on a scholarship. I wrestled two years there. When I graduated, Wild Red Berry sent me a letter saying that he’d be in New York City in two weeks and introduce me to the proper people if I was still interested in breaking into the business. He never contacted me. Two or three months later, there was wrestling in Williamsboro. I sent in a message to the locker room where Gorilla Monsoon was running the show for the WWWF. Monsoon came out and explained to me that about two days after Red Berry wrote that letter, he died. I didn’t realize that Red Berry had brought Monsoon to my high school matches, to watch me wrestle.
Monsoon went out of his way to help get me started in the WWWF. In 1974 I had my first-ever matches with the WWWF. Then I went to work for a promoter in New York. Then I went to work for the NWA in Florida. From Florida to Charlotte, from Charlotte to Japan, from Japan to Texas, from Texas back to Japan. Then into the WWWF again. Then from there to Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico to Hawaii, Hawaii to Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico to Hawaii, two trips to Japan in-between, and back to the WWWF. Then I went to Puerto Rico for the last time, which was in 1984. I finished up there and opened the Monster Factory in 1984 when I got back, with Buddy Rogers. Because of the travel, I went through about four wives. It’s very hard. That’s why I’m glad to be retired so I can just settle down with Susan and live a happy life.
I was a bad guy most of the time. I used a lot of amateur wrestling, and everyone knew that I could wrestle clean. So I would wrestle clean for 15 minutes, and then I would do something dirty just to piss people off. That was much more effective than just leaning somebody up against the ropes and raking their eyes, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am the bad guy.” We would go out and have a good scientific match, and then when there was no cause for it, out of the clear blue, I would do it. That was effective for me.
Jack Evans and I were the North American Tag Team Champions in Puerto Rico. One night we were wrestling Carlos Colon and Jose Rivera, and there was 42,000 people there. It was at a baseball stadium, and we landed next to the ring in a helicopter. That was a high point, I suppose.
One time, a guy made it up to the ring and went to slice me and cut up my boot. I’ve had them steal my stuff and cut it up and throw it at me. Cabbies would try to run me off the street. But when you go in Puerto Rico and you tie a string around a cockroach’s neck, and take it on television and tell people you bought it at the pet store because it’s the national animal, you gotta expect those things.
Buddy Rogers and I started the Monster Factory together. It was called Champion’s Choice, and then we changed it to Buddy Rogers’s Wrestling School. After Buddy trained his son, and his son didn’t care to stay in the business, Rogers more or less lost interest in it and wanted to move to Florida. So I took over his share of the corporation, changed the name to the Monster Factory, and that name caught on with the media. You know, NBC, ABC, CBS, they all liked that name. Once you’re on one TV show, then it snowballs. Then it’s Sports Illustrated, and then when Sports Illustrated had it in, People magazine saw it. When People magazine had it in, Rolling Stone saw it. When Rolling Stone had it in, you know, it snowballed like that for me. A Current Affair came in and did something about eight months ago. They ran it on television, and there was virtually no response at all. They re-ran it two months ago on a Friday night, and I had 28 phone calls on my machine when I went in Monday. I guess it’s just the audience, what you’re on against on TV at that particular time.
We have try-outs. The qualities are just attitude, determination, somebody who is willing to keep their mouth shut and do what ‘re told. And it’s nice if you can have size, although it’s not always essential. Anybody who can be made into a wrestler, I can make into a wrestler. And I can do it better than anybody else.
I have a partner named Dennis Coralluzzo, and I own Excalibur Promotions. Dennis is the president, and I’m the vice-president. We’re licensed fund-raisers for nonprofit organizations. That gives us a little latitude as far as finding people to have wrestling for, and a good sales pitch for tickets. It’s easier to sell someone a ticket to wrestling if a portion of the proceeds is going to the soup kitchen or the handicapped children or whatever the place may be. We try to keep it as legitimate as we can. We tell the truth, and in an unethical business, that’s an unusual style, and it works. Out of the last 30 matches, we probably had maybe two, maybe three, that lost money. That’s not bad. We’ve had three shows in two nights, and they’ve all made money, and the NWA hasn’t done that in quite some time.
We go out and tell people exactly why we’re raising money, how much of it that we get, how much of it they’re gonna get, and what they’ve got to look forward to. It works well. Other people will promise everything from Hulk Hogan to Ric Flair to whatever. When it doesn’t come off, and wrestling fans see that it’s a fraud, it puts a bitter taste in their mouth. Ticket sales slump, and you have a failure. But it’s harder to do it that our way, because the person promising you that they’re gonna get you Ric Flair against Hulk Hogan, if you don’t know any better, you’re gonna go with the guy who says he can do that.
I see the school as hopefully franchising out. I’m basically a one-man operation. I’ve got a couple of schools. There’s no corporate investors in it or anything like that. It’s a hands-on type of deal, and that takes a lot of work, and the promotions take a lot of work. Doing it that way, to make sure that everything’s done right, you have to do it yourself, because you can’t afford to hire people to do it the same way that you would do it, because it costs too much money. So in order to do it right, you have to do it yourself. It’s time-consuming, and you don’t have that time to spread out. With Excalibur Promotions, we picture ourselves as a small independent promotion that’s gonna grow slowly but surely. And the Monster Factory will continue to be the top wrestling school in the country.
One student is from Midland, Kansas, one is from California, two are from Baltimore. I’ve had them from Canada, I had a girl from Canada, Japan, Rochester, New York. They come from all over the country. I can’t say that the other schools across the country are bad, but when you name wrestling schools, and you turn around and say, “Well, tell me what big names that you have out there in the market, that have made money.” I know none of them can match what I’ve turned out: Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Bundy, Virgil the Bodyguard. I’ve turned out more guys that have made a million dollars in wrestling than anybody else. If I’m a student looking for a place to go, that would be one of the things I would consider.
Thoughts from 2022: Although Larry Sharpe (who passed away in 2017) sold The World Famous Monster Factory in 2010, it continues to train pro wrestling students and promote wresting shows, and even hosts pro wrestling-themed birthday parties!