Being a professional wrestler looks like a worthwhile line of work to be in.
You get to beat people up without having to worry about going to prison, which sounds like fun to even the most timid person. People may even cheer you on while you're beating someone up.
If you make it to the highest level in the profession, you could become a worldwide television star and could earn a significant living in the process.
That leaves one question though: How does one go about getting into the wrestling industry?
As simple as the question sounds, the answer is a little complicated.
That's because you can't simply walk up to Vince McMahon, or any other wrestling promoter, and ask for a job. You have to learn how to do the job you're asking for.
Where do you go to learn? You go to a school, of course.
No, not a college or a trade school, we're talking about a school where you specifically learn how to wrestle along with other ins and outs of the business.
Okay, now you got that much covered. Now it's time to choose which wrestling school to attend.
Since there's no structure or governing body to wrestling schools, you're going to have to do your due diligence in finding a reputable place to learn.
But what makes a wrestling school reputable? One measure of that reputation could be the number of big-name performers that have come out of it.
Well, there's a school in Paulsboro, N.J., right next to the Paulsboro High School wrestling team that has churned out a number of big names. Those names include Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Bundy, Tony Atlas, The Big Show, D'Lo Brown, The Godfather and Tatanka just to name a few.
With all of these men — big in name and in stature — the school is aptly named The Monster Factory.
Owned and operated by former wrestler Danny Cage, The Monster Factory is more than just a warehouse with a ring like a lot of other wrestling schools. It is a facility complete with multiple rings, wrestling mats and an extensive weight room.
It is a facility akin to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., but on a smaller scale.
Although The Monster Factory is small compared to the juggernaut that is the WWE, the reputation it carries in the wrestling business as a whole holds quite a bit of weight.
If you're trained in The Monster Factory style, you bear The Monster Factory stamp of approval that this person is ready to take on the wrestling business.
Like American Express, that stamp is accepted everywhere, including the WWE.
Cage has owned The Monster Factory since 2011 and operates it alongside Extreme Championship Wrestling stalwarts Brian Heffron (The Blue Meanie) and Bill Wiles.
Under his leadership, The Monster Factory is more than just a wrestling school. It is a full-fledged promotion complete with regularly scheduled wrestling events, including one Sept. 20, wrestling seminars and even birthday parties for little kids.
In order for all of these things to come off without a hitch, the Cinnaminson, N.J. native maintains an unwavering work ethic. That work ethic had him sit down with philly.com for an interview on the day of his nine-year wedding anniversary.
After he sat down with philly.com, Cage went to a very important business meeting regarding The Monster Factory and another wrestling promotion.
It never stops for Cage and it's the same type of work ethic that he expects from each and every one of his students.
"I sleep four or five hours by design because I'm busy doing things," he said. "There's people that think that they're going to be able to get eight hours of sleep and just wrestle on the weekends. That's not how it works."
Cage demands that work ethic from the moment someone walks through the doors of The Monster Factory for a tryout.
If Cage doesn't feel as though someone doesn't have the right attitude or work ethic, he will not train him or her, regardless of how much money they have to offer.
"If they come in out of shape and they're 24 years old, you didn't want to do this," Cage said. "And if you're 31 and you're out of shape, I don't care if they have the full amount in their hand, I'm not wasting my time. Don't tell me this is what you've wanted to do your whole life. You're out of shape, you're sweating just standing there."
"We're an exclusive brand," he added. "Just because you have $60,000 or $70,000, you shouldn't be able to just walk into any school and say, 'I'm going here now,'"
If one was to pass the tryout, which includes running the ropes and taking a basic bump (a fall to the mat), Cage will then set the financial terms.
In order to be trained by The Monster Factory, it costs $3,500, but it's only $3,000 if you pay upfront. Don't have the full amount, there are payment plans available.
Once you're in The Monster Factory, you are a member for life, regardless of how far you go in the wrestling business.
But before a student does anything in the ring, Cage needs to make sure that he/she has the right attitude.
"It's not just about what you can do in the ring," he said. "It's the life lessons people have to learn and I think that's what missing the most about wrestling today because everybody can do awesome things, but then there's just idiots out there messing it up for other people."
"Great, you learned how to wrestle and you're going to do something with it, but at least you're walking away a better person," he added. "You're not just an idiot who knows how to wrestle."
Cage has zero tolerance for what he refers to as the idiots. The idiots are the ones that don't take the training seriously and only looks at wrestling as a hobby.
To Cage, wrestling should be something you want to do or be involved in for the rest of your life because that's the type of mindset it takes to become a success in the business.
A part of taking it serious is doing whatever it takes to show up to the facility to train. In Cage's mind, there's no real excuse for missing a training session if someone considers wrestling a serious endeavor.
"Back when I was training they didn't care if you showed up," he said. "As long as you had your money when it was due."
"I want text messages from people," he added. "This is 2014. There's no excuse for why you can't reach me because if I was a girl looking to do things to you, you would find a way to reach me, find a way to get to me, find a way to let me know you're either going to be late, not going to be there at all or you got hit by a car and you need a ride. These guys make up excuses. There really is none."
"We're not here to fulfill fantasies of making you Hulk Hogan for the weekend and we're not here to complete your bucket list of 'I always wanted to try it.'"
Once the attitude is adjusted, then you begin to learn two things: basic professional wrestling techniques and conditioning. Both are essential to having a long-lasting career in the industry.
Before a student ever steps into a ring at The Monster Factory, he must learn how to perform a proper lock-up that begins a match. After about a month of learning just how to begin a basic match, then a student is allowed to learn more of the basics, such as taking basic bumps, headlocks, etc.
"When you're training the basics, that is wrestling," Cage said. "A lock-up is the most important thing. When you're writing a script they say the first 10 pages are the most important because that decides whether the guy reading is going to continue the script."
"If you walk down that aisle and you don't carry yourself like a professional and then you don't lock-up like a professional, those people are already not investing in you," he added.
Even more important is having the proper stamina to carry an entertaining match. If there's one thing Cage doesn't stand for is a student that gets exhausted easily in the ring.
Exhaustion not only makes for a match that lacks action and entertainment, but it could also bring about serious injuries.
"We want them to be conditioned unbelievably, so we're trying to push it, push it and push it," Cage said. "Once they get into the ring they're never sloppy, they never back down and no one is going to get blown-up [tired]. That's a pet peeve of mine."
Cage has a keen eye for details and a low tolerance for lackadaisical effort. So much so that he has a direct stream to the happenings at The Monster Factory at all times.
While WWE COO Paul "Triple H" Levesque has a live video stream to the WWE Performance Center in his office, Cage has a live video stream to The Monster Factory on his smart phone.
There's no such thing as wasting time at The Monster Factory.
The method of training isn't Cage's in particular, nor is it Heffron's or Wiles'. It is that of The Monster Factory, a method that has been passed down for more than three decades.
"The way The Monster Factory trains is The Monster Factory way," according to Cage.
The Monster Factory way, however, did begin with someone. And that someone was Larry Sharpe.
The year was 1983 and veteran wrestler "Pretty Boy" Larry Sharpe had just returned home from a tour of Puerto Rico.
While sitting at home, he suddenly received a phone call from a Camden, N.J. man named Herman Rohde Jr., who wanted to know if Sharpe would teach his son, David, how to wrestle.
Now this wasn't any ordinary offer for Sharpe. That's because Rohde wasn't any ordinary person. Rohde was better known as "The Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, who was a legend to say the least in the wrestling business.
Among his litany of accolades, Rogers was the very first WWE (then the World Wide Wrestling Federation) Champion in 1963 when the promotion split off from the National Wrestling Alliance.
Not to mention, Ric Flair thought so much of Rogers that he used his moniker "The Nature Boy" and carried to 16 world heavyweight titles during his own legendary career.
Although Rogers had probably forgotten more about professional wrestling than Sharpe had known by that point, old age had caught up to him, preventing him from physically training his son.
So he called upon Sharpe to handle the physical aspects of his son's training while he took care of the psychological part. That part hadn't quite gone away yet.
Regardless of any of that, Sharpe was taken aback by the fact that Rogers had called upon him to train his son.
"He was a legend when I was a kid growing up," Sharpe said during an interview with philly.com. "He was the guy I wanted to be like. I kind of copied some of his work because I liked the style he had."
"It would be like Babe Ruth calling me up and saying, 'Would you teach my son how to hit because I'm too old to show him anymore?'" he added. "It was one of the greatest moments of my life."
Sharpe never questioned why a bonafide legend like Rogers would ask him; a nine-year veteran with middling success that was considering retirement anyway, to train his son. He simply went forward with the process.
Sharpe did have experience in training perspective wrestlers, however. He had trained Tony Atlas and King Kong Bundy before Rogers came calling.
His prior experience in training was the inspiration behind him opening a wrestling school with Rogers.
With Rogers' son David and a handful of others, Sharpe opened up one of the very first wrestling schools.
Starting a wrestling school back in 1983 was relatively uncharted territory.
The wrestling business was very secretive and the people inside of it were very reluctant in letting outsiders into it.
In order to get into wrestling, you either had to know someone or be very, very tough. More often than not, you had to be both.
In order to weed out the not-so-tough guys, wrestling trainers pretty much beat the daylights out of students. The ones who didn't want to get beat up on a daily basis simply left.
The ones who really wanted to be in the wrestling business stayed and they were the ones who got taught the secrets of the wrestling business.
Sharpe was one of the few that stayed when he made the decision to become a professional wrestler.
When he opened the school in 1983, there wasn't a real blueprint in how to run a wrestling school. All Sharpe knew was how he was broken into the business, which was by taking a daily beating before finally getting to learn something.
Sharpe took bits and pieces from what he learned and essentially formed a lesson plan for the school, but with fewer beatings.
Sharpe wasn't interested in simply taking people's money and sending them on their way. He wanted to make a wrestling school a viable business venture.
"I got beaten up everyday," he said. "I worked the guys over, but not like I got worked over because anyone that was willing to pay $1,500 had the right to learn properly."
Pretty soon, Sharpe and school went from just David Rogers and a handful of others to one of the most known wrestling schools in the country.
Bam Bam Bigelow and King Kong Bundy carried Sharpe's teachings to the highest levels of the business, the WWE. Bundy was in the main event of WrestleMania 2 against Hulk Hogan.
Bigelow was a star essentially since the day he started in the business at Studio 54 in New York and was eventually in the main event of WrestleMania XI against New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
Sharpe eventually became known for turning these monstrous men into stars, which made the decision easy for naming the school The Monster Factory.
"Basically, I had done Bundy, I had done Tony Atlas and I had Bam Bigelow and basically I was creating monsters," Sharpe said. "All of these guys were huge and out making money."
"I liked that name and it clicked and we went with it," he added.
Sharpe spearheaded that legacy for more than 25 years, but eventually decided to take a step back.
He eventually decided to hand over ownership of the school altogether. Sharpe didn't have to look far for someone to hand it to. He handed to one of his best students in Cage.
Cage came to The Monster Factory under some less-than-ideal circumstances during the 1990s.
After dropping out of college, he bounced around from Florida to North Carolina before finally making his way up to Paulsboro.
In short time, Cage showed the necessary leadership and work ethic to earn the trust of Sharpe.
"Dan was an outstanding student and I needed some help, so I reached to Dan and he came through and hopefully it's working out for both of us," Sharpe said.
"He had determination, he kept showing up. He didn't have money, so I put him on a payment plan and he never missed a payment and he never missed a practice," he added. "He was just developing into the kind of person that I would want to turn it over to. I didn't think about doing that 20 years ago, but as time went on he became the perfect choice."
In 2011, Sharpe was finally ready to leave it all to Cage. Absolutely everything. He signed everything over to Cage, left his home and moved to Florida where he still resides today.
"He was like, 'Man, you got the energy I had back in 1980s when I started and then you're doing more than me, just put it all in your name,'" Cage said.
Although Cage now has full autonomy over the school, he will see to it that Sharpe's legacy will remain in tact and carried on in the future.
"It's always going to be Larry Sharpe's Monster Factory in name," Cage said. "I'm running it, I own it, but it's never going to change. It's not going to become Danny Cage's Monster Factory. It's Larry Sharpe's Monster Factory."
Getting into the wrestling business today is much different from the way it was back in 1983.
While most had to jump through hoops and go through clearances just to get a foot in the door, today a wrestling school is merely a Google search away.
That's how 25-year-old Mike Spanos found The Monster Factory.
After years of watching wrestling with his father and grandfather in his hometown of Washington Township, N.J., Spanos, then 21, decided to try his hand at professional wrestling.
"In high school I started to hit the weights pretty heavy and I rekindled my love for wrestling again and I just had the notion that I wanted to give it a shot," Spanos said during an interview with philly.com.
His Google search didn't take him far, as he found a reputable school in nearby Paulsboro in The Monster Factory.
Spanos took part in a tryout and passed. Upon completion of his tryout, he quickly began learning The Monster Factory's way of teaching professional wrestling.
Upon entering the school, Spanos became quickly acquainted with the brutally honest Cage, who Spanos likens to former NFL coach Bill Parcells.
"The Monster Factory has such an impressive history, lineage and pedigree that [Cage] doesn't want to just train wrestlers just to train them," Spanos said. "He'll actually turn people away when they come to do a tryout if he doesn't feel like they're not dedicated or serious enough or they come in really out of shape."
"He doesn't hold any punches," Spanos added. "If something doesn't look very good, he'll let you know absolutely and 100 percent, 'That did not look good and you need to do it again,'"
Although brutal, the honesty part of Cage's training is only there to help in Spanos' eyes. According to Spanos, Cage's only goal is to get as many students signed to contracts with larger promotions as possible.
Not only does it help the students, it also builds the reputation of the school as well.
In order to do that, Cage is willing to work with a student from the ground up. Literally.
One of the first things a professional wrestler must learn is the art of taking a bump. If you take a bump the wrong way, it could be very painful and could cause a serious injury, which makes it a vital part of the learning process.
"A lot of people have the misconception that it's like a trampoline or a really soft mattress," Spanos said. "Obviously, there's some give to it or else we would have some serious back problems, but it's not as soft as you think and if you don't land the proper way, if you don't breathe, you could get the wind knocked out of you pretty easily or get a bump or a bruise."
"You got to watch your elbows and your butt, but once you get used to it you kind of get like a callus to your back and to your body and get used to the ring," he added.
Besides bumps, Spanos has learned a little bit of everything since joining The Monster Factory. Even things he rarely uses in his matches today, he knows them because it never hurts to know a little more than you have to.
"You get taught X, Y an Z and you get told, 'Put it in your bag of tricks and pull it out when you find it necessary or you don't ever have to pull it out,'" Spanos said. "The Monster Factory teaches you all of the basics that you need to learn how to do a match."
Spanos had his first match at The Monster Factory about two months into his training. Having that all-important first match is a part of the guarantee when signing up to join the school.
Spanos entered that first match an extremely nervous rookie wearing merely plain black tights and plain red boots, but is now a fixture on the local independent scene.
His main promotion is The Monster Factory where is currently one half of the tag team champions alongside Clutch Adams. Together they are known as "The Factory's Finest."
He also occasionally works for the East Coast Wrestling Association out of Newark, Del. and World Xtreme Wrestling C4 out of Allentown, which is run by The Wild Samoans of WWE fame.
He and Adams hold the WXW C4 Tag Team Championships as well.
Like Bigelow, Bundy and Atlas of years gone by, Spanos and Adams carry The Monster Factory stamp of approval, which garners them instant credibility because others know that they have been trained properly.
"People like to work us Monster Factory guys because they know we're trained properly," Spanos said. "There's nothing worse than getting into the ring with someone who isn't trained properly and doesn't know what to do because you're literally trusting them with your life. They could drop you on your head and you're not wrestling anymore. You're not even walking anymore."
Despite having some success locally, Spanos is nowhere near the highest level of the industry, which is undoubtedly the WWE. Despite that, Spanos is currently making strides to get to that point.
He recently attended a seminar for Ring of Honor, which is one of the larger and well-known wrestling promotions in North America and has produced current WWE stars such as Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Cesaro.
Attending a Ring of Honor seminar allowed Spanos the opportunity to show what he can do in front of the promotion's officials.
He also recently received an offer from the WWE to be an extra on upcoming episodes of Raw and Smackdown.
Being an extra for the WWE could mean a number of different things. Spanos could be just a random guy standing backstage or he could be a faux security guard for a storyline.
He could even be a member of Adam Rose's rosebuds. He may even get to work a match in front of some of the scouts. Whatever it winds up being, it's an opportunity to get noticed by the right people on the highest level in the wrestling industry.
If Spanos were to sign with the WWE at some point, he would join fellow Monster Factory alum Steve Kupryk, who is in the WWE's developmental program NXT as Steve Cutler.
What Kupryk, a former Marine, lacked in knowledge of wrestling, he made up for with the drive and determination that Cage loved.
"He didn't have a job because he was getting paychecks from the government, so his life was now going to be wrestling for a while," Cage said. "He just invested in wrestling, so he would be in during the day when we weren't even training. He would be in there working out or doing something, watching match tape."
"Even after he signed his [WWE] contract, he's in painting the building with another guy while no one else is around," Cage added. "He knows what it's about."
Although Cage is excited and happy for Kupryk's success, he knows that his former student has only made it so far that he still has a long way to go.
"I'm not going to jinx it," Cage said. "He could get hurt, anything can happen. There are tons of things that happen, so I can't get too excited, but I'm very proud not just for me but for the school."
It's about The Monster Factory.
It's a lineage that was created by Sharpe, being led Cage and will live on through the likes of Spanos and Kupryk.
If you want to become a professional wrestler, simply take a trip to Paulsboro, N.J., keep your eyes open, your mouth shut and learn in the fashion that has turned ordinary men and women into champions, legends and most importantly monsters.