For most wrestling fans, the business is a source of unmatched entertainment… a somewhat inexplicable fascination that began during childhood and continues to thrive despite the awkward stares that often accompany an admission of fandom in a room full of adults…Consequently, I question how those same adults can bury wrestling for its fictional attributes, while extolling the virtues of reality television…But I digress.
There is no question that wrestling owns prominent real estate in the hearts and minds of these fans. I personally have leaned on wrestling as an escape during the most difficult times of my life and freely admit that some of my best memories growing up involved the squared circle…I doubt that I am alone in this sentiment…It’s why we keep coming back…It’s what has made us lifelong fans.
However, for a small percentage of the population, wrestling is so much more than a source of entertainment….So much more than the chance to fulfill a dream or cash a paycheck. For these individuals, it’s an opportunity to forge a family where a void once existed…to form the closest of bonds in a business known for its cutthroat nature.
In the case of Danny Cage, the current head trainer at the Monster Factory wrestling school in New Jersey, professional wrestling has provided a means to live out his lifelong dreams. More importantly, though, the business has allowed him to utilize his triumphs and tragedies in order to touch countless lives along the way.
PLANTING THE SEEDS
The initial genesis of Danny’s (pictured at right wrestling in high school) fascination with professional wrestling is not much different than that of the average fan. “Ironically, my dad actually started me with wrestling by showing me a video of the Sheik vs. Sergeant Slaughter in a steel cage match…it was like watching superheroes in the ring who were fighting for real.”
Although the irony of this foundation would not become apparent for quite some time, there is no question that this early experience established an irreversible course. “This was going to be my career…It was to the point that I was watching and recording every single match that was ever on TV…I would freeze frame every little movement and I would mimic what I saw… From 13 until I was 19, that was all I did.”
Fortunately for Danny, the opportunity to pursue this dream existed right in his back yard. As he entered high school, his father once again stoked the wrestling fire by pointing out the existence of the Monster Factory. For a kid fighting demons in his own home, the school provided more than a future goal…It became a much needed coping mechanism for a life standing at a crossroad.
“I started to have suicidal thoughts in high school because my parents constantly fought.” When battling this depression on some of the most difficult nights, Danny managed to sneak a phone cord into his room simply to call the Monster Factory. “I would call Larry’s [Pretty Boy Larry Sharpe] answering machine at the Monster Factory just to hear his messages, and that used to get me psyched up…I would call it sometimes 20 times a night.”
The contact became so frequent that Larry Sharpe eventually utilized the cutting edge Star 69 technology to ascertain the purpose of the calls. When Larry asked if he needed help with anything, a nervous Danny stated that he “just wanted to see what matches were coming up” before quickly hanging up the phone…Although help may not have been provided on this specific evening, this brief contact foreshadowed a budding relationship of mutual respect and admiration.
Be sure to check out parts 2, 3 and 4 of this four part feature, which will be posted throughout the day!