REAL NAME: Mike Sharpe
BORN: Hamilton, Ontario
6’4″, 275 pounds
Iron Mike Sharpe. The name alone brings up an image of a black forearm band and a lot of yelling.
The self-proclaimed ‘Canada’s Greatest Athlete’ was a regular on the WWF broadcasts of the mid-’80s — one would often find him at staring up at the lights after losing to WWF faces like Tito Santana or Junkyard Dog.
But who is he, and why does he belong in our Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame?
Sharpe is the son of wrestler Mike Sharpe, who together with his brother Ben formed one of the top tag teams of the ’50s and reigned as World tag champs in San Francisco and Japan.
As a youngster, he moved with his father, and grew up in California. When he was a teen, the family moved back to Hamilton, where he went to high school and later to McMaster University.
Sharpe actually dabbled in boxing and was deeply into weightlifting before ever considering following his father and uncle into the ring.
Having done some amateur wrestling with the Hamilton YMCA, Sharpe turned to Dewey Robertson to learn pro wrestling at Robertson’s gym at about age 25.
In a Hamilton Spectator article about 50 bouts into Sharpe’s career, Robertson praised his young charge. “He’s got all the natural attributes,” Robertson told reporter Garry McKay. “He’s got a charisma about him that makes him really popular with the fans. He’ll go a long way fast.”
Having cut his teeth with the small promotions running around Hamilton, Sharpe set out to learn on the road.
Out west for Gene Kiniski’s All-Star Wrestling promotion, Sharpe was a Canadian tag champ with Black Avenger (Moose Morowski) in 1977 and with Salvatore Martino (later Bellomo) a year later.
In Louisiana, he was a major fan favourite and was a two-time Mid-South Louisiana champion, a double Mid-South Mississippi champ and Mid-South Brass Knucks champion all during the years 1979 to 1982.
With Duke Myers, he was Stampede International tag champion in 1981 as well. He also spent time in Georgia.
Up next was the WWWF and a challenge to then-champ Bob Backlund. To remember Sharpe only from his days laying down for others would be an injustice.
Under the management of Captain Lou Albano, Sharpe fought his way up, though some may credit his mysterious black armband.
A Wrestling News article on Sharpe described the force of his forearm smashes during a match against Tony Garea.
“Garea was stung by a rain of heavy forearm smashes, delivered by the arm on which Iron Mike wears a strapped contraption of sorts. Many times over it has been alleged that what makes Sharpe’s ‘hammer’ the most lethal in wrestling is that in this band of his he has secreted some kind of foreign object. That’s what they say. But, because no one has ever succeeded in removing it from his arm, these allegations remain unproven.”
It was with much joy that WWWF fans of the era chanted ‘WIMP’ at Sharpe, which would of course further enrage him — something that he was always excellent at portraying.
Backstage in the WWWF, however, it sounds like Sharpe had a quirk or two or his own, at least according to announcer Gary Michael Cappetta in ‘Bodyslams! Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman’.
“Sharpe was known backstage as Mr. Clean. He spent hours at the sink washing his hands before wrestling and hours more in the shower after each of his matches. One night, after wrestling in an early bout at the Spectrum, he was still soaping up in the shower long after the matches had ended. Luckily he found a night watchman to let him out of the locked building long after everyone had gone home.
“Mike was a middle card tough guy who often was used by McMahon as a stepping stone for future contenders of the WWF championships. He wore a leather band on his arm that extended from wrist to elbow. Although it was made of nothing more than thin black leather, once nailed with an ordinary forearm smash, Sharpe’s opponents senselessly collapsed to defeat. Iron Mike also slid weapons under his armband which he used when in trouble, concocting more controversy than his harmless gimmick ever deserved. He squashed lesser opponents on television only to be thrashed by up and comers at live events in Philadelphia and all of the major venues throughout the WWF territory. Once getting past Sharpe, the wrestler who was receiving the push gained credibility en route to presenting himself worthy of a title shot.”
When his career had petered out, Sharpe turned his attention to teaching, and opened Iron Mike Sharpe’s School of Pro-Wrestling in Asbury Park, NJ.
Crowbar (Chris Ford) was one of his students, and recalled the experience in an interview with SLAM! Wrestling’s Alex Ristic. “Iron Mike Sharpe was a funny guy. He showed me the basics, but I’d be lying if I told you Mike Sharpe showed me how to do a Moonsault. He was a lot of fun. Even though he was never a top guy in the WWF, I always enjoyed watching him, he was always entertaining and, as you know, vocal (laughs), very loud, always screaming and yelling. He had that patented leather forearm thing. Even though he wasn’t a top guy I always enjoyed watching him.”
Nova (Mike Bucci) also trained with Sharpe, and told SLAM! Wrestling’s Bob Kapur about what he learned. “I started training with Mike in 1992 during my second year of college. He taught me a lot about the business, the fundamentals. He has a lot of respect for the business, and he passed that on to me.”
But perhaps what stands out best about Sharpe are the memories that fans have of him. Watching him stomp around the ring, yelling and screaming at the crowd, only to fall victim to yet another 1-2-3 on Maple Leaf Wrestling was a Saturday ritual in the ’80s.
- Jan. 18, 2006: Iron Mike Sharpe dead at 67
- June 2, 2010: PWHF inductees Ben & Mike Sharpe were giants
- Jan. 16, 2016: Column: Iron Mike Sharpe: An appreciation
“Iron” Mike Sharpe = Legend.
Always entertaining. I still can hear his yells when I used to watch him wrestle at the London Gardens in London, Ontario.
Bryan, Vancouver, B.C.
I recall at a live WWF event held in Kitchener in the late 1980’s. A group of us had seats above the entrance that the wrestlers used to enter the ring. When Iron Mike walked down the aisle towards the ring, we rose up out of our seats, wearing black forearm bands, making loud “Iron Mike” noises.
Iron Mike (the man was huge by the way), stopped, looked up at us and grinned. it was priceless. He subsequently lost to Hillbilly Jim that evening…..
Dean Berkers, Mount Forest Ont.
I met Iron Mike several times in the 80s. The first thing anyone might notice about him is that his voice is very soft compared to the loud gravelly voice that dominated his matches in the squared circle from bell to bell.
Harris Black, Montreal
I always remember Iron Mike, even more so than a lot of up and comers at the time. He was always on the verge of victory, grunting and groaning, but always threw the match away by some stupid mistake. Definitely one of my all time favorite jobbers.
Right here, right now, I would like to announce the start of an Iron Mike Sharpe commemorative stamp campaign, featuring two stamps, one of Iron Mike applying the armbar and one receiving the armbar.
Stephen Meisner, Edmonton
Back when I lived in Mississauga ,Ontario we were able to watch All-Star Wrestling from Vancouver on the Barrie CBC station. I remember watching “Iron” Mike Sharpe. He was always either the Champion or contending for it. When I later saw him in the WWF years later I never could figure out why he wasn’t doing better.
John Kerry, Nanaimo
Iron Mike Sharpe wrestled Jumping Jim Brunzell at a WWF house show in October of 1990 at the Metrocentre in Rockford, Illinois. I don’t remember who won the match, but I will never forget what happened later that night. My friends and I were waiting around outside the arena after the show. This was when wrestling wasn’t real popular like it is now and there were not hundreds of fans outside. It was just me and my friends and everyone else had gone home. After awile Iron Mike came out of the building with no shirt on — it was freezing out that night — and went to his car. We hesitated but went ahead and approached him, and he was super nice! He showed me the black forearm protector and his boots. He signed an autograph for me and talked for awhile before leaving. For some reason we were not satisfied with that and decided to follow him — to a grocery store!! We went inside to “snoop” at what he was buying. I remember he bought bananas! Anyway, we didn’t want him to know we followed him so we ran out of the store. Security yelled “STOP!” They thought we had shoplifted from the store! We then had to explain the whole thing, including having Iron Mike tell the officers that yes he was a wrestler and we were just fans following him around!! He was STILL very nice even then! I don’t know if he would remember that, but I will never forget it!!
Doug Meyers, Rockford, Illinois.
Back in 1990 or 91 I was attending university in Ottawa. The WWF would come to Ottawa once a year and like many other students at the time I made sure I was there. On a cold and rainy November night I made way to the arena and paid my 7 bucks and sat in the cheap seats. The first match of the night was Iron Mike vs Tatanka. My friends and I booed Tatanka, upsetting a small child a few rows ahead, and cheered our hearts out for Iron Mike. As he was making his way down to the ring he must have heard us because Iron Mike turned around, looked right up at us, and gave us a big thumbs up. I still remember that night to this day.
Luis D. De Sousa
What I remember most about Iron Mike Sharpe was a WWF live event in Detroit. Iron Mike lost that night to Ken Patera. But I’m not kidding, Iron Mike got the biggest pop of the night from the crowd. After the show a couple of friends and I were eating at a restaurant outside of Detroit and there was Iron Mike. We talked to him and he was a great guy. Very funny.
I wrestled Iron Mike Sharpe In Riverside, CA and Ventura, CA two days in a row in 1987 for the WWF. We were the opening match both nights. Main Event was Harley Race vs Tito Santana. I had never worked with Mike before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. He is was always in excellent condition, and we had to go about 15 minutes each night. Needless to say, he worked my butt off. I was bruised all over my chest for nearly a week after the matches. But I’m not complaining, Mike was a great guy to me in and out of the ring! One hell of a competitor, and a true professional! I remember him fondly!
BIG BILL ANDERSON, Riverside, CA
I think it was late-January 1987 in the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan that Iron Mike Sharpe had his last grasp at greatness. Due to a terrible blizzard, many of the wrestlers couldn’t make it to the show. As a result, then Intercontinental champion Randy Savage’s regularly scheduled opponent wasn’t there, and with few other alternatives, his challenger for the night became…Iron Mike Sharpe. At the time, Sharpe had been a “jobber to the stars” for several years, and was a heel to boot, so nobody showed any interest in this match. But somehow, in a much-more hard fought battle than anybody expected, Sharpe won over the crowd in his unlikely quest of wresting the title from the evil Savage. Though he eventually came up short, their epic 14-minute battle was easily the match of the night, and an unexpected treat for the several hundred fans who braved the weather to show up. Thanks Mike!
I used to spend a lot of time in San Francisco years ago and there was (is?) a Greek Deli type of place on Polk Street that served excellent gyros. Anyhow, the cook, whom we presumed to be the owner had a window to the street where he would bellow out to the passersby. We were all Iron Mike Sharpe fans and he was so similar in his yelling that the joint to all of us became “Iron Mikes.”
My name is Tommy Force. I currently see Iron Mike Sharpe every Monday and Thursday. I have been training at his Wrestling School for the past 5 1/2 years. Mike in a way has been like a father figure to me. When everyone would leave for the night after a hard night a training I would hang around and listen to Iron Mike stories. I would listen cause every story he would tell you would get some or a lot of knowledge from it. He has taught me a lot about the IN’s and out’s of this business, like the wrestlers before me who trained under his guidance. Sharpe is the greatest trainer in the world, if I needed advice as to how to go about what to do in a match or on a show or anything I could always count on Mike Sharpe helping me out. Thanks Sharpe for sitting there many a night’s to 2 or 3 in the morning to give me advice!!!! When I sit there and Sharpe gives me advice, it’s like Bret Hart getting advice from his father Stu Hart.
Tommy Force, Howell, NJ