By LAUNY SCHWARTZ – For SLAM! Wrestling
“From Hamilton Ontario, Canada’s Greatest Athlete… Iron. Mike. Sharpe … ”
Of course, the crowd would boo after Fink announced his name, and it was a sound I was all too happy to tag along with while watching either Maple Leaf Wrestling or WWF Cavalcade — which fittingly aired on Hamilton’s CHCH TV.
Today I learned Iron Mike Sharpe passed away, and while he didn’t have the superstar cache of those who have recently passed, he certainly is a legend in my generation’s eyes.
First, when someone says, “Iron Mike,” most think of the boxer, Mike Tyson. When asked to describe the feared pugilist’s ring attire, that’s easy too. Black trunks. Black Boots. A wrestling fan? Not so fast. After all, Sharpe has been doing the job for years already. The name was ours.
Speaking of attire, any self-respecting wrestling fan can’t forget his very fragile right forearm. One that had Canada’s Greatest Athlete in a leather bound cast for what seemed to be decades. Then there’s those black trunks that he seemed to pick up from the grandpa fit section. He may not have put the fear of god into you. You probably knew he was going to lose, but you always knew you were going to see some quality heel heat. He did his job very well.
Back as the 1980s, kayfabe was still very intact. Wrestling was real, and you couldn’t say otherwise. Obviously there were faces and heels, and when it came to heel jobbers, few were better than Sharpe. He would sell hard. To this day my friends and I recreate his arm bar grunt. The initial clinch, a deep sounding “oh” … the second wrenching of the arm? A higher pitched “Ohhhhhh.”
Jobbers, by definition don’t win very much, but that leather bound arm gave Mike an advantage. He would be able to load it up and cheat. Like any good heel, you gotta generate heat, and when a metal object would get loaded in, I’d be screaming at the TV as the live crowd would be begging the ref to pay attention to what our man in black was up to. Before you knew it, there was the 1-2-3. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, as it was usually a lesser man on the totem pole.
When the internet became commercially available, I was part of the IRC chat room – #wrestling. We’d often speak of the pride of Hamilton. His gimmick. His grunts. His cast. There was no loss of love, but not a whole lot about what happened to him. It would be rare to find some screen caps or match footage. There would be even less about the man himself. A legend sorta vanished.
Now ‘#’ means ‘hashtag’ and with YouTube, Iron Mike footage is fairly easy to find. Upon hearing of his passing, I looked up some of his old matches and it was nice to see a master of the craft.
Do yourself a favour and type in “Iron Mike Sharpe” on the aforementioned site. What’s the first thing that comes up? Piper’s Pit, with Rowdy Roddy Piper! When was the last time you saw a jobber cut a promo? The added bonus? Two proud Canucks on WWF TV. One a Superstar, and the other, super at losing. I remember watching that promo because we were going to have that cast tested. The cheat was going to get busted on TV. Then, like the heel he was, he grunted and stormed off the set before he would attempt break the two planks of wood set out for him to expose him for the fake he was.
I don’t recall there ever being an official swan song for Sharpe when he left left the business, and like I’ve already explained, he seemed to have lived his post wrestling career as a recluse. I guess it’s the cross one bares when you are the greatest athlete this country has ever produced. The weight also seemed to have affected his back, as it’s reported that he was wheelchair bound at the time of his death.
At the age of 67, Iron Mike Sharpe passed away in his hometown – Hamilton, Ontario Canada. Always the heel jobber we loved to hate, and secretly cheer for when he’d used that suspect cast to win the occasional match.
- Jan. 18, 2006: Iron Mike Sharpe dead at 67
- June 2, 2010: PWHF inductees Ben & Mike Sharpe were giants
- Iron Mike Sharpe in The Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
Launy Schwartz is a former rock radio personality, and wrestling announcer. Currently he is teaching and writing about one of his other passions – goaltending. As a lifelong wrestling fan, SLAM! Wrestling’s Greg Oliver invited him to share a few words about Canada’s Greatest Athlete, Iron Mike Sharpe.