Premiering on Apple TV+ today, March 17th, the docu-series Monster Factory shines a light on the famous training centre in New Jersey of the same name, showing us what wrestling fans know but many still can’t figure out: pro wrestling isn’t fake. It’s staged and choreographed, of course, but it’s also hard, brutally physical, and emotionally draining. At the same time, for those that love being in the ring, it’s richly rewarding, satisfying for the soul, and a haven for those seeking someplace a little different to fit in.

In other words: pro wrestling is still quite unlike any other sport or performance out there, and Monster Factory seeks to spread the word.

Produced through Vox Media Studios and Public Record, the six-episode series features current owner Danny Cage, himself a former student of the training facility, and five wrestlers, all at varying stages of their careers as they come through the Factory: The Notorious Mimi; Twitch; Bobby Buffet; Gabby Ortiz; and Goldy. had the opportunity to speak with the cast in a conference call earlier this week to hear about their experiences being profiled for the series, and what they hope wrestling fans (and, perhaps more importantly, non-wrestling fans) will get out of watching it.

Cage, who acts as the de facto main character in the series, starts off by explaining that Monster Factory is exactly the show he’s always wanted to see. “I’ve been telling everybody that if I was going to make a show, this would be it,” he explains. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do. (The show) is authentic. It’s an emotional journey from six different points of view, and that’s what I think is going to be refreshing.”

“We’re pulling back the curtain, and not just for the stuff that happens in the ring because that’s the easy part.”

Danny Cage in Monster Factory.  Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

When the first “behind the curtain” wrestling documentaries found their way to fans (here’s looking at you, Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows and Beyond the Mat), it was thrilling enough to simply hear wrestlers planning their matches or see how they got along with one another (or didn’t) in comparison to their scripted characters’ beefs and partnerships. Since then, wrestling has been the subject of countless other films and series, but what Monster Factory delivers that most wrestling documentaries still don’t, according to Cage, is the struggle of aspiring wrestlers not just to make it in the business, but to make it in their own lives.

“I want everybody to know what goes into (wrestling),” Cage continues. “I want people to know the struggles, and I want people to know that they’re not alone in wanting to achieve their dreams. That’s what I think will stick out in (Monster Factory). I think it’ll get a bigger audience than just pro wrestling fans.” Drawing in fans from outside of the sport is something that Apple TV+ is surely after, too. As with their other productions focusing on particular sports, such as Real Madrid: Until The End (football), Make or Break (surfing), and They Call Me Magic (basketball), the streaming service is counting on appealing to eyeballs that don’t count themselves as wrestling fans.

For those people, the wrestlers of Monster Factory have a very simple message: watch the show! Mimi (Amelia Herr) suggests that people often have a limited or outdated idea of what pro wrestling is all about, and might be surprised by what they learn through the show. “When I first told my mom I wanted to be a wrestler, she wasn’t sure if she was for it because the wrestling that she grew up watching saw women be extremely objectified and not really get to perform as athletes,” she recalls, adding that pro wrestling, in general, used to lack something else that might limit an audience today. “Not enough representation. Whether it was racially, gender, or just general equality. We didn’t see very many different body types when we were watching wrestling in the 80s. When people give it a chance, they’ll find that it’s a much different product than it was forty years ago.”

“I think that wrestling now is for absolutely everyone.”

Amelia Herr (aka Notorious Mimi) in Monster Factory.  Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

Her fellow wrestler Twitch (Lucas DiSangro) steps in, agreeing that his hope for the show is for “educating people on what (wrestling) really is.” He then offers up another sport’s idea of how to marry athletics and entertainment as an answer to those who are still hung up on whether or not wrestling is a legitimate sport. “I always liken it to the Harlem Globetrotters,” he explains. “We all know that at an actual basketball game, no one’s going to get a bucket of confetti thrown on them, but you still need to know how to play basketball. You still need to have the fundamentals and the talent to entertain people. I’m hoping this show brings a newfound respect for that.”

This idea bounces back to Mimi, who has her own go-to sport comparison. “My favourite thing to compare pro wrestling to is pair’s figure skating,” she suggests. “You need to trust and have faith in the person you’re working with 100%, because we are really giving our bodies and our well-being to the other people we’re in the ring with.”

This leads to a conversation about how wrestlers must necessarily rely on one another in the ring, and yet there is still individual recognition and advancement, something that Monster Factory highlights over the course of the six episodes. Bobby Buffet (Hurley A. Jones Jr.) speaks to how managing his own reaction to the success of those around him is key to his own development. “From the outside looking in, I think it’s very reassuring,” he says of fellow wrestlers climbing the metaphorical ladder ahead of him. “Five years I’ve been training, but it’s a short time in wrestling. It’s very reassuring to see a lot of people around me, a lot of people I’ve grown with, getting those opportunities because of the sense of confidence that I’m learning the right things and I’m surrounding myself with the right people.”

Lucas DiSangro (aka Twitch) in Monster Factory.  Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

Twitch has some thoughts on this, too, referring directly to the teachings of Cage. “Danny always told us that just because someone else is getting an opportunity doesn’t mean your opportunity won’t come,” he points out. “His analogy is it’s not your part in the movie yet, and I never understood getting upset when somebody else has an opportunity to shine. It’s going to make you bitter and jealous, and I just don’t see the point in that.”

Goldy (David Goldschmidt) is another of the focal characters in Monster Factory who recognizes the therapeutic qualities of pro wrestling for his own struggles, and it was something that he gradually unveiled more and more of as the production moved along. “In real life, I believe I’m kind of a closed-off person, innately kind of afraid to share the real person that I am,” he begins, explaining that he warmed to idea of sharing his personal story as he was being interviewed multiple times for the show. “It took a little time, but I got the idea of sharing this story, and I think it’s something relatable for a lot of people. Having anxiety, social anxiety and panic attacks, they can look at me and see someone that they might not think goes through these kinds of things. Maybe they’re going through the same thing and think if he’s doing it, and living his dream, I can push through and try to live my dream, whether that’s wrestling or anything.”

When asked about putting oneself on display, as it were, for a documentary film, Gabby Ortiz (Gabriella Belpre) acknowledges that she knew that’s what this project would be about, and was thrilled to include her life, and especially her father, in the process. “I knew my life would be put on blast for the cameras, and I was completely down for it,” she explains. “So was my dad. Once the cameras saw our dynamic they were really excited to capture more of us. He was extremely natural. My dad is funny, charismatic, and the reason I’m even half as charismatic as I am. He always wants to help me and be a part of my journey. It was great to share this experience with him.”

Gabriella Belpre (aka Gabby Ortiz) in Monster Factory.  Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

Again, it’s easy to think of wrestlers, who famously tend to use their own personalities as springboards for their wrestling personas, as being naturally outgoing. Monster Factory shows us that this isn’t always the case, and Gabby credits the film crew for helping to draw out organic performances from herself and the other featured wrestlers. “The producers and crew made the whole process very comfortable,” she offers. “It felt like I was making a project with my buddies. I wish it showed more of me interacting with my fellow Factory students, but there was only so much time.”

Goldy also spoke about watching the creative process of what ended up in the film and what’s left out from the unique perspective of seeing the whole process unfold. “With it being such a short show, relatively, and filming God knows how many hours, there are things that I’m like, ‘Oh, wow, they didn’t put that in,'”, he admits. “But we filmed so much stuff and there’s only so much they can fit in.”

On this point, Gabby notes that “there is a point during the show where it seems like I was out because of injury and not at training at all, and that I ‘came back’. I never stopped training through the duration of filming. Wrestling training isn’t all physical. Just showing up is half the battle and I always show up.” All the same, she has nothing but high praise for how it all turned out. “The series is even better than what I imagined playing out. I’m extremely honoured to have been a part of this show.”

“I mean, there’s no smoke and mirrors here, and I love that about (Monster Factory),” Goldy adds. “It’s very, very real, and it’s not a wrestling show — it’s a show that has wrestling in it. It’s a show that anyone can watch about relatable people going through relatable struggles.”

These are heady ideas, but Monster Factory tackles them head-on, and this uncompromisingly holistic view of the wrestler as both performer and person, through and through, should both enlighten and entertain audiences, fans and non-fans alike.

Hurley A. Jones Jr. (aka Bobby Buffet) (L) and David Goldschmidt (aka Goldy) (R) in Monster Factory.  Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

Closing up, Cage assumes his role as head coach and teacher, inadvertently or otherwise, by gathering the thoughts of everyone and urging once more for people to watch the show and learn who wrestlers really are: hardly homogeneous, but rather individuals with unique skills, needs, faults — all of which are on display in Monster Factory.

“(Wrestlers) have to communicate in the ring and we’ll tell our opponent if we’re really hurt,” he suggests. “But then, when we’re out of the ring, why can’t we be as open with other things like ‘Hey, I’m not doing okay, can we talk?’ We’re trying to be like we’re such tough guys, when it’s not about that. We’re just theatre kids, man! That’s essentially what wrestlers are and it’s okay to ask how we’re doing. It’s okay to look out for somebody and it’s not weak looking out for your brother or sister or your friend. You think you’re going through it alone, but you really need somebody with you.”

“That’s pro wrestling. Pro wrestling is life.”

All six episodes of Monster Factory are available for viewing now on Apple TV+. For wrestling fans, it’s an easy draw to learn more about the sport you may think you know all about. As an added, bonus challenge: watch it with someone who knows little to nothing about the world of pro wrestling, and see how it changes the perspective of someone who might otherwise dismiss it.