Monday, April 18, 2011

R.I.P. Larry Sweeney


“Sweet and Sour” Larry Sweeney had it all.
There were the looks, charisma, and man, could he ever talk. He may very well have been one of the greatest heel managers wrestling had ever seen.
There was only one problem.
He was born in the wrong era.
“You’re like a Model T Ford,” a WWE Rep once told another indy heel manager buddy of mine. You see, in a wrestling world filled with silicone enhanced “Divas,” the smooth-talking heel manager has gone the way of the dinosaur.
Which left the dog eat dog world of the indies for Larry.
I first met him while serving as Associate Producer on The Wrestler. Doing grappler casting calls, I had brought about 150 indy wrestlers in for Darren Aronofksy’s consideration. We all “took to him” immediately. Larry, or Alex if you will, was respectful, personable, highly intelligent, and just plain nice. I ultimately spent a lot of time chatting with him on set between takes at the ROH shows we shot at. We talked “old school” and about his real life, where he worked as a teacher besides his weekend warrior gigs.
Whenever I attended the always great Ring of Honor NY house shows, Sweeney would get on the stick and have the crowd eating out of the palm of his hands. He reminded me of a young Cornette mixed with some Bobby Heenan and Johnny Valiant. He was bleached blonde and brash, sharp, and just plain funny. And behind the scenes, there wasn’t a single time he didn’t greet me warmly or sign autographs for all who asked him.
I had only seen the sweet side of “Sweet and Sour.”
I also caught him on a New York based indy  promoted by Paul Sarachelli. He was rightfully in the main-event versus a legit pro boxer in Larry Barnes. His elaborate entrance to music was Rocky meets wrestling meets performance art. He hadn’t even entered the ring and they “hated” him. At the peak of his powers, he was clearly a master of his craft. And I was pleased to help promote this bout on my own show, Legends Radio, where Sweeney had come on and hyped it like it was the Super Bowl and World Series rolled into one. And when a thousand plus attended the event, a near miracle in indy wrestling, it didn’t surprise me. You see, had Sweeney been around in the 70s and 80s, I sincerely believe he could have filled a baseball stadium with folk wanting to see him “get his.”
How’s that for “old school?”
Yes, he was a classic heel manager in a world that no longer wanted him.
In short, I have had too many people I’ve both known and respected in this business die way too young. The great- and I mean great- Larry Sweeney is the latest on this long, tragic list. He had all the potential in the world.
It hurts like hell to think what could have been.
--Evan Ginzburg

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