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XPW Fire Mishap Avoidable
by Marty Goldstein on 2001-06-30

XPW wrestler Supreme ended his Saturday night passed out on painkillers after being taken to a Los Angeles hospital with second degree burns.
Until the flaming table spot went awry, the hard-luck story of the night was the pre-card shoulder separation suffered by Steve Rizzono, whose heel faction was involved in prepping the stunt, and whose injury influenced events as they unfolded.

During pre-show mini-camps in the ring, Rizzono and his entourage was to go over his match and a later angle. First they went over the angle in the semi-windup between Supreme and heel Koas. Basically they were to cut off Supreme as he set up for his frogsplashy finish, pound on the babyface and toss him through the table. "Who is going to light the table?" I asked and I was told- "Veronica".

Veronica Caine is the valet for the Enterprise, made up of wrestler Rizzono, and 2 manager types, TJ Rush(the tall guy)and GQ Money( the short guy). All three are pleasant people who are from other entertainment businesses and are just breaking in. They are not experienced in either wrestling or stuntwork. It didn't seem to me like a good idea.

A while later, Rizzono hurt his shoulder trying to learn to take Johnny Webb's Welfare Check Slam. Rizzono was to do a job and get his heat back by costing Supreme the Death Match. Rizzono had a lot of help from his entourage in getting to the new finish, and did the job. But it also meant he was limited in helping his inexperienced cohorts with the spot. And they were a little nervous. And so was the office.

Veronica readily admitted to being unsure of the stunt and was worried her ponytail hairpiece could catch fire. One thing was for sure, the office wanted the table to burn.

As for the office, during intermission one of the honchos was asking for help to figure out how to get the fire extinguisher under the ring incognito. I thought that was a little late in the game to start thinking about that precaution.

From the opening bars of "Enter the Sandman" and the appearance of "call me Hak" the crowd felt they were part of something special. Sandman arrived as the new sheriff of XPW, saved Major Gunns from heel promoter Rob Black's wife Lizzie Borden and caned their Japanese hitwoman,who of course, bled. The fans want it to be like ECW West.

Along with San Franciscans Rizzono, Pogo and Kronus,luchas Halloween and Damien, Japanese wrestlers, former ECW star New Jack, Vampiro and ICP,and the local LA talent like Homeless Jimmy, West Hollywood swishboy Angel and hardcore hero Supreme, LA fans were probably seeing the best indy show on the continent this month.

But one of the worst angles that ever happened in ECW was the night Terry Funk caught fire, and the story of how a mark in the front row caught fire from Funk's burning shirt was retold. In trying to recapture the ECW niche market, XPW almost suffered a terrible setback.

The bout itself was a gorefest of extreme wrestling. Besides 75 flourescent bulbs, one at a time, in taped up formations or in a bed, a top rope powerbomb thru a table on the cement floor spot almost went awry when Supreme's feet hit and busted the table an instant before Kaos was driver thru it.

There was glass and blood and tacks everywhere.Each shattered bulb flung towards the floor sent more glass shards flying thru the lights or towards the marks, and this is a very ECW-Philly bloodthirsty crowd.
The emotional level was quite high when the sneak attack that led to the tragedy unfolded.

Veronica doused the table but it is now believed that the type of fluid used was too heavy duty for the stunt. It lit but was slow to spread and the house began razzing the angle. Rizzono with his right arm in a sling poured more fuel and the flames erupted off the table. Rather than wait for them to receed Supreme was launched by the managers.

It has been accurately reported on other websites that while Supreme, burning alive, hit the floor running for help, a security member was in the ring, putting out the table rather than the burning bloody wrestler.
Supreme's wife and small son were in attendance, having brought him a snack in the locker room earlier in the evening. She hopped the rail to provide expert medical care with EMT's, LAFD and others.

The imagery is harsh but it was much worse than this to witnesses. Veteran performers who had worked similar spots before safely in other promotions were irate with owner Rob Black for poor preparation.
Those in the back watching on the monitors asked those of us at ringside how he was.(Some graphic reports indicated 2nd degree burns to the neck or face, chest and hands but he never lost consciousness.)

After about 30 minutes Supreme was carted off to hospital and the Main Event,a 3 way thrown together when Violent Jay and the ICP walked out after he was clotheslined by Pogo the Clown in the opening angle was anti-climactic. XPW Champion Messiah beat legendary Sabu and Vampiro for his biggest career victory but the crowd was spent and the crew was shaken.

The obvious mistake was not stationing one of their legion of security to stand at ringside and focus only on Supreme after the spot.Everyone saw that goof. But the fans didn't see that even at intermission there was no clear safety plan. This compounded the lack of experience of the participants. In his condition Rizzono could not quarterback the angle, but he was never asked to anyways, which is odd considering he has 10 years experience and his entourage has about 10 weeks.

Veteran wrestlers and experienced promotions have always been careful with fireballs and fire stunts. One worker emarked that Rob Black underestimated the stunt because "How often do they use flaming tables in porno films?".

XPW seems to have been too focused on getting an angle over on a night full of hightened expectations. It had to be spectacular or the house would turn on the booking. The heels tried to deliver, which is their job. But it was the office's job to make it safe for Supreme, and with busted glass, tacks and other debris, an inexperienced crew, and the wrong equipment, they were asking for bad trouble if the spot was not perfect. It wasn't.

If the XPW office had more experience in the wrestling business, they would have seen the danger more clearly. Rob Black has extensive resources. I'm sure that he will take care of Supreme's medical costs, which may include skin grafts. I'm also sure that in his quest to build an extreme and hardcore loving audience, he will remember to balance his art with the lives of his performers.

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Quotes from the boys: Moondog Manson says "After a long hard thought about what I wanted to do, I realized retirement isn't what I wanted. Why would I give these knuckleheads the satisfaction of retirement when I can terrorize them ten fold in the ring.".
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