Ride The Lightning: The Electric Steel Cage Debacle
Hi, my name is Andrew, and I have a story about an electrified steel cage I want to share with you.
Boy, if you had a nickel for every time you've heard that, right? Luckily, if I had a nickel for every time TNA did an Electrified Steel Cage match, I'd have exactly five cents. The exchange that led to this point must have sounded something like this:
Creative: “We wanna do an Electrified Cage Match!”
Upper Management: “You think you can pull that off? Go for it!”
Creative: “We're doing an Electrified Cage Match.”
Talent: “As long as the check doesn't bounce.”
Creative: “We're doing an Electrified Cage Match. Do you know how to make that happen?”
Agents: “What the fuck do I look like, an electrician? I tell men in underwear how to pretend-fight for a living.”
Creative: “So, we need you to make an electrified cage for the match.”
Production: “Umm, okay. How should we...”
[Wind noises, tumbleweed, Creative has vanished]
Production: “Cool. Okay. See you next week, then.”
Let me tell you a bit about myself to frame all of this. In 2005, I moved to Orlando, Florida to start wrestling training at the now-defunct FXE Wrestling School. Despite us being fairly obscure, we had access to some great minds in the area. Trainers for the school included Machete from LAX, Matt Bentley, and Bubba and D'Von, the Dudley Boys. This was before they started their own school. It was through these guys that a few of us from the school started working backstage at TNA.
At the time of this debacle, I was employed as on-screen security/ring crew for TNA. On the non-glamourous side, we'd clean up the Impact Zone and set up the ring. I've broken down and built rings plenty over the years, but that fucking six-sided asshole was the worst. Some of the most fun, however, was when we were used as “security” during the shows. You know those guys that try to keep wrestlers apart during brawls and usually fail miserably at their jobs? Hi.
TNA didn't venture out of Orlando that much back then, just for the occasional Pay-Per-View. This time, we took a trip all the way up to the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, which looked like where Escape From LA was filmed. We were aware about this electrified cage nonsense, they'd been building it up on TV for a while now. We, the ring crew, in charge of putting together the ring and accessories, had no idea how this was logistically going to be done. None of us.
When we got to the venue and were tasked with putting together this abomination, questions were raised by pretty much everyone. Some of the talent asked if this was supposed to be legit electrified. We shrugged. We were generally confused. We knew they weren't bringing the cages they usually used, but this thing looked janky as fuck. It looked like it was constructed out of chicken wire and the broken dreams of children. I legitimately had a guy who was higher up the totem pole than me, ask if we were “supposed to hook car batteries to this thing or something”. The guy in charge of the ring crew, who reported to people who should know these things, did not know these things either. I mean, we knew it had to be gimmicked somehow, but we weren't sure the extent of what they were doing. Eventually, word came from higher up that we were to put this monstrosity together as it is and they would handle the rest. Fair enough, they don't pay us nearly enough to figure out production issues.
And thus began TNA Lockdown 2007; the amazing event that gave us matches such as Chris Harris vs. James Storm in a Blindfold Match where the blindfolds kept falling off. We got the word that we weren't needed for any spots, so me and a friend that was also in Security went to watch the show in the stands with the rest of the audience.
Then the match came. I should preface this by adding that no great footage seems to exist of this online. There was a DVD made of the event, so I assume at least 6-10 people own actual footage, but it's pretty sparse online. YouTube searches found me only one full recording, split up into parts and with the same resolution as a perler bead portrait. I imagine TNA was copyright claiming the holy shit out of footage that popped up of this event.
We sat, eager to see what they could possibly have done. “Did they hook up some kind of pyro? It doesn't look like there's anything else attached to the cage.” Ah, you precious little infant, no. There was nothing. There was no plan. Hernandez hits the Border Toss on D-Von right into the cage and over the PA system there was a noise that sounding like someone saying “BZZZZ.” Not the sound effect; it was so bad it almost sounded like someone actually making the noise phonetically with their mouth. The lights flickered on and off like The Cheat's light-switch rave. It was literally the least amount of effort that could have possibly been given. Bless the guys in the ring for actually selling that garbage. It was especially easy for D-Von, who normally looks like he's being electrocuted when he sells anyway. It was at this point that the crowd started chanting “Fire Russo.” Perhaps if they had, Russo wouldn't have fired the entire security team several months later to replace us with guys that look like they could have beaten the shit out of the wrestlers anyway. But I digress...
We were SO embarrassed.
So, there it was: St. Louis, a chicken-wire cage of death, and an abundance of shame. The road trip back to Orlando was long and quiet. I guess the moral of the story is either “Don't assume your bosses know what the hell they're doing either” or “Don't over-promise and under-deliver.” Could be worse, I guess. At least they never had Sting vs. Abyss in an angle where Sting tried to recruit Abyss to Jesus.
Wait, they what?