By Louie Dee
When it comes to the WWE Superstars, every one of them will tell you that WrestleMania makes them “step it up a notch” so to speak, trying to put on an unforgettable experience for the fans. But WrestleMania doesn’t just bring out the best in the Superstars, as the behind-the-scenes crew also step it up to the next level.
Pyrotechnics are a big part of any WWE show, and WrestleMania is no exception. This year, the display the fans inside Ford Field and watching on pay-per-view will see the biggest display WWE has put on, meaning that the man behind it all, chief pyrotechnician Ron Bleggi, is one of the busiest in Detroit this week.
“For Raw or SmackDown, we’re in the building the day of the show, maybe the day before,” Bleggi said, “but we’ve been here in Detroit for over a week now. We put in 12-14 hour days every day, and we’re still nowhere near done setting up the show. Just the quantity of pyro alone is astronomical compared to our weekly shows.”
With double or even triple the “normal” amount of pyrotechnics being used at WrestleMania, Bleggi needs double or triple the workforce to make it all happen.
“For WrestleMania, I have 14 guys working a 12-14 our day every day; normally, there’sk four of us, and like I said we need about a day to set up for a show. I program and design it, but these are the guys that make it happen. They work very hard.”
Luckily, breaking it down will be a little quicker.
“A lot of stuff we had we brought in from the main office in New York; it’ll take about 2 days to take down,” said Bleggi. “We have about 4 hours Sunday night to get the stuff we need for Raw loaded and headed to Dayton, and the rest will take a few days.”
The fireworks and visual pyro the WWE fans see is mostly noiseless, as it is actually something called a concussion that creates the sound. With the amount of concussions being used for WrestleMania 23, fans in Ford Field will get a sound experience like none before.
“On a Raw or SmackDown, we hit about 65 concussions a night; for WrestleMania, we will be doing over 400,” Bleggi admitted.
Of course, more pyro means more equipment across the board, and some of the numbers are staggering.
“The amount of gear alone is absurd. The cord we use to set off the pyro, we’re using over 50,000 feet of it that we hand to hand make. Hopefully, the fans will love it when they see it; we’re going to give them something they’ve never seen before.”
In addition, instead of using pre-loaded fire for Kane, MVP and Undertaker’s entrances among others, Bleggi has brought in 36 gas heads, which is more than any other touring outfit uses. The heads will produce a 30-foot high, six-foot wide flame, giving the WWE fans an eyeful.
“The fans at the very ends of the arena will still be reaching for their eyebrows,” Bleggi said with a laugh. “Even compared to the other large stadiums we’ve been in, like Toronto and Houston, it’s about double the amount of pyro this year.”
So how great will it look? Even though he’s been a part of 10 WrestleManias, even Bleggi himself won’t know until it happens.
“It’s so difficult to think about it on paper; on the lighting rig itself, we have 850 effects. On paper, it looks great, but I won’t know until 7:05 Sunday night if it worked or not,” he admitted. Every year, I just have to cross my fingers and hope it looks great, because I won’t know until the fans find out. It’ll be a great feeling to see when it does.”