Sunday night lights

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March 30, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. -- If you've ever watched a WWE event and been startled, stupefied, blinded, deafened or just plain awe-struck by the fantastic choreographed explosions of color and light, then you've appreciated the work of Ron Bleggi, WWE's chief pyrotechnician.

But even though Bleggi and his team have often left audiences stunned before matches with their favorite Superstars have begun, fans are in for a special treat when WrestleMania XXIV comes to the Citrus Bowl, this Sunday.

"The pyro this year, not only WrestleMania pyro-wise, but pyro for any one entertainment show, will be the single biggest ever," Bleggi said.

While last year's indoor display -- inside Detroit's Ford Field -- had elements that shot up to 150 feet in the air, this year's outdoor pyro will tower to an astonishingly high 2,000 feet. That's more than a third of a mile in the air — and high enough to literally affect flight patterns.

"We had to contact the Federal Aviation Administration," Bleggi admitted, "and tell them we're shooting pyro, how high it's going to go and exactly where it's going to be, so they don't have any planes flying overhead."

Still, even at 2,000 feet high — and boasting a pyro price tag larger than the last two WrestleManias combined — crafting a pyrotechnics display isn't just about "going big."

"We do not just blow up pyro to blow up pyro," Bleggi assured. "Every bit that we do has to make sense."

It's such a pre-calculated effort, in fact, that Bleggi and his team spent the last six months visiting the Citrus Bowl. While there, they'd investigate the building's architecture, decide over the varying types of pyro, how much of it, and where all of it should go. Once those details were in place, the experienced creative juices began to flow, as the pyro team then crafted individual Superstars' pyro by "looking at their videos, listening to their music, [and] looking at their colors."

Though Bleggi is hesitant to give away too much of the surprise, he and his crew are using The Grandest Stage of Them All to try out some new things: "You're going to see stuff you would never expect some of the wrestlers to get, but I think when the fans see it they're going to say ‘that makes sense for Y2J,' 'that makes sense for Big Show.' "

Bleggi's enthusiasm was too great to keep him completely taciturn, however, and he let slip some details regarding the entrance of The Phenom himself: "I mean Undertaker has got a lot of flames and a lot of propane gas and we always try to make Undertaker's entrance spectacular, I mean with The Deadman we go all out every year … our fans are used to seeing flames upward of 30 feet. We will have flames four times that high this year and we will have flames higher than the stadium itself."

But what about The Greatest Fighter in the World? Though he's seen his fair share of action elsewhere, Floyd "Money" Mayweather will compete in the squared circle for the first time this weekend against The World's Largest Athlete, Big Show. The excitement of that match will begin before the contestants even enter the ring. However, Bleggi said, "We have something very special planned for Floyd that I think the fans are going to think is very cool, something we've never done before."

Bleggi and his team are confident they have crafted a show that will be difficult to top. His only advice to our fans around the world enjoying it?

"Every time you think you see something cool, just know that something bigger is coming … What this is going to look like is Fourth of July meets the Olympics during the Super Bowl."

And if none of that was clear enough, Bleggi had one final WrestleMania prediction Sunday night: "We're in Orlando, and we're going to make even Disney jealous on this one."

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