Behind the inferno
As the clock ticks down to Armageddon, WWE crew members prepare for one of the most harrowing events in sports-entertainment — the Inferno Match.
The legendary match traps the opponents in a ring surrounded by flames until one is set on fire. Tonight's bout between MVP and Kane will not only be the first time the match has been held in seven and a half years, but will feature the highest flames to date.
"This is going to be considerably bigger than it used to be," said Chief Pyro Technician Ron Bleggi. "We're pushing the limit. The flames are going to be a good seven or eight feet high. It's going to be ten times more exciting."
"I've never seen them this big," agreed Special Effects Consultant Ellis Edwards. "I think the audience should get a kick out of it. They are big and are warm... really warm," he laughed. "The people in the front row are going to feel like they are part of the match more than ever."
The flames surrounding the ring are fed by four 300-foot hoses full of methane gas and will be 500 degrees. Roughly 800 pounds of methane is required to run the flames through the duration of the match. Unlike rock concerts where pyro is used sporadically, fire burns continuously throughout the Inferno Match.
"Nobody burns propane or methane for 15 minutes, it just doesn't happen," explained Bleggi. "It's a hard thing to keep going. We were practicing last night and it was constantly shutting off and running out."
Part of the reason it is hard to keep the pyro running that long are the multiple safety precautions built into the equipment.
"If it senses there's no flame and it's just spitting out gas, it shuts down," said Bleggi. "So if there's a breeze and the flame goes the wrong way, it shuts down… It's a very intricate system."
Given the nature of this dangerous match, careful preparation and safety inspections are required.
"It's fire, that right there is your danger," said Bleggi. "We started at seven yesterday morning and were here until seven this morning just testing for leaks. Yesterday we were here from about 3:30 in the afternoon until one this morning with the fire department telling us what they like and what they didn't like," he said.
Some alterations had to be made to the original plan for parts of the ring.
"We actually had to extend the ring dasher walls an extra six feet or so. Normally, these would be a lot closer, but we had to extend them because of the heat itself," Bleggi said. "If you're too close, the heat is just intolerable. Because of that, we use methane and not propane because propane burns four times hotter."
While every precaution is taken to ensure WWE fans are safe and the flames are kept under control, the fact remains that the match will only end when someone gets burned.