Flame On: A Cautionary Tale

Over the weekend at a GCW show in Los Angeles, former AEW star Joey Janela soaked his right foot in lighter fluid, lit it on fire, and delivered a flaming superkick to his opponent, Drew Parker. It was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring.

You’ve probably stumbled upon the firey imagery and video of Janela frantically trying to get his boot off as the fire persisted. 16 oz water bottle after 16 oz water failed to douse the blaze. Eventually, enough water and a towel were used to snuff the flame.

Janela, limping in pain, continued the match. Parker won with a Swanton Bomb off a ladder onto a door wrapped in barbed wire with Janela trapped underneath. Janela appears to be in good spirits, judging by his social media posts.

It’s good to see that Janela is on the mend and that everyone who helped put out the fire is ok. However, Janela lighting his foot on fire to kick someone in the face was ill-conceived on many levels.

First, there were no safety precautions. Judging by the video, there was no one in place to help in case things went wrong. The GCW crew only assisted once it was apparent that Janela needed help. Also, there was no fire extinguisher.

Second, water from a small bottleneck is not enough to put out a chemically induced fire. The material of Janela’s wrestling boot made things more difficult. Leather, pleather, synthetic leather, etc., makes fire burn inward, causing the boot to shrink while on fire.

Third, ignoring the health and safety aspects for a moment, the firey superkick was a hollow stunt with no theater. Both Janela and Parker looked petrified and wanted to get the fire spot over with as soon as possible. You can’t blame them.

No one expected Janela to tune up the band like Shawn Micheals as his foot was on fire. There was no emotional payoff and Parker won the match, meaning he would have kicked out if the spot went as planned.

This rant is not derived from traditional sentimentality or ignorance of the GCW product. Many things are unknown. Maybe Joey Janela never told the promoter he was going to light his foot on fire. This could explain the severe lack of preparation to extinguish the flame.

It is also possible that the promoter did know about the spot and assumed it would all work out. In the end, the evidence is clear. The spot was not well conceived or executed. Even if it was, the kick still looked like garbage.

Wrestlers are risk-takers but taking such a dangerous chance for a false hope spot that was mid at best is a fool’s errand. I’m betting some poor soul will try to duplicate or even top the firey superkick on some low rent indy show in front of 30 people…Please don’t.

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