Real Talk 13: The 15th Anniversary of XPW’s FreeFall

On February 23rd, 2002, Xtreme Pro Wrestling presented FreeFall at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA, featuring the infamous Vic Grimes vs. New Jack Scaffold Match. In this column, I take a look back at it and the unforeseen impact it would leave on wrestling today.

‘Everything you say to me
(Takes me one step closer to the edge)
(And I’m about to break)
I need a little room to breathe
(‘Cause I’m one step closer to the edge)
(I’m about to break)’

In the weeks leading up to February 23rd, 2002, the song “One Step Closer” by Linkin Park played in the background of the commercials for XPW’s upcoming event, FreeFall, on their weekly TV show on KJLA . The undercard would feature XPW World Champion Webb defending his title against G.Q. Money in a continuation of the feud between the Black Army and the Enterprise, Kaos would defend his XPW Television Championship in a gauntlet match against Angel, Chris Hamrick, and Nosawa, and the other infamous moment of the night, the advertised “Buck Naked” match between Veronica Cane and Lizzy Borden.

But the main event of the show was the biggest draw of the night, as “Vicious” Vic Grimes was set to face the “Original Gangsta” New Jack in a Scaffold match, a match that came about as a result of an accidental fall that happened at an Extreme Championship Wrestling event almost two years earlier. On March 12th, 2000, ECW presented “Living Dangerously 2000” on Pay-Per-View from Danbury, CT. On the show, New Jack was involved in a segment where he was involved in a brawl with Vic Grimes and his “Baldies” stablemates DeVito and Angel when New Jack and Grimes climbed up a scaffold for a spot. New Jack would pull a reluctant Grimes off a scaffold when it was time for the spot, and as a result Grimes ended up landing on New Jack’s head, resulting in serious injuries for New Jack, including vision loss in his right eye.

Extreme Championship Wrestling would hold their final shows 10 months later before folding. During this time, Grimes and New Jack would make their ways over to XPW. After his debut in 2001, New Jack became part of a storyline with XPW owner Rob Black and his stable The Black Army. Grimes would be brought into the storyline as part of the Black Army and to protect Rob Black from New Jack. The two would have several matches and encounters in the year leading up to their infamous Scaffold Match, including one moment where New Jack dove off the second level of the Grand Olympic Auditorium onto Grimes through tables.

At XPW’s New Years Revolution 2 on January 12th, 2002, New Jack and Grimes would be involved in a match that saw Grimes throw New Jack off the upper level of the Grand Olympic Auditorium through a stack of tables. This would result in New Jack challenging Grimes to the infamous bout in a promo on XPW TV. The match was set, and the two would eventually meet on February 23rd, 2002.

I attended XPW FreeFall with three of my friends from school. They were wrestling fans who only watched WWF at the time but had heard of XPW before, but two of them had never watched or attended any XPW events and only watched a few episodes of their TV show. When they got word that there was gonna be a match with a guy falling off a huge scaffold (along with their false hopes of actually seeing a grown woman naked) we all made plans to go. We got tickets in the lower level seating area and eventually made our way to the floor in a section section that had a good view of where the fall would take place. Little did we know, we would be witnesses to one of the most infamous moments in independent wrestling history.

The show itself wasn’t that great and received not so stellar reviews here on SoCalUncensored.com from Scrub and Steve Bryant. The fans were forced to wait over an hour after the scheduled 8PM bell time (something that wasn’t rare with XPW) before there was any wrestling. To make matters worse during the “Buck Naked” match when Veronica Cane was being stripped naked by Lizzy Borden, the lights went out, thus resulting in nobody in the crowd seeing a naked woman that night. One drunk (and possibly sexually frustrated) grown man in his 30’s near me was very upset to the point where he was jumping up and down yelling “I WANT CHI CHI’S!” from his seat on the floor. While there were a couple highlights on the show from guys like Kaos and Chris Hamrick, it wasn’t a crowd pleasing event and was overall a very uneventful night up until the main event.

Throughout the show, the ominous structure that Grimes and New Jack would climb up in the main event of the show stood over the ring. The height of the scaffold was mesmerizing throughout the night. I kept thinking to myself about how the match would play out and what the fall would be like. When the stack of tables were set up before the main event, more scenarios came to my mind. When the match was finished, the fall ended up being like nothing I imagined.

Finally sometime after midnight, it was time for the main event to start. New Jack and Vic Grimes began their match by brawling around the ringside area with various weapons and plunder. After several minutes, the two began to make their way up the scaffold. Once they reached the top, Grimes and New Jack would have a short brawl above the crowd in the historic Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, a venue that had seen many legendary wrestlers pass through its doors throughout its years as a sports and entertainment venue. On this night though, the crowd would end up witnessing a legendary moment of a different kind.

After about two minutes brawling and teasing the bump on top of the scaffold, New Jack pulled out a stun gun and tasered Grimes. What happened next would go down as one of the craziest moments in wrestling history.

After Vic Grimes was thrown off the scaffold, and narrowly avoiding what could’ve been a huge tragedy, the entire crowd at the Grand Olympic erupted. People around me were going nuts. One of my friends, Ryan, started jumping over chairs trying to get to the guardrails for a better view of Grimes’ condition. It was insanity. We nearly saw a man die in front of our eyes had Grimes not bounced off the ropes after missing the tables. Shortly after the fall, XPW ring announcer Ron Head got on the mic and asked the crowd to exit the venue so Grimes could get medical attention. As my friends and I were leaving to meet up with my dad to take us home, we were abuzz about the fall. While the show itself wasn’t very great, we all couldn’t stop talking about Grimes’ bump for days to come.

In the weeks and months after FreeFall, XPW would air a music video recap of the event with the fall being the focal point of the video, and slow motion replays of Grimes’ fall would played over and over set to Linkin Park’ “One Step Closer” for a few months on their KJLA TV show to promote the VHS release of the show .Vic Grimes would continue to be part of XPW after the match. At XPW’s following event, he became a babyface and would eventually part of a program with XPW World Champion Shane Douglas  after XPW began to run shows in Philadelphia, PA. New Jack would eventually leave XPW due to financial issues and later joined the short lived EPIC Pro Wrestling, a rival promotion that would form later on that year by Gary Yap.

As time went on, the clip would begin to make the rounds online and became an early-era viral video sensation through peer-to-peer file sharing programs such as Kazaa and Morpheus. The clip would also catch the eyes of many more viewers after being uploaded multiple times with misleading clickbait titles such as “OWEN HART FALL FOOTAGE” and “WRESTLER FALLS TO HIS DEATH” in the descriptions. In the time after the match took place, it was reported that the ring had to be moved prior to the event. Had this not happened, Grimes could’ve had fallen to his death. In an interview for the 2005 ECW documentary “Forever Hardcore,” New Jack would state that he was intentionally trying to kill Grimes by throwing him off the scaffold. “I wanted him to land on the post, the turnbuckle post” New Jack said, “I was hoping he landed head first on top of that pole.”

Over the past 15 years, professional wrestling has seen a lot of crazy moments, and with the advancement of technology over the years, Vic Grimes’ plunge off the top of the scaffold that night in the Grand Olympic Auditorium has lived on in infamy. Today, version of the clip uploaded on Youtube with the misleading title “Faces of Death – WWE – Owen Hart’s Fall.mpg ” has over 800,000 views alone. The clip has become a staple in numerous fan made video montages depicting the craziest and scariest moments to ever take place in wrestling history alongside Sid Vicious breaking his ankle., and to this day is still one of the craziest moments in wrestling history, if not, THE craziest.

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