Looking at the Messiah attack 17 years later

This week the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reposted their August 12, 2002 issue that had the lead story on the Messiah attack, which is still today probably the craziest thing to happen in the Southern California wrestling scene, at least in this century.

The actual attack, which lead to Messiah losing his thumb, is still an unsolved crime and technically an open investigation, though there has been no activity on it in over 15 years. While the crime itself was sickening at the time, it was the lead up to it, and the speculation after that really made the story as crazy as it was.

William Welch, who would later become Messiah, started his pro-wrestling training at Slammers Wrestling Academy in Studio City, CA after graduating high school in the mid-1990s. After completing his training took he began his career as “Iron” Mike Earnhart. After wrestling for a couple of years, Welch left California, and pro-wrestling, moving to Georgia for a year.

XPW was created by Rob Black (Robert Zicari), who owned the adult film company Extreme Associates. Originally Black was going to invest in, and become a west coast promoter for ECW, but that fell through due to ECW trying to secure a cable television deal and the feeling that having an adult film company involved would hinder their plans (ECW signed a deal with TNN in June 1999). With ECW out of the way, XPW was born and held their first event on July 31, 1999.

In the fall of 1999, after he moved back to Southern California in he was watching television one night and saw a commercial for XPW, a new wrestling promotion that had just started that summer. Seeing some familiar faces from his time in Slammers, he decided to go to the next where he reconnected with Dynamite D.

At XPW’s November 20, 1999 show, Welch debuted in the promotion as the Blunatic, losing a squash match to Nicole Bass. Eventually, a religious gimmick was decided upon. At first, Welch was to be a moral crusader, against everything that was extreme in XPW, but then Rob Black decided that they will take it even further, and he will actually be Jesus Christ.

Welch debuted as Messiah (he was actually called Jesus in his first appearance, which Welch hated and refused to be billed as going forward) on December 18th, 1999. He would quickly become one of the top stars in the promotion.

In April of 2000, Messiah had his first match with Sabu. The feud between Messiah and Sabu would go one to be one of the bigger feuds in the promotion’s history. On November 10 of the same year, Messiah defeated Supreme for the XPW King of the Deathmatch title, his first pro-wrestling singles championship.

Then, on May 26, 2001, Messiah won the XPW Heavyweight title by defeating New Jack, who was defending the title for an absent Sabu. At this point, Messiah was a dual champion and the biggest star in the biggest independent promotion in the region’s history.

XPW’s Damage Inc. event on August 25, 2001, was scheduled to be main evented by Rob Black and Messiah versus Josh Lazie and Sabu, which would result in Sabu leaving XPW if his team lost. At the start of the event, a video aired, supposedly of Messiah, though it was obvious to everyone in the building at the time that it wasn’t him, telling Rob Black that he had to go back to Heaven and would be unable to wrestle any longer. Rob Black ended up going the match alone, and with help from Webb was able to win and banish Sabu from XPW.

A week before the event, Rob Black had learned that Messiah was having an affair with his wife, former adult film star and XPW valet Lizzy Borden. Messiah was fired from XPW and Extreme Associates, where he had been working.

At first, Messiah denied the affair, including in an interview with SoCalUncensored.com, but later freely admitted the affair.

On September 1, 2001, Messiah wrestled outside of XPW in Southern California for the first time in four years, making his Millennium Pro Wrestling debut. After his appearance in MPW, he began to wrestle in indies all over Southern California. He was nominated for Southern California Wrestler of the Year for 2001, finishing third behind Super Dragon and B-Boy.

January 12, 2002, was a turning point for both Messiah and XPW. On that date, Messiah was scheduled to once again wrestle for MPW, but instead made a surprise appearance for CZW in Philadelphia, PA, which at the time was one of the biggest independent promotions in the United States. On the other hand, XPW’s relationship really started to deteriorate with their fanbase on that day. Something that would really come to a boil seven months later.

On January 12, 2002, XPW held its New Year’s Revolution 2 event at the Grand Olympic in Los Angeles. In the build-up to the show they had hyped a surprise that would change wrestling history. Whatever the planned surprised was, it didn’t happen, and rather than admitting it before the show, XPW tried to run it as an angle. They had their main heel faction, The Enterprise, bring out two homeless people and say that was “the surprise” to start the show. The fans in attendance didn’t buy it and waited all show for a surprise that never came. After the show, rather than calming their fans down with an explanation, XPW went on the defensive attacking their fans. It was the beginning of some of their most hardcore fans in Southern California turning on them.

In February 2002, at the show where Vic Grimes took an insane fall during a scaffold match, XPW had also promoted a “buck naked match” between Veronica Caine and Lizzy Borden, where the loser would be stripped nude. While Veronica Caine was really stripped nude, the lights were out and very few fans were able to see, resulting in loud boos and “refund” chants. While no one should have really expected to see any real nudity, it seemed to have left a bad taste in people’s mouths for the remainder of the show.

Around this time a new promotion was starting, one that would directly try to go after XPW’s most vocal fans and helped to further create a rift in XPW’s fanbase. That promotion was EPIC, and Messiah was set to be one of the featured wrestlers.

EPIC was started by Gary Yap, who was a huge XPW fan and even tried to become a part of XPW in a creative capacity. When that fell through, he began to look at other options into the wrestling industry. He tried to invest in Revolution Pro, but when that fell through, he teamed up with a few other people involved in the Southern California wrestling scene, having no real experience in wrestling himself, and created EPIC.

Two of the people Yap teamed up with were Paul T. and Josh Lazie. Paul T. was NOSAWA’s manager in XPW at the time, and Josh Lazie had been Sabu’s manager in XPW until August 2001 and was a bassist for Danzig at one point.

One of the first matches EPIC announced involved four current (at the time) XPW wrestlers; NOSAWA, Psicosis, Damien 666 and Halloween. Obviously, XPW wasn’t happy.

As soon as the match was announced, Paul T. was contacted by XPW and he was informed that if NOSAWA worked for EPIC he could no longer work with XPW. Paul relayed the message to NOSAWA, and while NOSAWA wanted to remain in XPW, he wanted to honor his contract (EPIC had signed contracts) with EPIC.

Damien 666, Psicosis, and Halloween were also given the same choice and all chose to remain with XPW.

At EPIC’s debut show on June 16, 2002, New Jack, who at the time had been wrestling for XPW, showed up and cut a promo trashing Rob Black and XPW. During the promo, he brought out a copy of a bounced check that he received from XPW (in reality the check was for an advance that XPW canceled when New Jack was unbooked when he informed them he was going to appear at EPIC). Large “fuck Rob Black” chants broke out as New Jack continued his tirade. Also, during his promo, New Jack mentioned that Messiah gave Lizzy Borden the “ding dong”, which led to Messiah later saying “she loved it” to chants of “you fucked Lizzy.” This was the first time Messiah had publicly acknowledged the affair or taken shots at XPW.

XPW sent an email to XPW fansites (most notably XPWlive.com), making vague threats of legal action if they posted EPIC news or used unauthorized photos. The relationship between XPW and a portion of its fanbase continued to deteriorate.

XPW wanted their July 20, 2002 event to be the biggest show ever. They had several surprises planned for the event, notably the return of Shane Douglas and an announcement they were moving the promotion to the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, PA. Since they wanted a full house, they gave out hundreds of free tickets. The combination of an angry fanbase and a large portion of the audience not paying turned into an extremely hostile crowd.

Shane Douglas made his return to XPW to a decent pop and challenged Webb for the XPW title. During the match, they quickly lost the crowd and a beach ball appeared in the general admission part of the stands. XPW security grabbed the ball and popped it, but then another beach ball appeared. XPW security then got a hold of this ball also and popped it, which started large “beach ball” chants. Then “EPIC” chants broke out, then other chants including “this match sucks.”  Eventually,  no one in the arena was watching the match as the general admission section of the crowd completely hijacked the show. People then started throwing stuff, including full sodas and beers from the general admission area into the crowd in the floor section. The floor section began yelling back and attempting to throw objects back towards general admission. As it was too much for XPW security to handle, Pico Rivera’s armed security got involved to break it up before it escalated out of control.

After the match ended Lizzy Borden turned on Rob Black and joined Shane Douglas. She got on the mic for a promo and acknowledged the beach ball by calling the crowd “beach ball loving fa***ts” to which the crowd erupted with loud “beach ball” chants that went on the rest of the show. At this point, a drunk fan jumped the rails and made it all the way to the ring to grab Rob Black before security was able to get him. XPW’s Baptized in Blood III would forever be known as the beach ball show.

Messiah had actually come to the show with Sick Nick Mondo, using a couple of the ample free tickets that were available. When the crowd started getting out of control, he actually left the arena but word had still made its way to the locker room that he had been there. Several people in XPW at the time had told me that Rob Black was livid when he had found out.

Eleven days later, on Thursday, August 1, 2002, Messiah was at home in his apartment in Canyon Country playing video games. Two men entered his apartment, and Messiah assumed they were friends of his roommate, so he said “hi” to them and continued playing games. He then noticed them in the TV’s reflection pointing at him and talking. Then they attacked him.

The two men, described as African-Americans, both in their mid-20s, about 6 feet tall and weighing 230 to 250 pounds, began to attack him and cut off his thumb with garden shears. They then tried duct-taping his hands together and tried to cut off his other thumb.

With Messiah fighting back and making a fist so that the attackers could not get to his thumb, they hit over the head with a fish tank. Dazed from the fish tank the attackers reportedly attempted to undo his belt, possibly to cut off his penis. Unable to get the pants off they began trying to stab Messiah in the area around the groin, stabbing his leg in the process. Messiah was fighting back too much for them to be successful, so they continued to hit him with furniture to knock him out. Being unsuccessful in that and most likely due to the amount of commotion being made, the attackers then left the scene, taking the thumb with them.

Nothing else was taken from the home, and authorities believed that the attackers were specifically there to assault him. From day-one, the police said that they believed the attack was possibly related to pro-wrestling, and of course that leads everyone in one direction.

While it was clear who Messiah thought was behind the attack, the idea that Rob Black was somehow connected was cemented in a lot of people’s minds when the Fox TV show America’s Most Wanted did a segment on the attack on September 21, 2002. The idea that Rob Black and XPW were involved was one of the focal points of the show. A camera crew from America’s Most Wanted even showed up at Extreme Associates’ offices, only to find the doors locked and no one answering.

Rob Black was never charged in relation to the attack or even officially named as a suspect by the police. No suspects were ever named by the police and the case quickly went cold, even with the exposure by America’s Most Wanted.

Rob Black was asked about it by Vice UK in 2014 and downplayed the incident stating “Wrestling is never what you believe. We had people who bought into the story and got publicity out of it. You have to understand that my goal was to be the most hated man in the world. I was the ultimate heel. I needed to be more hated than [WWE boss] Vince McMahon.”

Messiah returned to wrestling only a few weeks after losing his thumb, and continued to have a fairly successful career in independent wrestling. He was recently inducted into the both the CZW and SoCal Death Match Hall of Fame. He is now retired from wrestling.

XPW ran for a few more years but shut down after Extreme Associates was raided by the government on obscenity charges. Rob Black and Lizzy Borden initially won the case, but the government appealed and eventually, the legal fees got too high forcing them to take a plea deal which led to Black serving a year in prison. He currently lives in New York and will be opening a restaurant soon.

About the Author

Steve Bryant
Fan of Godzilla.

1 Comment on "Looking at the Messiah attack 17 years later"

  1. Benjamin Tomas | 08/21/2019 at 2:17 AM |

    Fascinating. I recently finished reading Sabu’s book, and he had a lot to say about this situation. Very suprised the legal department at his publisher let him say as much as he did.

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