Welcome to the first edition of Ask Pro Wrestling Stories, where our monthly column will answer questions you’ve asked on social media like this weeks on Bam Bam Bigelow! ASK PWS is where you humanoids (RIP, Brain) ask the questions, and I try to think of witty, informative answers. Let’s jump right in, shall we? We’ll cross the pond to get our first question, and it’s a great one.
[Editor’s note: We get a lot of questions on social media, so we’re going to distill those queries and their answers into a monthly column from our in-house wrestling savant, Bobby Mathews. If you have future questions for a column, feel free to shoot us a message on TWITTER or FACEBOOK.]
From @Neil_Bomb on Twitter: Was it [Bam Bam Bigelow’s] attitude and politics that always got in the way of him being a bonafide main eventer? [sic]
As I said on Twitter, the short answer is yes. The long answer is yeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssss. But that really doesn’t tell the whole story, does it? Every WrestleMania season, we hear about how it’s someone’s lifelong dream to main-event the biggest show of the year. Well, Bam Bam Bigelow did that. In 1995, he and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor went about 12 minutes, and Bam Bam carried LT to a really good match–one that was way better than any first-timer should have, regardless of how good an athlete they are–at WM XI.
A lot of wrestling purists didn’t like the main event of that WM, but it got WWE a lot–and I mean A LOT–of mainstream media coverage, which Vince McMahon has always coveted. Now, let’s connect some dots … who was in the semi-main of that WrestleMania? HBK and Diesel, wrestling for the WWE championship. This is, I believe, where you see some of Shawn Michaels’ petty jealousy come in. At that point, he’s probably the best wrestler in the world not named Misawa. But, like Bret Hart before him, Shawn was never a draw. (And Kevin Nash was even less so.) McMahon didn’t trust HBK-Diesel to carry the biggest show of the year, so he reached out to a bonafide mainstream star in Taylor, and paired him with an undeniably great worker in Bam Bam Bigelow. Despite a decent, if unspectacular undercard, the main event of that WM is all anyone remembers.
If I have my timing correct (and there’s no guarantee that I do), this is when Bam Bam and the Kliq began having problems. Bam Bam Bigelow was a top worker wherever he went. He was huge, athletic despite a knee injury that slowed him down for a couple of years, and he had a unique look with the bald, tattooed head and missing front tooth. Bigelow looked like a tough, crazy wrestler. And let’s not forget that Bam Bam was a main eventer in Survivor Series 1987 (teaming with Hogan and outlasting the Hulkster in their elimination match), and won the ECW world title from Shane Douglas at one point. Bigelow wasn’t a “true” main-eventer on a national or worldwide scale, no. But he was always a featured player who could slide into the main event and everyone would buy it. He was also a close friend of Kliq enemy Shane Douglas, so that didn’t help matters either.
Bam Bam Bigelow: Personal Problems and How he Became a Hero
Bigelow had a lot of personal problems. Five years after his 2000 divorce from Dana Fischer, she sued him for non-payment of child support. Years of taking great bumps had left his back in terrible shape, and he was in constant pain. He also had substance abuse issues. When he died in 2007 at the age of 45, a coroner’s report revealed Bigelow had cocaine and anti-anxiety medication in his system. But it’s also important to remember that Bigelow was also a bonafide hero. In July of 2000, he saved three children from a burning house near his own home, resulting in second-degree burns over 40 percent of his body. Here’s what happened, in Bigelow’s own words:
“I was coming home from Japan on an ECW trip. It was about 3:30 a.m. and I was turning onto my block and I realized there was a fire. I heard kids crying and I went through the door and the whole upstairs was on fire. I had to run through a wall in the house. I ran through a built wall … two-by-fours and everything, so I could get to the back way to get up the stairs. I landed right in a ball of fire. It was the best move I made. When I finally made it upstairs, I grabbed the three kids and came back through the same fire and now I was on fire. By the time I came down, the front stairs were down, so we would have died if we went that way. The mom had been out drinking and left the kids alone. She was a single mother. The kids were five, eight, and nine. They started a fire somehow. I did what anybody would have tried to do. I burned 40 percent of my body with second-degree burns and spent almost two months in the hospital.”
From Dave, on Facebook: Everyone rates Bobby Heenan as the greatest manager of all time. Who rounds out Mount Rushmore for wrestling managers?
There are a lot of guys to pick from, and of course, a list like that would be subjective (but also fodder for a future feature article) … but for my money, Jim Cornette is No. 2, for a few reasons: longevity, consistency, and entertainment factor, followed closely by Paul Heyman, who would make the list for constantly reinventing himself to stay relevant and cutting some of the very best promos a manager (or “agent”) has ever delivered, as he’s moved from his psycho yuppie gimmick into a sort of elder statesman role. You’ve also got to put “Classy” Freddie Blassie up there. If you’ve never read his book, take a look at it. And my dark horse pick? The Grand Wizard himself, Ernie Roth. A lot of the managerial antics people came to enjoy as wrestling exploded were pioneered by Roth as the manager for the original Sheik. Plus, there’s the fact that Roth, a homosexual Jewish man, took a shot at the KKK with his gimmick of “the Grand Wizard.” That takes some balls. Roth also doesn’t get the credit he deserves these days, but he managed top acts like the Sheik and Superstar Graham in his heyday. The man was great at what he did.
From Darrin, who slid into my DMs: When are you going to do a story on the Fabulous Moolah?
Soon? Soon-ish? One day in the future? I keep thinking that the story about Moolah systematically pimping female wrestlers out for decades is already well-known, but maybe that’s not the case. The WWE Hall-of-Famer definitely has some behavior that was … well, questionable doesn’t even begin to cover it.