Bam Bam Bigelow: A memorable, if unlikely, babyface

Even by today’s tattoo standards — you know, the unwritten rule that 50% of pro wrestlers and MMA fighters must have ink on their arms or shoulders — Bam Bam Bigelow’s tats were wild. The guy had a fireball sketched on his head.

But I think what was even more surprising than Bigelow’s appearance was his impressive agility for a guy who appeared to weigh more than 350 pounds. He could dropkick foes and often went to the top rope. And he wasn’t afraid to bump for an opponent.

When he came into the WWF in 1987, I think everyone assumed he would be a heel. The bad guy managers like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Jimmy Hart vied for his services, but in the end Bigelow actually proved to be a babyface and hired Sir Oliver Humperdink as his manager. Humperdink as a babyface was a surprise in and of itself, given he had spent years working as a heel in Florida Championship Wrestling.

Bigelow was a very good worker. The first time I saw him was on Channel 25 in Boston, when he competed for World Class Championship Wrestling out of the famed Sportatorium in Dallas. At the time, he played a Russian character called Crusher Yurkof. Even in his young career, it was obvious he had some unusual talent for a big man.

I liked that Bigelow broke the mold of the big, fat guy that the WWF tended to wrap its arms around in the early 1980s. Strangely, Bigelow never held a title in the WWF, but very few people have forgotten this man. He often associated with Hulk Hogan, teaming with him in matches and at times fighting Andre the Giant.  In a later tenure with the WWF, Bigelow went heel and headlined WrestleMania XI in Hartford in 1995, losing to football legend Lawrence Taylor. Bigelow was a good opponent for Taylor because he was able to hide many of Taylor’s weaknesses as a rookie in the ring.

Bigelow died after an alleged drug overdose in 2007, but not before he also enjoyed success in ECW and WCW.

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