If you grew up watching the World Wrestling Federation in the early 1990's, no heel's music evoked the sheer fright as Bam Bam Bigelow's, apart from may-be the Undertakers of course.
Something about that opening synthesizer being cut off at it's crescendo with the aggressive repetition of Bam Bam saying his own known and favorite action, frankly with more bass in his voice than should be humanly possible for a white man. Then that eerie synth repeats itself only to keep getting interrupted by a violent snare strike. All of it just filling you with an ominous feeling that someone flat out bad is about to appear.
Then some how, I don't even know how it's possible. Bam Bam appears from behind the curtains and he looks even more ferocious, even bigger, even meaner, and even scarier than his music suggests. Many of us know that from that second run in the WWF he stayed in the lime light whether it was by moving to WCW or ECW. Some people even remember his original WWF run as a babyface with Oliver Humperdink, but two questions still remain, 'Where did the Beast from the East come from?' And, 'Where did he go when he left 1988?'
Born on September 1, 1961 as Scott Bigelow, he would be a very talented amateur wrestler through-out his school years. Even reaching the state tournament semi-finals in his senior year. By the mid-1980's Bam Bam decided he wanted to be a professional wrestler and signed up with Larry Sharpe's Monster Factory training school.
Larry has been very outspoken how he immediately saw potential in the big man. It wasn't just Larry doing the training at that time though, he also had the help of the original 'Nature Boy', Buddy Rogers. Rogers had the following to say about Bam Bam while he was training him:
"Bam Bam's got just about everything," Rogers said in SI. "The only thing he hasn't grasped so far is how to sell himself verbally."
Sometime in early 1986 Bam Bam made his debut in the Memphis territory run by Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett. He'd quickly be pushed as an unstoppable monster, brought in by his manager and trainer Larry Sharpe. Shortly after his debut he started wearing a t-shirt that simply said, 'I am MONSTER.' For the next several months opponents were just fed for the monster to dispose of.
Then on July 28, 1986 Bam Bam won a twenty-three-man battle royal to become the new AWA Southern Heavyweight Champion. As you may have guessed from the above promo the big pay off for the big man was going to be in the form of a feud with Jerry 'the King' Lawler, who I am not exaggerating when I say he was a big time time celebrity in Memphis and Tennessee. When he was a face it is arguable that no-one in the state was more loved.
Such a threat was the 'Bammer', as Lance Russell called him, after being beaten around the circuit by him, Jerry Lawler stood in the ring delivering an emotional promo about how he did not know if he could beat him and this may-be the man who ended his career. On the forty-first day of his reign Bigelow finally lost to Lawler though dopping the title.
Shortly after it was time to leave and go make a name for himself in another promotion. It wasn't hard to find work elsewhere, after all first of all you were instantly in awe of his size. Then when the bell rang you were astounded by a man who could move like this, a man who was so large yet so agile, something that just didn't happen in 1986.
World Class Championship would be the next territory, it was only a short stay of around 3 months though. Even though it was a short stay, Bigelow still managed to pick up their World Television Championship on October 20 before dropping it to Tony Atlas on December 1. During his time in WCCW Bam Bam competed under the name of Crusher Yurkof.
In the beginning of 1987 Bigelow returned back to Memphis and worked there for a couple of months, again as a heel, this time teaming with Lawler who had returned to the dark-side as he often did. The duo battled Austin Idol and Tommy Rich all over the territory. Then it was off to the WWF.
I assume most people will either remember or have since seen this portion of his career. So, just very briefly, he entered and everyone thought he would be a heel with all the managers trying to sign him. Eventually he signed with face, Oliver Humperdink and went on to stay there for a year having a run in the middle of the card. The highlight was the very first Survivor Series.
Anyway, Bigelow had a knee injury and parted ways with the WWF shortly after Wrestlemania IV. World Championship Wrestling was calling and Bam Bam recuperated his knee and went over there. The company was all for giving him a strong push going for the secondary title, the United States Heavyweight Championship, with a feud against Barry Windham. It was not to be though, Bigelow had other options. Options that took him over to Japan.
The beginning of 1987 hadn't seen him just return to Memphis and then go to the WWF. He actually took part in a tour of New Japan Pro Wrestling during that time. Whilst he didn't win many matches on that first tour, what he did do was make a fantastic impression, not only on the promotion, but also on the fans who saw him.
It's unlikely they had ever seen someone who looked quite like Bam Bam before over there, and it was a time when Japanese fans still loved big realistically intimidating opponents for challenging their home grown heroes. The second run there during 1988 was even more impressive for the man from Asbury Park.
This time he picked up a fair few victories, even a couple over a man he would get to know very well, Vader. When he wasn't wrestling solo against some of the Japanese favourite men, he was teaming up with people such as Scott Hall, Biff Wellington, and El Canek.
Now Bam Bam officially had two homes and 1989 reflected that splitting his time mainly between Memphis and NJPW. January saw him kick off the year battling the very top tier of talent in Japan before heading home in mid-February, it also included the first teaming of Bam Bam and Big Van Vader as a team. Only to go back a couple of months later for another short run. Memphis was calling for him to come back so he could pop the territory with another feud against Lawler.
Once again when his time was over in Memphis it was back to NJPW and the Bloody Fight Series tour. The highlight of this tour was undoubtedly a match against Big Van Vader for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Vader won the the match. He also met the Russian four time world champion freestyle wrestler, Shalman Hashimikov.
And so the pattern continued for Bam Bam staying in the elite of the crew at New Japan Wrestler, a solid performer who always remained relevant in the eyes of the Japanese audience who couldn't get enough of his athletic super heavyweight style.
In 1990 he wrestled Tully Blanchard for the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, a match that is considered to be a forgotten gem, if you can get your hands on it that is.
Bam Bam had wrestled for the TWA before and would wrestle for them again also, it was a nice easy promotion for him to pick up shows close to his home in between the tours. Something was slightly different about 1990 though, Bam Bam appeared for NJPW's rival, AJPW in a series of matches of Stan Hansen and Toshiaki Kawada.
1991 saw a tease of the Bam Bam & Vader team again as they teamed up to defeat Doom on the WCW and NJPW jointly promoted Starrcade event that year. It would be another year of taking part in highly competitive matches for Bam Bam though in the NJPW on his various tours over there. I say it was another year of just that, but, Bam Bam also took part in the UWF Championship tournament that year. In the finals Bam Bam lost to Steve Williams.
Then things really started to explode for Bam Bam and he came back into focus for the professional wrestling as a performer who needed to be snapped up by a promotion in North America. After he walked away from WCW and the way things ended in WWF it was thought that he was some what unreliable and couldn't be counted on. Several years had passed since then though.
Still Bam Bam had 1992 to get through before he would go back to America for a full time schedule. In February of that year he made a brief stop in Mexico and got to be part of one of Andre's last matches as they teamed with Rambo to take on Villano III, Villano V, and El Canek.
They finally forged him into a team that would surely be unstoppable with Big Van Vader. That would prove to be true as on March 1, 1992 the two defeated Hiroshi Hase and Keiji Muto to win the IWGP Tag-Team Championship. For the next 117 days the duo dubbed as 'Big, Bad, and Dangerous' lived up to that name dominating opponents.
The Steiner Brothers were the team who ended the reign. They also held the WCW World Tag-Team Championship at the time.
Soon after Bam Bam returned to the WWF, with that very scary music that we started off talking about. We all pretty much know the story from here, so this is where I just leave you with the obligatory finishing statement. When you say, 'Super heavyweight,' and add the word, 'Greatest,' to it, one name that should always be on the very tip of any wrestling fan's tongue is Bam Bam Bigelow.
By Jimmy Wheeler
As unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society