With the speed, agility and grace of a cruiserweight and the power and high-impact move set of a heavyweight, Bam Bam Bigelow was one of the most complete in-ring performers in the history of professional wrestling.
With a unique look that included flames tattooed on the top of his head, Bigelow stood out among the big men in the sport and created a legacy for himself that ranks him among the greatest heavyweights of all time.
Bigelow trained under Larry Sharpe at the Monster Factory in his home state of New Jersey. Raw but athletic and talented, he landed in Memphis, where he became one of the top rivals of the legendary Jerry "the King" Lawler.
As he built a reputation for himself as a big man that could wow audiences with his ability to move around the ring the way that he did, Bigelow caught the eye of Vince McMahon and by 1987, he signed a contract with WWE.
One of the first wins he picked up over an established Superstar came against 2005 Hall of Fame inductee Nikolai Volkoff. That win was the first of many as Bigelow climbed the ranks and found himself on the receiving end of a sizable push.
At the 1987 Survivor Series, he teamed with Hulk Hogan, Don Muraco, Paul Orndorff and Ken Patera to take on Andre the Giant, Butch Reed, Rick Rude, King Kong Bundy and One Man Gang. The last babyface remaining for his team, Bigelow delivered an impressive performance as he nearly knocked off the Giant, but Andre proved too much.
Bigelow's booking at Survivor Series seemed to indicate that the big man would be in line for a major push, but ego and attitude got in the way and by the time the 1988 event rolled around, he would be gone from the company.
He would pop up in Crockett Promotions, but Bigelow felt the pull of Japan and went to work in the Orient. He formed a very successful tag team with Big Van Vader and captured the IWGP Tag Team Championship. Most of all, he developed into a fine worker while in Japan. The skills he earned there would lead to his return to the United States and a second chance with WWE.
Bigelow made his return to WWE television in 1993 at the Royal Rumble, scoring a win over the Big Boss Man and sending him packing. By June, he would be one of the front-runners in the King of the Ring tournament.
After defeating Hacksaw Jim Duggan, a draw between Lex Luger and Tatanka put Bigelow in to the finals. There, he met Bret Hart, who was coming off of a great match against Mr. Perfect and was working his third bout of the evening. Try as he may, though, Bigelow could not overcome the resiliency of Hart, who beat him to capture the crown.
After pairing with his new "main squeeze" Luna Vachon, Bigelow entered one of his most infamous rivalries: a program with Doink the Clown. The competitors feuded for six months before bringing their issues to a head at WrestleMania X. There, Bigelow and Vachon teamed up to defeat Doink and his sidekick, Dink, in a mixed tag match.
Bigelow would join the Million Dollar Corporation later in 1994, becoming one of the bigger stars in Ted DiBiase's faction. It was there that he began partnering with Tatanka. That team would do serious damage in a WWE Tag Team Championship tournament, advancing to the finals for a showdown with the much smaller 1-2-3 Kid and Bob Holly.
Size proved to be a non-issue as Kid and Holly scored a massive upset, winning the titles and leaving Bigelow quite unsettled. When he saw legendary NFL star Lawrence Taylor laughing at ringside, he confronted him. Bigelow shoved Taylor, which set up the WrestleMania XI main event between the two of them.
With all the hype and mainstream media attention surrounding it, Bigelow vs. Taylor would prove to be the biggest match in the career of the "Beast from the East." Bigelow turned in one of his finest performances, carrying Taylor to one of the best celebrity bouts in WWE history. He did the right thing for business, putting Taylor over, and earned a great deal of respect for it.
Unfortunately, backstage politics and an ill-fated babyface turn brought an end to Bigelow's stint with WWE.
After returning to Japan, Bigelow would find great success in the thriving Extreme Championship Wrestling. There, he partnered with Shane Douglas and Chris Candido in the Triple Threat, a three-man group that provided ECW with legitimate main event heels.
Despite dominating, there was some in-fighting that led to a schism between Bigelow and Douglas and in October 1997, Bigelow defeated "The Franchise" and captured his first heavyweight championship in North America. Unfortunately, Bigelow's title reign would be short-lived as he dropped it right back to Douglas shortly thereafter at November to Remember.
The friends made up and the Triple Threat proved to be stronger than ever. At Living Dangerously in 1998, Bigelow defeated Taz to capture the ECW Television Championship, surviving a fall through the ring in the process. The match emanated from Bigelow's hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, and felt very much like the crowning achievement of Bigelow's career.
He would drop the title back to Taz before leaving ECW for the bigger paydays and brighter lights of WCW. As many stars found, however, the highly political nature of the company prevented Bigelow from moving up in the industry.
He feuded briefly with Goldberg before settling into the midcard as part of the Jersey Triad. With Diamond Dallas Page and Kanyon, Bigelow would achieve moderate success with the group but from there, he was mainly a member of the company's hardcore division.
Bigelow would feud with Shawn Stasiak in 2001 before WCW went out of business. After that, he competed in the independents, but his demons got the best of him. He faced legal matters and in January of 2007, the wrestling world lost another great when Bigelow passed away at the age of 45.
The Bammer, as he was called by legendary Memphis announcer Lance Russell, was so good that he was oftentimes taken for granted. A solid hand who could work against any type of performer, he was a great asset to whichever company in whichever country he was competing. Perhaps the most athletic Superstar of his size to ever grace a ring, Bigelow was a talent unlike any the business had seen before.
And unlike any it may see again.