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Bigelow’s downfall was all the more surprising, in the sense that in many ways he seemed to fit exactly the kind of “larger than life" character that the WWF at the time would have been looking for. A legitimately big dude, with a shaved, tattooed head who could not only wrestle as well as he did but move as well as he did you’d think would’ve been right at home. Oh, and did I mention he did a moonsault too?
Bigelow’s first run in the WWF came in the late 1980s, outlasting Hulk Hogan in a Survivor Series match before losing to Andre The Giant. After leaving the company he wrestled in Japan – the country where he probably saw the most success both from a career perspective and financially. He won the IWGP Tag Team Championships with none other than Vader.
His return to the WWF in 1993 was less eventful. He was often treated as a mid-card act, teaming with Luna Vachon to face Doink and Dink at Wrestlemania 10 in a mixed tag match. He was subsequently aligned with the Million Dollar Corporation, a stable of mid-card misfits who almost never won.
But as plans began to put in place for Wrestlemania XI, the company wanted a bit of stardust to cover for the fact they had no real draws of their own to headline the pay per view. They found a willing participant in former New York Giants Linebacker and two-time Superbowl winner Lawrence Taylor. Why Bam Bam as his opponent? The company needed a sizeable, capable heel… there really weren’t many other options!
The feud gave Bam Bam time to shine, and he did. With Taylor restricted to interviews “on location”, Bam Bam had to talk people into the building. And he did a pretty good job, his promos on Raw in the weeks leading up to the show were pretty good at building the rivalry. The company hosted a press conference for the show, Bam Bam held his own but Taylor hit it out of the park – calling Bam Bam an “easter egg” before kissing him on the cheek.
The match was promoted to the main event for two reasons. Firstly, because Diesel vs Shawn Michaels probably wasn’t as hot as the company wanted it to be. The second was concerns that if the press were only there to see Taylor, they might leave after his match. The stage was set, Taylor flanked by a series of NFL players (including future Nitro announcer Steve McMichael) and Bigelow was flanked by the stable.
They didn’t need them, really. Bam Bam carried Taylor through a safe match that exceeded most expectations. The action at ringside was minimal, the in ring work from the pair was fine. Most of it was Bam Bam working submissions on offence, and offence where Taylor could bounce off of him when he was being attacked. Taylor won but Bam Bam couldn’t have been asked to do any more in his role.
READ MORE: Bam Bam Bigelow vs Lawrence Taylor
Why the buyrate of the show was a disappointment (early plans called for Taylor to come back, but were quickly abandoned when the buys for the show were so low). Bam Bam, in a promo that aired on the following Raw, cut a remorseful promo that essentially lit the touch paper for a baby face turn for him. This would be the killer mistake.
You see, in 1995 face vs face matches were very rare on top, and with the lines very much black and white Diesel’s list of opponents could be very easily identified by looking at the top of the heel roster. At the turn of the year this list looked pretty strong, featuring Shawn Michaels, Bam Bam, Bob Backlund, Owen Hart and the returning Yokozuna. By Wrestlemania time Shawn and Bam Bam had all but turned face (Shawn’s was inevitable) and the other three seemed to be out of favour despite being key acts the year prior.
The company half plugged the gap by bringing by bringing in Sid, not surprisingly that program with Diesel died an inevitable death. But with Diesel set for the long term as champion, long term planning should’ve been at the forefront. Unfortunately for all concerned, long term planning involved Mabel (soon to be King Mabel).
Bigelow, even after losing at Wrestlemania, would’ve been a perfect foe for Diesel. You only have to look at their match on Raw in April, that saw Bam Bam officially turn face, to see that the pair had decent chemistry in the ring. Bam Bam staying heel would’ve given them a program for the early part of the summer. Instead, once he turned he became Diesel’s mate.
It’s actually hard to put into words just how unbalanced the roster was at the time. History might say (not without justification) that the roster was thin at the time, but with a babyface roster of Diesel, Shawn, Bret Hart, Bigelow, Razor Ramon and Undertaker the WWF had talent. While they certainly had heels too (add Shane Douglas to Backlund, Yokozuna and Owen), better options lied in either turning Diesel – which went from a nice idea early summer in what should’ve been by September – or turning Razor and holding Bam Bam as a heel. Razor and Bam Bam would’ve given Diesel viable opponents through the summer. They sure as hell wouldn’t have been worse as Sid and Mabel!
Bam Bam was fine as a babyface. The reactions he and Diesel got as mates on Raw was quite a positive one. But as Bret Hart found out in 1995, as a babyface who wasn’t Diesel there was an insurmountable glass ceiling. Bret bubbled under with some positive matches with the likes of Hakushi and Jean Pierre Lafitte; Bam Bam did at least find himself in the main event of King Of The Ring.
Inexplicably, history says that Bam Bam “took the blame” for that main event. Never mind that a half injured Diesel and Bigelow vs Sid and Tatanka looked shit on paper, or that the two hours prior formed arguably the worst pay per view in the company history (either to date, or since). Less than three months after headlining Wrestlemania his race in a way was done.
Bam Bam would be one of many to fall victim to the stranglehold of The Kliq on the company in 1995 going into 1996. What should’ve been the springboard for more success at Wrestlemania XI actually became Bigelow’s peak. After the King of the Ring match Bigelow worked a few singles matches on pay per view, defeating Henry ‘O’ Godwinn before losing to The British Bulldog and Goldust. After that he left.