Friend and lover, then a wrestler

Scott Charles "Bam Bam" Bigelow was "a big teddy bear" to his friends, family.

Published February 9, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - Longtime friends, family members and fans gathered Wednesday afternoon at the Calvary Chapel Worship Center to honor the well-known ex-wrestler who died last month in a duplex in Hudson.

They remembered him as Bam Bam Bigelow, the performer, a huge, agile physical phenomenon.

They remembered him as Scott Charles Bigelow, the man, a gentle, generous father, brother and friend.

"He wasn't just Bam Bam," said brother Todd Bigelow, 46, of Spring Hill. "Most people knew him as this big, mean guy, but that wasn't really him. He was a good friend, and real loyal."

"He was a big mush," old friend Ray "Bonz" Giles said. "A big soft guy."

"Scott Charles Bigelow," said Janis Remiesiewicz, his girlfriend for the last two years, "was my incredible journey."

Remiesiewicz found Bigelow's body around 10 a.m. on Jan. 19. There were no obvious signs of foul play or an immediate cause of death. The medical examiner hasn't finished the toxicology report.

The funeral was a couple of weeks ago in his native New Jersey.

It was a sad, early end to Bigelow's life after wrestling, which included a nasty, costly divorce, time spent in rehab for an addiction to painkillers, calls from creditors, three kids he no longer saw and a motorcycle accident in Hernando County in October 2005 in which he and Remiesiewicz were hurt.

But fans memorialized him online almost immediately. A quick count Wednesday on YouTube showed 19 Bam Bam tribute videos.

They remembered him as a headliner who wrestled with guys like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Bret "The Hitman" Hart before knee surgeries and back problems forced him to retire for good in 2004.

"If you were a child, he was a comic book character come to life," said Mike Johnson, a columnist for Pro Wrestling Insider.

Older fans watched for his freakish ability to do cartwheels and a move called the moonsault even at 400 pounds.

And everyone knew the flame-pattern tattoos on his bald head.

But Wednesday's memorial wasn't really about any of that.

Photos that flashed on two large screens in the church showed Bigelow hunting and fishing, putting up Christmas ornaments, drinking a beer on the couch, signing an autograph on the middle of a green felt pool table and giving a thumbs up with that missing-tooth smile of his.

Veronica Horner and Tina Perkins knew him on the Jersey Shore and went out with him at the famed Stone Pony bar in Asbury Park.

"He always had our back and watched to make sure nobody was bothering us," said Horner, who now lives in Spring Hill.

"He would do anything in his power to be there for you," said Perkins, who now lives in Hudson.

Giles, 51, of Fayetteville, N.C., used to play pickup football with Bigelow in Neptune, N.J.

"If he hit you and you went down," he said, "he'd help you up."

Joe Lubischer, 44, of Hudson was on the wrestling team with Bigelow at Neptune High School. Lubischer wrestled at 129 pounds. Bigelow was a heavyweight even back then.

"Nobody would even practice with him," Lubischer said.

"But he had a heart of gold," he said. "He was like a big teddy bear."

Remiesiewicz remembered Bigelow as her best friend.

"My only true friend here in Florida," she said from the stage at Calvary Chapel.

She remembered him as her lover.

"No man has ever loved me more, "she said.

She remembered him even as a joker.

"He would moon just about anybody," she said.

But also, she said, he was a protector, and not just for her.

"The world could really use a guardian angel," Remiesiewicz said at the end, "like Bam Bam Bigelow."

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.