Bam Bam Bigelow skidded off the motorcycle and onto the hard wet asphalt on State Road 50 one Sunday in early October on the west side of Hernando County.
The woman who had been on the back of his bike hit the pavement with a sound one witness said was like an open palm slapping the surface of water. Then she flopped around like a rolled-up rug.
Bam Bam landed about 50 feet up the road. The former professional wrestler with the tattooed scalp and the name no one can forget was covered in blood, but he managed to get up. He held his scraped-up arms straight out from his sides. He lurched back toward the woman, who was moaning.
He looked like a monster, the witness said later.
“Oh, baby,” Bam Bam was saying. “I’m so sorry.”
He collapsed almost on top of the woman. His body was touching hers. His head was by her head.
The man who used to wrestle people to the ground and jump on them and pick them up and throw them was powerless. For almost all athletes, there is the inevitability of a life after people stop cheering. For Bam Bam Bigelow, the story includes addiction to painkillers, time in rehab, calls from creditors, a costly divorce, three kids he hasn’t seen in more than a year and child support not paid.
And a new love.
The woman on the bike was Janis Remiesiewicz, who’s 41, has a house in Port Richey and has been dating Bam Bam for a year.
The name state troopers got off Bam Bam’s license was Scott C. Bigelow, 44, with an address in New Jersey.
But the last address for Bigelow in public records was in Lake Ariel, Pa., and that ended this past April. It was on a road called the Hideout.
Men who weigh more than 300 pounds, have tattooed heads and answer to Bam Bam do not just disappear.
Unless they want to.
On Oct. 2, though, Bam Bam Bigelow was taken to Spring Hill’s Oak Hill Hospital. Janis was flown to Tampa General and listed in critical condition.
Meanwhile, the woman who lives in Bam Bam’s old house in Allenhurst, N.J., has to deal with the guys who keep looking for the previous owner.
“They pull up in front of the house and they stare at the house,” Josephine Schror said over the phone. “Then they knock on the door and ask for Scott, and I tell them he doesn’t live here no more. And they ask me if I know where he is and then they sit in the car and write s— down and then they drive off.”
She says this happens all the time.
The e-mails started coming almost immediately after the story about the crash ran in the St. Petersburg Times.
Wrestling fans wanted to know two things:
How is Bam Bam doing?
And where has he been?
Bam Bam Bigelow was huge. The 6-4 tough guy from small, rough Asbury Park, N.J., wrestled as heavy as 425 pounds. But he was agile enough to jump off the tops of the ropes and down onto his opponents in the ring.
His trademark move was a pile driver he called “Greetings from Asbury Park.”
“It just blows a guy’s head right off his shoulders,” he once told the Seattle Times.
Bigelow played the role of the “heel” in his heyday. That means he was the bad guy in the staged matches. But he was a star.
He made his debut in the World Wrestling Federation in 1987 and won titles in Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. He wrestled with Hulk Hogan and Diamond Dallas Page and against Andre the Giant. He was in the headliner match at 1995’s WrestleMania in front of more than 16,000 people.
He was even in a couple of B movies and did a commercial for Slim Jim.
But his wrestling career did not come to an easy end.
WCW folded in 2001. He didn’t go to WWE. There was no ECW anymore.
Bam Bam had back problems. He had surgery. He went on a radio show in early 2002, according to 1wrestling.com, and said his career was not over and that this was “just the beginning.”
According to www.obsessedwithwrestling.com and other pro wrestling Web sites, Bam Bam retired in November 2002 and unretired a month after that, only to lose to someone named Abdullah the Butcher, then quit for good in 2004 – ending a slow, reluctant fade from fame.
“It’s kind of like Hollywood,” said Ron Jordan, who writes a syndicated wrestling column from Fort Worth, Texas. “Only so many people can be on top at one time. Most of these guys, when they slip from the big leagues, like the WCW or the WWF or the new WWE, they just kind of slip into obscurity. Then they show up in some small arena or at a YMCA or something.”
Bam Bam opened a deli in Hamlin, Pa., where he sold a 2-pound hamburger. That didn’t last.
Anthony DeBlasi, who writes for Wrestling-News.com, said in an e-mail that Bam Bam contacted him early in 2004 asking for help selling a wrestling ring and some of his other mementos on eBay.
Frank Goodman, Bam Bam’s agent, also got a call: “Scott said, “Listen, I need to make money again.’ ”
Bam Bam wrestled in small shows on New York’s Long Island in the early and middle parts of 2004. Then he started missing shows, according to Goodman. The last time he wrestled was Nov. 19, 2004.
And then he disappeared.
“Nobody could find him,” said Dave Meltzer, editor of Wrestling Observer.
One of his best friends in wrestling died in April. Bam Bam didn’t show up at the funeral.
A wrestling fan spotted him in Tampa over the summer, took a picture and posted it on the Web.
“That’s the only way we knew he was alive,” Goodman said.
Then Bam Bam Bigelow left Hernando County’s Bayport Inn with his girlfriend on the back of his brother’s 1998 black-and-chrome Harley Davidson and headed toward SR 50.
He stopped at the intersection of U.S. 19. The light turned green and he sped off, then stopped again at Deltona Boulevard. Both times, according to a witness, Debby Tessier of Brooksville, he almost tipped over.
Tessier had her cell phone out and was dialing 911 before the bike even went down.
It happened about 4:30 p.m., according to the report from the Florida Highway Patrol, when Bam Bam tried to change from the outside lane to the inside. Bam Bam and Janis weren’t wearing helmets. No other vehicles were involved.
The Harley hit the ground.
Eventually they did too.
Janis came to a stop on her stomach with her arms by her sides. She was wearing a tank top and denim short shorts.
“The skin on her face was just chewed up,” Tessier said. “Her noise and mouth were just pouring blood. . . . “We thought she was dead.”
The FHP is waiting for the results of Bam Bam’s blood test to come back from the toxicology lab in Tallahassee.
“We are well aware of what the factors were that led to this crash,” FHP spokesman Larry Coggins said.
The FHP has up to a year to file charges against Scott C. Bigelow. “Charges are forthcoming,” Coggins said. “Absolutely.”
The accident threw Bam Bam back into the public eye. Any attempt at anonymity was over.
Calls started to come along with the e-mails.
Bam Bam’s ex-wife, Dana Fisher, returned a call from the St. Petersburg Times a few days after the accident. She and Bigelow divorced five years ago, and their oldest child is now 17.
“I always figured it would come back on him sooner or later and that he’d have to answer questions and be accountable,” she said.
Court records in New Jersey show a charge of endangering the welfare of a child in May 2004. He was accused of driving recklessly with one of his children in the car, but he said it was because of a seizure. The charge was dismissed two months later.
There is a possession of marijuana charge from August 2004. Guilty.
In the last few years, he has been sued by Jersey Shore Anesthesia, Jersey Shore University Medical Center and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. The judgment amounts range from $2,700 to $19,440. The cases are open.
Fisher has sued him three times this year for nonpayment of child support.
Bam Bam owes $8,909.
“He did pay something this year, but he’s not paying like he should,” said Monmouth County probation officer Charlotte Shaw. “If he was here, I’d do a bench warrant.”
Goodman, Bam Bam’s agent, talked last month about how his client still could make $800 to $1,000 a night.
“He is money in the bank,” Goodman said. “He is a wrestling legend. Other than Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan, he is the best 300-pound-plus wrestler to ever step in a wrestling ring. I’ve got to tell you something: I have a show next month, and I would put Bam Bam Bigelow in that show for $1,000 without even giving it a thought.
“Because he’s Bam Bam Bigelow.”
Bam Bam has had it with Bam Bam. He just wants to be Scott.
Those records up in Jersey aren’t the only reason he wanted to disappear.
He didn’t want to talk at first. He didn’t want to talk when he was in the hospital. He didn’t want to talk when he got home.
On a recent Sunday, though, he was sitting on a couch in Janis’ house in Port Richey. A black Nike ball cap covered the tattoos on the top of his scalp.
“I don’t know if it’s hiding or disappointment or what,” he said. “But being Bam Bam Bigelow is a pain in the a–.
“You did this the first half of your life and now this is the second half and now you’re bruised and battered. So what the hell can you do? What can you do?”
Scott C. Bigelow has no real permanent address. He sometimes stays with his brother, Todd, who’s one year older, at his home in Spring Hill, but most of the time he’s in Port Richey. “He goes back and forth,” Todd Bigelow said.
In his best years, according to him and his agent, he was making anywhere from $750,000 to $1.2-million. He lost everything, he says, in his divorce: cars, trucks, motorcycles, his house. Now he lives on Social Security disability.
The child support isn’t going away.
Medical bills are coming.
“You can’t pay what you can’t afford,” he said.
When he talks about Janis – “a bright spot in my life” – Bam Bam’s lower lip turns soft.
“Both of us should’ve been dead from this accident,” he said.
“Not should’ve been,” Janis said. “Could’ve been.”
“I had a few beers that day,” he said. “But it wasn’t nothing exceeding what people go overboard with. Who knows? It’s all a blur. It doesn’t matter. It happened.”
Bam Bam broke his nose and got a deep cut on his forehead and still has a gash in his leg and scabs on his elbows and knees. Janis has a broken foot and a nasty scar around her right eye.
He creaks. He gets up slowly.
He says he was addicted to OxyContin for most of his career in wrestling but that he is now clean. He says he came down here because the warm weather makes his aches and pains feel a little less sharp. He says he wanted to get away.
Most of his friends are dead.
Ted “Flyboy Rocco Rock” Petty died of a heart attack in 2002. Jerry “the Wall” Tuite died of a drug overdose in 2003. Chris Candido died in spring of a blood clot after he broke his leg wrestling in Japan.
“And it’s all due to wrestling,” he said. “It’s that simple. With me there’s no glory in wrestling. . .. I thought out of sight, out of mind would be the best thing for me.”
Yet he said on this particular Sunday – five weeks to the day after the accident – that he’s happier now than he has ever been.
“It’s like two phases of life,” he said, sitting on the couch next to Janis, holding her hand. “The man who had everything and was miserable. And the man who has nothing and is happy.
“It don’t cost nothin’ to go watch the sunset,” he said.
That’s what Bam Bam Bigelow keeps telling himself.