Parkinson's Diagnosis May Have Made Five-Star Champ Retire, But Support From The Krazies Energizes Badfingers
March 31, 2018
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest
You could hear a pin drop inside Spirit Hall on Saturday, March 24.
Mere moments earlier, The Jester, a fan-favorite in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA), had outlasted nine other wrestlers in an over-the-top-rope Battle Royal to earn a shot at the KSWA’s 5-Star Championship. It’s a title he held in 2014 and some of 2015, and The Jester was looking for championship gold ever since losing the tag team belts with T-Rantula at FanFest last December. The winner of the Battle Royal was to take on reigning champion Bob Badfingers later that night. Instead, life sometimes gets in the way.
“Approximately a year ago, I noticed some shaking going on in my left hand,” Badfingers retells in an email. “[It was] very slight. I just chalked it up to too much caffeine.” Badfingers downs a Windy City Warrior’s allotment of coffee and Mountain Dew.
As the Jester celebrated in front of 500 ecstatic fans, Badfingers’ music hit. The haunting refrain fits right into Badfingers’ “New Attitude.” Long gone is the “Bobby” Badfingers of Spear Asylum and “Deedz” tag team fame. Formerly led to the ring by the “Manager of Champions” Mayor Mystery, Badfingers is a man on his own, with a “Soprano’s” inspired theme. This was never more evident than when he won the Five-Star Championship in a Wild Card Scramble at December’s FanFest against four other Megastars. He was definitely on a roll.
Badfingers, who shortened his name to emphasize a toughness that he’d earned over the last decade, was ready for anything.
“About a month ago, I noticed it was getting a little worse. I told my wife, Sheri, about it, and she told me I needed to go to the doctor. This was nothing to delay.”
In Lawrenceville, Badfingers went straight to the ring and told The Jester that he wasn’t going to face the current Five-Star champion for the belt. The fans, who have booed Badfingers heartedly over the years (except for a short respite in 2010 in which he speared opponents for good), already shouted “Deep Dish Sucks” and other jeers that they have adopted in recent years. Badfingers announced his retirement, effective immediately.
“What really opened our eyes, was a few days after I told my wife it was getting worse, we were eating at a local restaurant, and I picked up my drink with my left hand, and the tremor in my hand was so noticeable, my wife and I just looked at each other and thought the same thing, "That's not good".
Retirements in professional wrestling rarely mean anything. Many “retirements” are used to lure an opponent into a match or embarrassing situation. Many wrestlers continue to compete into their work-retirement years. But this time was different.
“I made an appointment with my doctor, and he had me do some motor skills tests, after which he told me he wanted me to see a neurologist, but he had suspicions of Parkinson's,” Badfingers continues. “So, of course when I got home my wife both immediately started doing research on the internet to find out other symptoms, signs whatever you want to call them, and unfortunately the more research we did, the more and more it was not looking good.”
Badfingers actually lived up to his name. He had trouble typing at his job as a Facilities Specialist at Robert Morris University. He knew things were unusually serious when he couldn’t put his cell phone into his pocket, the shaking was so bad.
Then the appointment with the neurologist came and tests were concluded. Badfingers and his wife held out hope for the best. After what seemed like an eternity, Sheri simply asked the doctor if her husband had Parkinson’s Disease.
It was. The doctor said Bob’s grappling career was over.
In the ring, Badfingers reluctantly relinquished the singles title to KSWA Owner Bobby O. Badfingers, who battled every Megastar on the KSWA roster like his life was on the line, hugged The Jester and Bobby O. After a few confused moments, the fans organically gave Bob Badfingers a standing ovation. There were few dry eyes in the house as Badfingers left the competitive ring for the very last time and hugged Sheri and daughter Audra. (The two have plans to run in a 5K together this summer.)
Bob awaits the results of an MRI and is getting used to a diet and exercise regime that’s strong on cardio, swimming and eating a lot of vegetables.
Bobby Badfinger’s career is unique, even for an organization as diverse as the KSWA. A Foxboro, Massachusetts native, Bob lived in Washington state for a while and came across a book about careers in Athletics. “Careers for Sports Nuts: And Other Athletic Types” printed in 1994 is available online. In it there’s a chapter on professional wrestling and as a lifelong fan of the squared circle, Badfingers thought about it. When the family relocated to Pittsburgh in 1997, Badfingers stumbled upon a training facility and took up the sport. He dabbled but decided against wrestling.
A decade past but the desire to wrestle never waned. Badfingers met Justin Sane, the long-time Megastar who suggested the KSWA. After some reflection, the couple decided that Bob should get back into the ring.
Bobby Badfingers’ debut in the KSWA was on Saturday, June 27, 2009 at the Obey House. There he defeated the Drunken Luchadore, Joey Quervo. On August 22 of the same year at the same venue, Badfingers once again pinned Quervo. In those early days, Badfingers won in one-on-one competitions, but almost always lost in tag teams, six-mans and Ultimate Survivor matches. On September 18, 2009 Badfingers defeated the much larger and powerful Blood Beast. Badfingers’ very first loss in a singles match was against the Latin Assassin in a KSWA Internet TV showing on May 10, 2010.
On May 7, 2011, Double-A Anthony Alexander wasn’t able to defend the Golden Triangle Championship due to a shoulder injury. The KSWA Championship Committee called the title vacant and set up a match to crown a new title holder. A six-man tag team match was developed, with the winner of the pin fall or submission winning the city of Pittsburgh’s top singles trophy. Near the end of that contest, then-74-year-old Frank Durso walloped Badfingers with brass knuckles and rolled him up for a victory. Durso was momentarily the brand new Golden Triangle Champion. Durso’s dreams of an extended run as the city’s premier champion were throttled by Bobby O who immediately ordered a re-start to the match. Badfingers rolled up the KSWA Hall of Famer for the duke.
Badfingers feuded with Jay Flash and Mitch Napier over the Golden Triangle Championship for the rest of the calendar year. Flash defeated Badfingers at FanFest on December 3, 2011 in a match some observers called the “Match of the Year.” In it, Badfingers—even with Mayor Mystery’s aid—could not overcome Flash’s offense in front of the KSWA’s largest crowd to date.
Badfingers won the 5-Star title on FanFest, December 7, 2013. “King” Del Douglas, Kris Kash, then-champion Mitch Napier and future tag team partner J-Ru were the other participants in the Gauntlet Match. Badfinger’s 364 days at the top of the 5-Star division remain the longest in that category.
Badfingers and J-Ru nearly won tag team gold, but it wasn’t until Vicious Vinnie Stone and Badfingers joined to win the KSWA tag team championship. That duo was a force for 189 days before the lost to The Jester and T-Rantula.
Then came the last title reign with the Five-Star Championship.
“Bob Badfingers has been an outstanding megastar during his 10-year career with the KSWA,” said KSWA Owner Bobby O. “He has held multiple titles during his tenure, which speaks to the quality of his mat ability. Although, very often, I haven't agreed with his methods, it's hard to argue against his successful track record. That said, there are times to look past the wrestler and his misdeeds, and this is one of those times. When something like Parkinson's Disease hits, you're focus immediately goes towards the person. In this case, the man becomes most important. That said, the KSWA, his colleagues and most especially myself, will fully support Bob and his family in any way needed.”
During Intermission during the Joe Abby Memorial Tournament and Hall of Fame event, Badfingers was to tape a short segment for the Internet about his retirement. His appearance was delayed because fans, new and old, kept stopping him. “I couldn't tell you how many people from all ages came up to me and thanked me, and said they'd keep me in their prayers, the guys in the locker room, sending all their love and support. Just amazing.”
He was able to tape the segment, which was interrupted by recent foe Yinza. The two hugged and Badfingers emotionally took leave.
“After my announcement my wife said so many people came up to her and said that they would keep us in their thoughts and prayers. No sooner did I get back in the locker room, workers families had texted them info to give me because they knew someone that had Parkinson's.”
On his way home, the support did not slow down. “My wife, daughter and I stopped at a local restaurant to get something to eat, and my phone was blowing up with people sending thoughts and prayers,” he continued in an email. “I got messages from relatives, close friends from the past and present like Jonny Axx and J-Ru, fans, workers from other promotions, everyone. The next day, same thing. It's bringing me to tears just typing this because of the support.”
Badfingers isn’t sure what the future holds, but he continues to love the professional wrestling business “with a passion.” This won’t be the last you see of Bob Badfingers in the KSWA. He may just be there as a spectator instead of a competitor.
According to Parkinson.org, Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.
Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications and surgery. While Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, disease complications can be serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from PD as the 14th cause of death in the United States.
Parkinson's affects up to 1 million people in the U.S. Doctors diagnose as many as 60,000 new cases each year. Parkinson's strikes 50 percent more men than women. The average age of onset is 60.
An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson's disease. Incidence of Parkinson's increases with age, but an estimated four percent of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50. Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson's than women.
“Yes, Parkinson’s made me retire from wrestling, but no matter how far it progresses it's not going to stop me from living,” Badfingers says. “I have an incredible family that I love more than life, and well, you've seen the support I have. I have a tattoo that says, ‘If I can laugh, I can live,’ well, I plan on doing both. Anyone that knows me, knows I might have been the meanest, grumpiest son of a bitch in the ring, but outside the ring, I was someone that loved to have a good time and laugh a lot, and I plan on continuing that. I thank everyone for all your support, it is amazing. I love you all.”