wRESTle In Peace: Bucky Palermo Has Died At 86

June 7, 2017
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest

Along the Memorial Day Parade route in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA on Monday, May 29, Bucky Palermo stood alongside his son, Eugene. The duo shared Butler Street with thousands of Pittsburghers. When the Megastars of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) spotted the longtime referee and his son the valet, they left the parade route to visit the Hall of Famer, Class of 2013. Palermo greeted each of the wrestlers and staffers with the same glee he always had. He was strong as an ox.

Two days later, Palermo took a fall and hit his head. The tough Palermo shook it off. Later he complained of headaches. Friends say he blacked out. Doctors found bleeding on the brain. Palermo went to Hospice. His family was hoping for a miracle.

Bucky Palermo died Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at the age of 86.

Palermo officially retired from his legendary Lawrenceville shoe shop in 2015. The occasion was chronicled in Pittsburgh Magazine. He enjoyed retirement by keeping the same busy schedule he always had. With Eugene and other family by his side, Palermo unfortunately buried his wife Kathleen, just last year after a long illness.

Palermo fixed shoes for most of the athletes in town during his career (he started out as a shoe boy at 10). He also served as one of the most well-known referees in Studio Wrestling, as well as house shows throughout Western Pennsylvania. Local wrestling historian Hank Hudson posts Bruno Sammartino-era wrestling results on Facebook daily. It’s hard to find an event from those days in which Bucky wasn’t calling it “down the middle.”

At KSWA FanFest 2013, Palermo made his first appearance at the Lawrenceville wrestling organization. He received a Hall of Fame plaque. He joined George “The Animal” Steele, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, and KSWA original “Mr. Tenacity” Tommy Faime in that class. In 2016, Eugene Palermo joined his father as the only second-generation KSWA Hall of Famer.

Just last summer, Palermo packed the Carnegie Library of Lawrenceville branch for a discussion about his life and career. “It was my job to upset the fans,” he told the eager crowd. “I did it well for a long time.”

“I can’t find the words to say,” commented KSWA wrestler Shawn Blanchard, who knew Palermo throughout most of his life. “I used to go to his shop as a kid and ask him to get me autographs. That is where I met Paul Coffey.”

“Bucky Palermo was the last of the Studio Wrestling referees,” said Lord Zoltan. “No others are alive today. He was one of those that you thought would never die. He will be missed and was a major player in the history of Pittsburgh professional wrestling, and especially Studio Wrestling. God rest his soul. May he wRESTle in peace.”

The Honky Tonk Man, who wrestled on a number of cards that Palermo officiated, called the referee “a nice guy.”

Longtime fan Ron Russitano said he was "jealous" of Eugene Palermo as a kid, as he wanted to valet the wrestlers' gear to the locker room.

Bushwacker Luke: God bless him and his family. Eugene will be lost. Will say a prayer for his family."

Jim Diliberto of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Texas said, "That's too bad. George (Steele) told me about him wrestling a bear one time because George said he wasn't getting in the ring with that bear. 'He's a real animal.' lol"

Funeral arrangements are being completed as of press time.

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