Dinsmore And Others Reflect On The Life Of Eugene Palermo

August 9, 2022
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest

[This is an update to an obituary that originally ran on Slam Wrestling’s website on Monday.]

Eugene Palermo was much more than the ringside attendant and “unofficial mascot” who looked after wrestlers’ ring garb at events his father Bucky worked as an official appointed by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. He was a Pittsburgh institution.

Born July 10, 1965, Eugene Palermo was a beaming, joyful soul who immediately brightened the day for all who met him. He was the real-life inspiration for Nick Dinsmore’s “Eugene” character in the WWE, but that depiction couldn’t be further from the real Palermo.

The two actually met when Dinsmore came to Pittsburgh.

“I only met him two or three times, but he was excited that there was finally a wrestler with his same name,” Dinsmore wrote in an email Monday evening. “That guy made me smile and laugh.” On Twitter, Dinsmore posted a photo of himself along with Eugene and shared his best wishes for the family.

Eugene was well-loved by the famous and not-so famous wrestlers who passed through the Greater Pittsburgh area. He was frequently mentioned in “Studio Wrestling” Facebook fan pages. Just last week, a recently-unearthed, action photo featuring referee Bucky Palermo, wrestler Johnny Valiant, manager Brian Hildebrand and ring attendant Eugene Palermo was posted on social media to great attention.

“He was truly the best uncle,” wrote Eugene’s niece Sabrina Ricelli in an email. “He was such a blessing to our family. He always had a smile on his face and we loved him more than words can say. It’s so hard to believe that he is no longer with us. I have comfort knowing that he is back with my Grandparents in heaven.”

Condolences poured in from friends, family and fans throughout Western Pennsylvania.

“Eugene used to watch me paint my face. He would laugh and call me ‘Chinese’,” remembers Ken Jugan, aka Lord Zoltan. A playful instigator, Eugene would “carouse around the dressing room and call 300-pound-plus Krusher Dave Klebanski [a derogatory name] and run away,” he continued. “He always made me laugh at the shows as he often wore his dollar sign novelty glasses in honor of The Fabulous Moolah. I am going to miss him.”

Longtime KSWA referee Shawn Patrick noted that Eugene “occasionally dressed in a tuxedo and top hat. He would state, ‘I’m Mr. Fuji.’ I always enjoyed being around him.”

Altoona’s Glenn Lunger remembered getting Bucky’s autograph and watching Eugene grab his father’s bags from his car’s trunk. Eugene always considered himself a wrestler who was an integral part of any event he was on. “He was always happy and smiling.”

Longtime Pittsburgh-area Independent wrestler Tom Buzanoski wrote in a Facebook post, “Everyone loved Eugene. He will be missed by many.”

Eugene Palermo was inducted into the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame in 2016, joining his father Bucky, a 2013 inductee. They are the only father/son inductees into the Pittsburgh-based ceremony.

Even after his father’s passing, Eugene Palermo attended an occasional wrestling event and was frequently seen at community events like the city of Pittsburgh’s Memorial Day parade, where KSWA marchers would leave the route to greet their friend. For many years, Bucky Palermo owned, operated and maintained a store where he mended wrestler’s boots, among other shoes in the same Lawrenceville neighborhood.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Perman Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Pittsburgh, PA. A viewing is set for 3-7 p.m.Wednesday and a Catholic Mass and Service will take place at Holy Spirit Church at 10:00 a.m. in Millvale on Thursday.

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