WWE Hall of Famer and legendary wrestler Bruno Sammartino passed away today at 82. Like the company is stating on its website, “the story of Bruno Sammartino is the story of the American dream”.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Sammartino is known for being the longest reigning Champion in WWWF, then WWF and WWE, history. He held the WWWF Heavyweight Championship for 4,040 days for more than 11 years across two reigns. Charismatic and powerful, his career covers a large page of the history of wrestling, and WWF.
“The Italian Superman” made his debut in the ring in 1959 in Pittsburgh. He quickly worked with the best wrestlers at that time like Gorilla Monsoon, George “The Animal” Steele, The Crusher, Killer Kowalski or Buddy Rogers. His first title reign debuted in 1963 when he defeated Rogers in 48 seconds.
For 8 long years, some of the best wrestlers had tried to take the belt away from him, unsuccessfully. Ivan Koloff ended his reign in 1971. He regained the title in 1973 by defeating Stan Stasiak. In 1976, he suffered a neck fracture in a match against Stan Hansen. This was like the beginning of the end as a year later, he was defeated by Superstar Billy Graham and left WWF.
Sammartino retired in 1981 but remained involved with WWF as a colour commentator or as the mentor of his son David. He eventually came back in a WWF ring around 1985 and feuded with all the Superstars of this generation, like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper or “Macho Man” Randy Savage. His last match took place in 1987, “The Living Legend” definitely left the WWF in 1988.
In 2013, Sammartino finally accepted to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, after having declined several times. He once again made the Madison Square Garden thrilled when he was inducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He would later induct his former student Larry Zbysko into the same WWE Hall of Fame 2 years later.
Bruno Sammartino was a legend. He was the American Dream personified. From his childhood in Italy hiding from Nazis to selling out Madison Square Garden 188 times as the biggest star of professional wrestling, he was a hero in every stage of his life. pic.twitter.com/29KDwT3gcA
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) April 18, 2018