Legendary figure Bruno Sammartino has passed away

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2018/04/18/legendary-figure-bruno-sammartino-has-passed-away/

One of the most legendary figures in the world of professional wrestling is no longer with us with the news that Bruno Sammartino has died.

There is no term short of “legend” that can accurately describe Sammartino, who took his drawing power throughout the United States and across the world as the main figure of the Northeast wrestling scene throughout the 60’s and 70’s under Vince McMahon, Sr.

His two reigns as WWWF champion are unlikely to ever be touched. Sammartino first became champion on May 17th, 1963, defeating legitimate rival Buddy Rogers and holding the title for close to eight-years. His title loss to Ivan Koloff on January 18th, 1971 is still one of the most legendary matches in history due to the shock displayed by the audience when Koloff pinned the unbeatable champion. Sammartino described the scene within the arena as one that was so loud that he feared he had gone deaf because he could not hear anything.

The WWWF used Koloff as a transitional champion and later put the title onto Pedro Morales, who the promotion ran with until the end of 1973. A deal was made by Vince McMahon, Sr. to entice Sammartino to take on another reign as champion. Sammartino reluctantly agreed and won the title for a second time, defeating Stan Stasiak on December 10th, 1973.

Sammartino was not expecting to hold the title for the length he did the second time, eventually dropping it to “Superstar” Billy Graham on April 30th, 1977 in Baltimore. The decision was made to drop the title outside of New York as a precaution for the audience’s reaction to Graham cheating his way to the championship and dethroning Sammartino.

Sammartino was beaten down by the schedule of being a champion and traveling constantly.

Throughout his career, he continued his relationship with Toronto promoter Frank Tunney, where he would return and work on Sundays every two-weeks, despite his incredibly busy schedule during this era. Sammartino was always loyal to Tunney, owing to the promoter for utilizing him at a time when Sammartino believed he had been blackballed in the United States:

Before becoming WWWF champion, Sammartino decided to leave the New York territory to work for Roy Shire in California. Despite giving notice, the WWWF continued to book Sammartino on dates and when he couldn’t make them, he was suspended by several commissions, including California’s. Sammartino was ready to work in the construction business when Tunney offered him a life raft to continue wrestling with regular bookings.

It was this same loyalty that Sammartino held for Shohei “Giant” Baba, choosing to wrestle dates for All Japan Pro Wrestling as then-WWWF champion, even while the WWWF held a working relationship with Antonio Inoki’s New Japan.

Sammartino had estimated that at his peak he was making $100,000-125,000 per year, which was tremendous money at that time.

His life before the discovery of professional wrestling was literally a Hollywood script.

After his father came to the United States from Italy in 1936, it wasn’t until 1950 that the rest of his family, including Bruno, could join them due to Bruno’s illness with rheumatic fever. It was so severe that Bruno was given days to live as a child before making a miraculous recovery after battling the disease for 3 ½ years.

While living in Italy during the war, Sammartino and his siblings fled the Nazis with their mother, who would often leave her children for up to 24 hours in order to secure food.

When Sammartino arrived in the U.S. in 1950, he always credited weightlifting for saving his life and growing from 84 pounds at the age of 14 up to 220 pounds by the time he graduated high school.

We will have much more on the life and career of Bruno Sammartino throughout the week.

Sammartino was 82 years old.

Truly a one of kind human and wrestler. I did not know the stuff about hiding from Nazis and almost dying as a child, which just makes his already incredible legend even larger.

Always came across as a respectful and genuine guy, this is a real loss for the wrestling community not to mention his family and friends.

just read this… sad news.
God bless you, Bruno!

From all accounts he was an amazing person inside and outside of wrestling. A true prior, who you can easily ask what the WWE would be like today if he was not part their history.

there’s only a select few who should be considered legends…Bruno is one of them. His life story should be a movie.

The Larry Zbyszko turn was the first thing I remember seeing that turned me into a wrestling fan back in 1980. I got to meet Bruno about 10 years ago at a wrestling convention. He was very nice. Wrestling lost one of it’s best representers. RIP to the Legend.

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i’m glad that he was able get inducted in the WWE hall of fame before he died and pretty much squash any bad blood he had toward the WWE and Vince. The guy deserve every honor they gave him because without Bruno their wouldn’t be a WWE as we know it today because He was The WWE for so many years and made that territory one of the most profitable in the u.s. for years.

I really hope that WWE gives him a proper send off on Raw next week and maybe down the road some sort of special on the network.

He was a legends in wrestling and he’S finally going to meet some of his friends in wrestling heaven.

I greatly believe that Sammartino vs Zbysko provided the foundation for similar blood feuds such as Jericho vs HBK, even though the latter lacked the direct “teacher-vs-student” background that the former had. It was an organic, authentic story that was beautifully told and still holds up to this day.

Bruno was one of the industry’s few true stars who transcended the business, and rightfully so. His booking in the regional days created the prototype for how a babyface world champion should carry himself, and he was a mega-star before wrestling ever was the international attraction it’d eventually become.

I only saw a few matches with him as I was very young at the time. And it was during his second run. My dad however loved Bruno and to this day when I mention wrestling he always speaks about Bruno. My dad also was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Even my mom who generally scoffs at pro wrestling, has great respect for Bruno (and Kurt Angle). He was as someone used to put it “the realest guy in the room”. Rest in Peace Bruno, you were truly deserving of the title of legend.

Didn’t know Bruno had the world bench press record in 1959 at 565 lbs.

Wonder what twiiter would be saying if a wrestler had 2 title runs that lasted 4040 days!