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NEWS: CATCHING UP WITH BRUNO SAMMARTINO


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On October 6th of 2005, Bruno Sammartino celebrated his 70th birthday. Taking one look at Sammartino's physique and workout regime makes that number even more unbelievable.

Bruno Sammartino is one of the most prolific professional wrestlers in the history of the sport, and one of the most successful. Using methods of comparing business statistics from the 60's to modern day, Bruno Sammartino has been called the biggest draw in the history of the World Wide Wrestling Federation, World Wrestling Federation and World Wrestling Entertainment. At what many considered to be the center of the wrestling universe, Sammartino sold the Madison Square Garden out anywhere from 45 to 187 times, depending on who one chooses to believe, and did enormous business for The WWWF at a time when the company had an awful time slot at best, and no television at worst. From mid 1963 until mid 1977 --with the exception of a three year break from 1971 until 1973 that he requested due to a back injury-- Sammartino main evented every event at Madison Square Garden for the company, doing incredible business as an Italian hero in the melting pot of New York City.

Sammartino was such a strong draw that in 1965, meetings were secretly held between Vince McMahon Sr. and Sam Muchnick, promoter of the National Wrestling Alliance. The two promoters devised a plan to unify the NWA and WWWF titles in a match that they would broadcast closed circuit to likely huge business, and Sammartino was scheduled to defeat then NWA champion Lou Thesz. If it hadn't been for a fallout with Thesz over money and Sammartino not wanting the schedule being the unified champion would have necessitated, Sammartino would have ended up in possession of both the NWA and WWWF titles. Sammartino both broke box office records at the time, and made record amounts of money at the time, being paid an unheard of 6% of the gate for all shows that he worked at one point.

When Bruno Sammartino retired in 1981, his opinion of wrestling began to sour however. He believed that he had been cheated on his gate percentages by Vince McMahon Sr. and took the case to court. The case was settled out of court, with Bruno Sammartino being paid $200,000 in back pay and given a three year contract as a color commentator for the WWF Superstars of Wrestling syndicated show. In order to help his son David's faltering wrestling career, Bruno agreed to return to action to form a tag team with him. The two did incredible business at the top, so well that soon Bruno was main-eventing on his own again while David did little of note in the lower card. When Jake Roberts failed a drug test and was found with cocaine in his system, Bruno would replace him on a tour in a feud with the Honky Tonk Man. The final wrestling appearance of Sammartino's career would see him teaming with Hulk Hogan for the first and only time, defeating King Kong Bundy and The One Man Gang before posing with Hulk Hogan.

The relationship between Vince McMahon Jr. and Bruno Sammartino has seen extreme ups and downs in the last twenty years. Sammartino chose not to return to the WWF when he stopped doing announcing for the company in 1987, critical of the direction that wrestling was headed and upset that his son was fired for punching a fan. Sammartino hated the use of drugs, particularly steroids, running wild in wrestling at the time, and ironically Bruno's own son David would eventually admit to using them to improve his appearance. Bruno would become one of wrestling's biggest critics, and even testify against the WWF in a case where preliminary wrestler Chuck Austin sued the WWF for 25.7 million dollars after suffering paralysis a match with The Rockers in 1989.

In July of last year, Bruno Sammartino attended a live taping of Raw in Pittsburgh to negotiate an offer to become an announcer for the WWE 24/7 concept, where he would speak to Vince McMahon for the first time in over twelve years. The two wouldn't reach a deal, Sammartino would get in to a confrontation with Ric Flair over comments in Flair's book, and Sammartino wouldn't stay for the main event of HHH vs. Chris Benoit that he was invited to stick around and watch. At current day, Sammartino maintains that he wants nothing to do with World Wrestling Entertainment or their Hall of Fame.

Earlier this week, Bruno Sammartino was a guest on "To the Point", which airs on The Score sports network out of Canada. Sammartino was said to be friendly and talkative, a stark contrast from his disposition when typically talking about wrestling. The following are highlights of that interview:

Bruno Sammartino claimed that it seems like ages ago that he worked all of those shows at Madison Square Garden, and enjoyed that time in his life a great deal. On the neck injury that he suffered against Stan Hansen, Sammartino called it the worst injury of his career and said that he came extremely close to suffering paralysis. Bruno claimed to now feel good for his age, despite undergoing major back, hip and knee surgeries since retirement. Bruno called Yukon Eric the strongest wrestler that he ever stepped into the ring with, and put him over as being great to work with.

When asked what the biggest difference in wrestling now, he claimed that he came from an era of excellent wrestlers, mentioning Lou Thesz and Vern Gagne, and said that while there were blondes and fancy robes during his era, the shows were about wrestling. Sammartino then mentions the scantily clad women, people being buried alive and crucifixions that occur today. He also specifically pointed out Triple H raping a corpse as well as something that he disagreed with, and claimed none of these things were wrestling. He also stated that the drug scene in WWE is appalling. Bruno said that he respects the enjoyment some people may have for this kind of entertainment, but it isn't what he thinks that wrestling should be about.

When asked about the possibility of joining The WWE Hall of Fame, Sammartino again stated that he didn't want to have anything to do with it, because it would be hypocritical after all of the criticism he has given to Vince McMahon Jr. over the years. Sammartino also claimed that the epidemic of early deaths in wrestling could be attributed to the culture of drugs behind the scenes, and cited the problem being a big reason he left the WWF in 1987. Sammartino said that he was outspoken against this because no one else is, and what he says needs to be said. Sammartino claimed that Congress should be looking into the wrestling business, but they aren't.

Sammartino finished the interview talking about the documentary on his life that he has been working on for several years now.

In 2005, World Wrestling Entertainment can no longer afford to run Madison Square Garden due to the increase in cost to rent the famous building, and the dwindling attendance at the gate for Vince McMahon, and aside from watching the occasional match of his favorite wrestle Kurt Angle, Sammartino still wants nothing to do with Vince McMahon. Some things never change.


11 Responses to “NEWS: CATCHING UP WITH BRUNO SAMMARTINO”

  1. Anonymous Irish? 

    Bruno the IRISH hero??

    Yikes.

  2. Anonymous Jim 

    Bruno looks better than Flair does, and he's fifteen years older.

  3. Anonymous Editor 

    "Bruno the IRISH hero?? Yikes."

    Obviously Bruno was Italian, the wording was ambigious though. He drew really strong with the Irish immigrants in New York and was a hero of sorts to them, as well as Italians of course. That's what was meant by Irish hero, it has been modified for the sake of clarity. Thanks for reading!

  4. Anonymous drqshadow 

    Much as I respect and revere him as a man, (Bruno's house is actually just a few blocks from my Grandparents' home in Pittsburgh, he still jogs down their street from time to time, and I actually spoke with David for a while on his front lawn when I was much younger, so I have a bit of a personal interest in his career) I've actually started to become more jaded to his stance against the industry over the last few years. He's a legendary name, a monumental draw and a huge figure in the history of the business, and his absence from the HoF will always be a sore spot for me, but I just don't agree with a lot of what he's said over the last ten years.

  5. Anonymous ted 

    This piece has a couple problems. Bruno is Irish? The WWE can't afford to run MSG any longer? These two glaring mistakes only bring the other tidbits offered in the article to doubt.

  6. Anonymous JtheSR 

    Just Join the WWE Hall Of Fame already. Ok we get it that you are upset over what has happened with you and Vince and the whole company, but cmon, you were the reason why WWWF had success and one of the reasons the WWE is what it is today. Things have happened in the past, but im sure you would make not oly yourself, but millions of other fans of yours happy if you agree to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame

  7. Anonymous mrmustard992003 

    bruno is correct on all his statements. i've followed wrestling since 1963,and today's product has little to do with wrestling. it's more like a soap opera comedy. they change championships today like someone changes their underwear. they say their better atheletes today, but that does not make them better wrestlers. there was a show years ago called "GREATEST SPORTS LEGENDS". it featured bruno on one of it's shows. bruno held the world weight lifting record until alexsiev broke it in the 72 olympics. bruno deadlifted haystacks calhoun in msg. in the 60's and body slammed him. the center of the ring caved right in. calhoun weight at that time was 620lbs. so much for today's superior athletes. nicolai volkoff lives close by,he said bruno in his prime would destroy today's wrestlers without breaking a sweat.

  8. Anonymous thomas carson 

    Bruno is a living legend...in capital letters...When I was a kid, watching wrestling was fun...now it has become a sideshow...I agree with Bruno swipes about drug and steroid use in wrestling over the years (just read Superstar Billy Graham's biograpy BETWEEN THE ROPES)...So what if he is not in the WWE Hall of Fame?...He is still the greatest...in capital letters!

  9. Anonymous Al Di Giacomo 

    Mr. Sammartino was THE man of wrestling and I still consider him the champ. In our house, he was part of the holy trinity of JFK, Francesco Pomponio (Maternal Grandfather) & Bruno Sammartino. My Grandfather was in MSG for his huge win over Rogers in 1963. He saw Mr. Sammartino the next day walking up the street while on his way to the airport to come home from a business trip. They spoke in Italian and he was a very nice man. I have been watching him all of my life and truly believe in the man. I have spoken to him over the telephone once or twice and thought very well of him and Mrs. Sammartino. They are genuinely nice people. Now, the alleged wrestling today is nothing compared to what it was in Mr. Sammartino’s day. In those days, these guys were tough, tough, tough. Guys like Bruno, Gagne, Thesz and many others were and still are great athletes. They had a great work ethic and more actual on the mat wrestling talent in one fingernail than all of these guys have in their whole bodies combined. They went every night 7 nights a week, where these guys today wrestle 2-3 times per week and get paid $200,000 per year and more. Remember that Mr. Sammartino built himself up from a legitimate 90 pound weakling into an incredible 280 pound destroyer WITHOUT drugs. Also look at the physiques of Dick the Bruiser, Crusher Lisowski. Blame McMahon for all of the irreverent shit that is on today such as, sex with corpses, Live burial, crucifixions, et al. What is up with that? Total stupidity. What has happened to territories? Greed, Greed, Greed. (McMahon of course) The fans also should take 90% of the blame though as they are stupid enough to pay their hard earned money to see this shit. So, I totally agree with Bruno on all of his points and maybe the folks who do not agree should get a clue. Amen

  10. Anonymous Angela Sammartino 

    I'd like to get in contact with my cousin please. My email address is asammartino98@yahoo.com

  11. Anonymous Greg Danko 

    Bruno:

    My father took me to a multitude of arenas only when you were headlining the wrestling card. I recall my father saying, “I hope that one day there is a Hall of Fame for Pro Wrestling. And when it happens, this man you will see tonight – Bruno Sammartino will be included.”

    Much to the chagrin we go year after year only hearing that Bruno was contacted but has refused to be inducted.

    You did so much for the sport, inclusive of creating the momentum necessary for the WWE to be a household name in it’s industry. You are a true legend it your own right. The titles you have held throughout your lifetime is a testament of a legend. That is why you are called a LEGEND! No one will ever take your place with that title of being a LEGEND.

    Every year passes and your allegiance waits patiently in front of their television sets to hear the name BRUNO SAMMARTINO as a Hall of Fame Inductee for the WWE.

    There are four names that deserve to be in the WWE Hall of Fame: Spiros Arion, Curtis Iakeau, Bob Backlund and of course Bruno Sammartino.

    The WWE Hall of Fame is not legitimate for wrestling fans until we hear the name and see the person who they call….BRUNO SAMMARTINO!

    Your fans cried tears of joy when you won the WWWF Title in 1963. I was one of those individuals who cried with excitement and screamed your name out loud.

    Are you waiting for the 45th anniversary of your WWWF Title reign? We can’t wait another year.

    Desidera in tensione la LEGGENDA di BRUNO SAMMARTINO!

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