One of the most significant icons in the history of professional wrestling, Bruno Sammartino has died at age 82, WWE confirmed on Wednesday. He began his record title reign after beating Buddy Rogers at Madison Square Garden in 1963. He's also notable for selling out Madison Square Garden a massive 188 times, including one final time when Arnold Schwarzenegger inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
Hansen was mortified at what had happened and nearly didn't call Sammartino, but when he did call him, Bruno told him he knew it was a mistake and accepted his apology.
I didn't even know that Sammartino was in poor health, so this is a shock to me.
Sammartino was induced into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
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Especially popular in the Northeast, Sammartino wrestled for the first time at the "new" Madison Square Garden - the stadium now standing above Penn Station - just eight days after it opened in 1968; he sold out the arena 187 times out of 211 appearances, according to the Post-Gazette. However, there is no doubt that he was one of the most important performers in the history of professional wrestling, and the legacy that he is leaving behind will be felt for many years to come.
Sammartino lost the title to Ivan Koloff in 1971, but regained it in late 1973, by defeating Stan Hansen, and held the belt for close to four years before dropping the strap to Superstar Billy Graham in April 1977. The heated grudge match broke box-office records for wrestling events, and Bruno retired from the ring the following year. "Everything I learned was from Bruno".
Sammartino became a broadcaster on WWE's weekend morning shows before his frustration over the company's direction into campier storylines and an outrage over the drug culture he said had permeated the industry led to a bitter, two-decade split with McMahon. They eventually joined his father in Pittsburgh in 1950. He is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Carol, and his three children.
What are your thoughts on some of the WWE Universe's comments regarding Sammartino's passing? He was the most vibrant and spirited person I met that week, and he shared with me invaluable wisdom about the business and life as a whole.