Now, I’m not even going to attempt to disingenuously elaborate on the personal effect a passing like this has because this man performed a long long time before I was born and was involved in an era of professional wrestling that I purely know about from research or retrospective. However, when a man the stature of Bruno Sammartino passes away, it’s a huge occasion and a sad one for the wrestling world and the industry he performed in as one of the best of all time.
If I say “wrestling” to you, you may immediately conjour up images of Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena, but before any of these men had even considered becoming a wrestler, Bruno Sammartino was defining what it meant to be one. At a time where the wrestling business was based on selling tickets and filling buildings rather than TV ratings and PPV buys, this man was main eventing every single night and when he was, the people came in droves. Madison Square Garden is widely considered the most famous indoor arena in the world, and performing there is said to be a huge honour, never mind main eventing. Bruno sold out MSG 187 times in his wrestling career. The WWE even made him the second ever WWE world heavyweight champion and he held the belt for a massive, record-breaking 8 years. People might say wrestling is fake, or it’s predetermined and choreographed but when a company makes you their top guy and uses your name and your face for 8 whole years to put people in seats, then you must be doing something rather incredible. What’s even more amazing is that they did it again and when he won it a second time 1973, he held it for a further 4 years, amassing 11 years as WWE champion. Hulk Hogan is in second place for the longest combined reigns, and yet he held it for about half the time that Bruno did. No wonder he’s a WWE hall of famer.
Born in Italy in 1935, he survived World War 2, Scarlett Fever, and 82 years on planet earth and in the business of wrestling and for that reason, Bruno Sammartino deserves to be remembered as a legend, an icon and one of the greatest of all time. RIP Bruno Sammartino.