We are saddened to announced that WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino passed away at age 82.
Sammartino, a WWE Hall of Famer, was known as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of any era and one of the ultimate good guys in the ring, Fox News reports.
Sammartino grew up in Abruzzi, Italy and lived under Nazi occupation during World War II. He and his mother hid out in Valla Rocca during the occupation and eventually joined his father in Pittsburgh in 1950.
“The Italian Superman” started to hit the weights in the late 50’s and caught the eye of Vincent J. McMahon – one of the pioneers of American professional wrestling.
Sammartino quickly became a fan favorite after defeating Buddy Rogers in 43 seconds at Madison Square Garden in 1963 to become the second-ever WWE champion.
WWE reports that Bruno held the WWE Championship for nearly eight years — by far the longest reign of all time, and a record for all professional wrestling champions, no matter the organization. A household name all over the country, the beloved hero defended his title in legendary rivalries against WWE Hall of Famers Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon and George “The Animal” Steele.
In early 1968, Sammartino headlined the first wrestling event at the brand-new Madison Square Garden, just eight days after it opened. The Garden truly was the house that Bruno built, as he sold it out an astounding 187 times. When he lost the title to Ivan Koloff in 1971, grown men in the crowd were seen weeping, but on Dec. 10, 1973, Sammartino became the first two-time WWE Champion and held the title for an additional three-and-a-half years.
On Aug. 9, 1980, Sammartino defeated his former protégé, Larry Zbyszko, inside a steel cage at New York City’s Shea Stadium in front of more than 35,000 people. The heated grudge match broke box-office records for wrestling events, and Bruno retired from the ring the following year.
One of the finest men I knew, in life and in business. Bruno Sammartino proved that hard work can overcome even the most difficult of circumstances. He will be missed. #RIPLivingLegend pic.twitter.com/PNDuQ31Phd
— Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) April 18, 2018
Bruno returned to WWE in the mid-80s as a broadcaster alongside Mr. McMahon and as a mentor for his son David, who was just beginning his grappling career. Now known as The Living Legend, Bruno also engaged in several rivalries with a generation of WWE’s greatest villains, including “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Honky Tonk Man.
The star power and influence of Sammartino was exemplified by the fact that he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was the 188th and final time that Sammartino headlined and sold out Madison Square Garden.
Forever a champion. Rest In Peace pic.twitter.com/f3ywW4opje
— Bret Hart (@BretHart) April 18, 2018
Sammartino is survived by his three sons and four grandchildren.
Rest in peace my brother and thanks for the memories.