As previously reported, WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino passed away at his home in Pittsburgh yesterday morning following a hospitalization. He was 82. WWE remembered the life and career of WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino by releasing the following statement on their website:
WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino passes away
WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino passed away at age 82.
The story of Bruno Sammartino is the story of the American dream.
During his childhood in the small Italian mountain town of Abruzzi, Italy, Bruno Sammartino heard stories about how the streets in the United States were paved with gold. Though he believed it literally at the time, Sammartino would experience fortune and fame first-hand as the longest-reigning WWE Champion and the most beloved competitor in the history of the squared circle.
Life wasn’t always so glorious for The Italian Superman. Bruno’s brother and sister both passed away at young ages, and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces seized their town, but Bruno persevered. He and his mother hid in a mountain called Valla Rocca during the German occupation and eventually joined his immigrant father in Pittsburgh in 1950.
Sammartino began lifting weights as a young man and grew to become one of the strongest men on the planet. After setting a world record in 1959 by bench-pressing 565 pounds, Sammartino caught the eye of Vincent J. McMahon, and became a sports-entertainer.
Bruno became an overnight sensation, connecting with not only fellow Italians, but also Latinos, Greeks and Jews, successfully bridging the gap in America’s melting pot of wrestling fans. His legend continued to grow on May 17, 1963, when Sammartino defeated Buddy Rogers in just 48 seconds to become the second-ever WWE Champion in front of nearly 20,000 fans at the old Madison Square Garden.
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.
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.
WWE extends its condolences to Sammartino’s family, friends and fans.
Several personalities from inside and outside the wrestling world, including WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, WWE COO Triple H, WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart, WWE Champion AJ Styles and Action Star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who inducted Bruno Sammartino into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 took to Twitter and sent the following reactions regarding the passing of WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino:
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
Devastated to hear the passing of a true icon, legend, great, honest and wonderful man…
A true friend…and one of the toughest people I’ve ever met.
My thoughts are with his entire family. #RIPBrunoSammartino #AmericanDream
— Triple H (@TripleH) April 18, 2018
— FUNAKI (@shofufu824) April 18, 2018
R.I.P 🙁 https://t.co/aXmee8w81t
— $asha Banks (@SashaBanksWWE) April 18, 2018
Rest In Peace Bruno Samartino. It was an honor meeting you and talking how many times we could have sold out MSG together back in the day. #RIPBrunoSammartino pic.twitter.com/Df7TgfBDnR
— Rusev (@RusevBUL) April 18, 2018
I will always have an enormous amount of respect & admiration for Bruno Sammartino. I can’t thank him enough for always being kind to me & taking time to have a genuine conversation. Condolences to his family & loved ones.
— ShinigamE (@WWEBigE) April 18, 2018
Bruno is indirectly responsible for where I am today. Growing up in Pittsburgh, he was my father’s hero, and sparked my dad’s passion for the business that he passed on to me.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with Bruno, and the man exemplified class. #RIPBruno
— Corey Graves (@WWEGraves) April 18, 2018
#RIPBrunoSammartino What a life he lived! God speed Mr Sammartino https://t.co/ZGrgoUkEch
— Brian G. James (@WWERoadDogg) April 18, 2018
We are what we are and we have what we have because of the path you paved. Thank you. #RIPBruno
— Scott Dawson (@ScottDawsonWWE) April 18, 2018
Sad to hear that we lost a great one #BrunoSammartino today. Thoughts and prayer go out to his family.
— Dustin Rhodes (@Goldust) April 18, 2018
Bruno is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever. My father’s favorite wrestler. He’s impacted many generations of superstars and will continue to do so. My thoughts are with his friends and family.
— LarsWWE (@LarsSWWE) April 18, 2018
— Cedric Alexander (@CedricAlexander) April 18, 2018
— Ember Moon (@WWEEmberMoon) April 18, 2018
At Wrestlemania 30 I had the chance to meet Bruno Sammartino. 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. He will be missed. #RIPBruno
— Dean Muhtadi (@MojoRawleyWWE) April 18, 2018
Remembering the legend… #RIPBrunoSammartino pic.twitter.com/okpnfhUtOk
— WWE (@WWE) April 18, 2018
— Killian Dain (@KillianDain) April 18, 2018
— Smackdown Womens Champion (@CarmellaWWE) April 18, 2018
Devastating news for the wrestling world. An Icon amongst Icon’s, Bruno Sammartino has passed away. RIP Bruno. My thoughts and prayers are with his family today.
— Ted DiBiase (@MDMTedDiBiase) April 18, 2018
Bruno was a true champion. He was known for his love of his family, this business, and our country.
A huge loss. My prayers are with his family. #RIPBrunoSammartino https://t.co/qC84FJx99w
— AJStyles.Org (@AJStylesOrg) April 18, 2018
— Zack Ryder (@ZackRyder) April 18, 2018
Bruno Sammartino was an illustration of Strength, and the exemplification of Class. Thank you Bruno for being the definition of a real man #RIPBruno ?? #WWE
— CFO$ (@CFOSofficial) April 18, 2018
Growing up, my grandfather Stu Hart would ALWAYS talk about Bruno Sammartino and what an incredible wrestler he was. I’m so grateful I had the chance to meet Bruno and tell him how much he meant to my grandfather and the entire Hart family. We will all miss you, Bruno. ??♥? pic.twitter.com/Dclu5hMGa6
— Nattie (@NatbyNature) April 18, 2018
#BrunoSammartino epitomized the word legend. Rest in Power my friend. Thank you for all the paved roads you left us young guys ????#wwe @WWE
— Mike Kanellis (@RealMikeBennett) April 18, 2018
Forever a champion. Rest In Peace pic.twitter.com/f3ywW4opje
— Bret Hart (@BretHart) April 18, 2018
Bruno Sammartino is a wrestling Legend
Honored to have had many conversations with him
When I was w/him I knew I was w/pure class & greatness
Celebrate his life watch 1of his matches today
I was humbled he even knew my name
I’m very sad pic.twitter.com/RfD1XIQYo9
— Tommy Dreamer (@THETOMMYDREAMER) April 18, 2018
— Bobby Roode (@REALBobbyRoode) April 18, 2018
RIP Bruno Sammartino https://t.co/NQ9Ed4bt96
— Renee Young (@ReneeYoungWWE) April 18, 2018
An iconic legend who paved the way for all of us. So grateful to have met #BrunoSammartino and to tell him how much I respected everything he did in the ring. RIP #BrunoSammartino condolences to your loved ones and family.
— MilenaRoucka (@LaRosaMendes) April 18, 2018
— Lince Dorado (@LuchadorLD) April 18, 2018
— Eric Young (@TheEricYoung) April 18, 2018
RIP Bruno Sammartino. His legacy will live on forever!!
— Howard Finkel (@howardfinkel) April 18, 2018
Bruno Sammartino was a legend. He was the American Dream personified. From his childhood in Italy hiding from Nazis to selling out Madison Square Garden 188 times as the biggest star of professional wrestling, he was a hero in every stage of his life. pic.twitter.com/29KDwT3gcA
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) April 18, 2018
Saddened to hear about the passing of a Legend, Icon, Hall Of Famer and the Longest reigning champion in History #BrunoSammartino
— Kona Reeves (@KonaReevesWWE) April 18, 2018
Our hearts and prayers are with the family of Legend, Bruno Sammartino. He will be dearly missed. xo WGs pic.twitter.com/QzM1aYFHGW
— Dana Warrior (@DanaWarriorWWE) April 18, 2018
It’s truly sad to say goodbye to one of the most ILLUSTRIOUS performers of all time. Thank you for INSPIRING & MOTIVATING an UNCOUNTABLE number of people with your amazing story & successes, Bruno Sammartino. https://t.co/MFDwTKe9sP
— #WOKEN Matt Hardy (@MATTHARDYBRAND) April 18, 2018
Below is a video that WWE posted on various Superstars discussing why WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino was a legend: