The professional wrestling world is mourning the loss of one of the all-time greatest in-ring performers, Bruno Sammartino, who died at age 82.
Sammartino is widely recognized as the longest-reigning WWE champion in history and one of wrestling’s most iconic stars.
WWE released the following statement about the passing of Sammartino.
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 the Latino, Greek and Jewish communities, 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.
Tye Dillinger Requests Release from WWE
Tye Dillinger is ready to move on from WWE, and has officially asked for his release from the company.
Dillinger has been sparingly used since his call up from NXT almost 2 years ago, and with the rise of other promotions, and the launch of AEW, it’s no surprise that Dillinger has decided to go elsewhere.
Lio Rush Backstage Reputation
WWE superstar Lio Rush has been in the middle of a confusing wrinkle in his association with Bobby Lashley, who seems to be done with Rush, but still teaming with him.
Lashley attacked Rush following Fin Balor pinning Rush in their handicapped match at Elimination Chamber, which cost Lashley his Intercontinental Championship despite not being pinned.
It’s been an interesting direction for Rush’s character, and according to PWInsider’s Mike Johnson (h/t WrestlingNews.co) Rush may have a reputation backstage.
“It appears Lio Rush is done with Bobby Lashley. I can tell you behind the scenes there were not a lot of people surprised at that and not a lot of people surprised that Lio took the pin. There are times Lio has a reputation for rubbing people, including other workers, the wrong way. Whether that was being held against him and that was part of the reasoning for him losing or whether it was just a decision to protect Lashley and shift the belt to Finn Balor, I guess we’ll have to see based on how Lio is presented in the weeks and months to come.”
D-Generation X, with Chyna, to be Inducted in WWE Hall of Fame
Chyna will finally get recognized and honored as a WWE Hall of Famer.
According to ESPN, Degeneration-X will be officially inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2019.
Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The New Age Outlaws, X-Pac, and Chyna will all be inducted. It will mark Michaels’ second induction into the Hall of Fame.
“I think it’s the most meaningful for us all to go in together and to be recognized together,” Tripe H said, according to ESPN. “Because I think both groups were [just] as impactful.”
“It’s a funny thing, because DX was something that, before Kevin [Nash] and Scott [Hall] left, at the time we all talked about using ‘The Kliq’ as it was — kind of morphing that into television, since it was so out there anyways,” said Levesque. “But things worked out the way they did — they left, and the timing was right.”
“Shawn and I still wanted to do it. Vince saw the value in it, I guess, and finally let us go at it, by that point in time I was looking for a heater, and we had brought Chyna.”
Triple H went on to say Chyna deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.
“Look, people believe what they want to believe. When I said a few years ago on the Austin podcast, or show, or whatever you want to call it, there’s complexities around it,” said Triple H. “But absolutely, definitely deserves to be in there. It’d be tough to pick a female that was more impactful on the business. She did something that was completely so out of left field that it wasn’t even being considered when we first brought it up for her to come in. It wasn’t even a consideration… it wasn’t an easy thing, and against all odds she did all of that.”
And as far as Chyna being inducted in the future as single’s competitor, which she deserves, Triple H is confident it will happen eventually.
“From that standpoint, absolutely 100 percent deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and should probably be more than once — as a group, but individually as well,” Levesque continued. “There’s more complexity to that than meets the eye, but here we are. I’m just happy that it’s here. I’m happy for her family, the people that she was close to, that hopefully this is super meaningful to them. I know it would be to her. It’s a great thing — very deserving.”
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