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.
Former WWE Star Lanny Poffo Dies at 68
Former WWE star Lanny ‘The Genius’ Poffo has reportedly died at the age of 68, according to his close friend “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, although no cause of death has been given at the time of this writing.
Poffo made his in-ring debut with the All-South Wrestling Alliance back in 1974, and also wrestled for a number of promotions such as the National Wrestling Alliance where he won a tag-team title with his father, Angelo.
Poffo debuted for WWE back in 1985 where he would be known as “Leaping Lanny Poffo” and “The Genius.”
Poffo would return to WWE back in 2015 to induct his brother, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, into the WWE Hall of Fame in a touching induction ceremony ahead of WrestleMania 31.
“With a very, very heavy heart, I’ve been asked to let everyone know about the passing of our friend and colleague Lanny Poffo, The Genius,” Duggan said on Twitter.
Braun Strowman Talks Brock Lesnar Shooting On Him at Royal Rumble
WWE superstar Braun Strowman has had a number of memorable moments during his career at WWE, but none are quite like the 2018 Royal Rumble where Brock Lesnar got upset with Strowman for catching him with a knee.
Lesnar didn’t take to kindly and immediately hit Strowman with a flurry of legitimate punches, including a right hand to his jaw.
“Shit got real” Strowman said, during an interview with BT Sport.
“I mean, at the end of the day it’s two scary guys, two dominant males, not wanting to give an inch to either one, and we took it from each other. Things happen. We’re not playing, we’re not ballet, we’re not badminton. We’re physical. He’s [Lesnar] 300lbs, of just unadulterated animalistic beast and I’m a 385lbs monster. Things happen. At the end of the day, we made one hell of a segment, that’s what really happened.”
“I pat myself on the back. I think I’m the only person in history to take an overhand right from Brock Lesnar and not get knocked out. Anytime you get in the ring with “The Beast” and mix it up, the bigger the challenge the better. If you’re not wrestling the best, then who’d you beat?”
Ex-NJPW Star Karl Fredericks Signs with WWE
Former New Japan Pro Wrestling star Karl Fredericks has officially signed with WWE following the conclusion of his four-year tenure with NJPW. Fredericks announced on social media back in summer 2022 that he would not re-sign with NJPW.
Fredericks was initially linked to WWE last September, when he was reportedly spotted at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
According to PW Insider, Fredericks has officially signed with WWE and will be a part of the NXT brand initially.
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