We learned earlier this week that Bruno Sammartino passed away at 82 years old, leaving the wrestling world saddened. For a career that ended decades ago, Sammartino played a major role in the early days of the WWE. Let’s take a look at some of his most memorable moments.
Sold Out Madison Square Garden 188 Times
When wresting was stilled chopped up and divided into 30 territories across the entire United States, the WWE called New York City’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) home. To this day, there is something special about hosting an event from MSG. It might not hold 80,000 people like the stadiums used for WrestleMania, but there is a certain feeling that only comes from “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” During the 1970s and 1980s, Bruno Sammartino headlined the arena for 211 events and sold out the arena a total of 188 times. He did so much business for MSG that fans started calling it “The House That Bruno Built.”
Held the WWE Championship for 2,803 Consecutive Days
Today, we see titles change hands at least once a month and sometimes six times on a single pay per view. Before switching titles was the thing to do, the belts had meaning. We all talk about Asuka and New Day’s run with gold lasting over a year, but that does not even compare to Bruno Sammartino. He held the WWE Championship for 2,803 days, which is about seven years. The unbreakable record only took Sammartino 48 seconds to accomplish, as he captured the title from Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. He eventually dropped the title at Madison Square Garden, which fans say was more shocking than Undertaker’s WrestleMania steak ending.
First two-time WWE Champion
Wrestling today compared to a few decades ago has changed dramatically. We have Ric Flair and John Cena tied at 16 World Championship reigns each with Triple H not far behind. That is not how the wrestling world operated during Sammartino’s time. He became the first superstar to claim the WWE Championship on two occasions. That seems like nothing in 2018, but in 1970 it was a huge deal. Sammartino defeated Stan Stasiak and “Superstar” Billy Graham in separate matches for a combined reign of 4,040 days. With a number that large, it will never be topped and it becomes one of those accomplishments to never be duplicated.
Remained A Face His Entree Career
For the most part, almost every superstars spends time as a face and heel. Even John Cena and Hulk Hogan, considered the biggest faces in the company’s history, spent a short period portraying the heel persona. With WWE’s territory at the time being New York, they had a large amount of Italian fans and Bruno Sammartino was someone they all respected. We will never know how the crowed would react to Sammartino turning heel. They could litter the ring with garbage or it could be a giant success. I like how history will show that one of the biggest draws never forgot his roots.
Entered WWE Hall of Fame in 2013
After Vince McMahon purchased the WWE from his father, he changed the landscape of the business. The several hour matches were replaced by colorful characters and eventually we would reach the Attitude Era, which pushed the envelope. During that time, Bruno Sammartino had a falling out because he did not like what Vince was doing to wrestling. Thankfully, the two were able to settle their differences; with Triple H seemingly playing the peacemaker. In 2013, Sammartino entered the Hall of Fame in what might be considered the most overdue induction. I am so happy Sammartino and WWE made peace, allowing both parties to once again work together. There might be no WWE without Sammartino.