Coliseum Corner: Bruno Sammartino Wrestling’s Living Legend & Hall of Famer

February 7, 2013 by Dan Duffy

Welcome to another edition of Coliseum Corner. You have, by now, heard the buzz that the ‘Living Legend’ Bruno Sammartino will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 6, the night before WrestleMania XXIX.

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For fans too young to remember him, Bruno Sammartino at one time was the biggest Superstar that the WWE had to offer. Bruno won his very first WWE title on May 17, 1963. He was the second wrestler to win the prestigious title by defeating ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers, and would hold onto it for 7 years, 8 months and 1 day. On December 10, 1973, Bruno began his second title reign thus dethroning Stan ‘The Man’ Stasiak. This reign would last 3 years 4 months and 20 days. For over eleven years combined, Bruno Sammartino ruled the ring as WWWF (WWE) Champion and still holds the record for the longest single run as champion.

Bruno Sammartino VS Ivan Koloff – November 17 1973, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York (History of the WWF Heavyweight Championship)

WWF History of the WWF Heavyweight Championship Coliseum Video After losing his WWWF championship to Ivan Koloff, Sammartino moved away from the New York territory. In a match almost four years after this fateful night, these two combatants met once again for the WWWF championship. The legendary Gorilla Monsoon officiated the match as these two rivals began the action. Both men fought hard until Koloff took desperate measures and used dirty tactics. However, the Living Legend survived to fight another day.

Bruno Sammartino Ivan Koloff

Bruno Sammartino VS Larry Zbyszco (Steel Cage Match) – August 9 1980, Shea Stadium, New York, New York (Best of WWF Vol. 1)

WWF Coliseum Video Best of the WWF Vol 1 In what is considered one of the most emotional and greatest feuds in WWE history, and the most famous of Bruno’s feuds, the Living Legend was betrayed by his student, Larry Zbyszco. Bruno considered Zbyszco a Judas and vowed to get revenge on his former friend. At Shea Stadium in front of 36,295 fans these two Superstars met inside a steel cage. In what was a wild brawl, the teacher proved that he was too much for his student and avenged his attack on the turncoat Zbyszco.

Bruno Sammartino

In 1986, Coliseum Video released Bruno Sammartino: Wrestling’s Living Legend. The tribute consisted of some of Sammartino’s greatest matches between 1974 and 1985.

WWF Coliseum Video Bruno Sammartino Wrestling’s Living Legend

Bruno Sammartino VS Killer Kowalski – April 29 1974, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York (Bruno Sammartino: Wrestling’s Living Legend)

Walter Kowalski was famous for delivering a knee drop from the top rope and ripping off an opponent’s ear, giving him the moniker of “Killer”. During Sammartino’s second reign as WWWF Champion, Kowalski challenged the titlist to a championship match. This bout accelerated into a wild brawl which ignited a fire inside the WWWF fans at the Garden. The brawl got so out of hand that the bell rang and various officials and superstars had to separate the two.

Bruno Sammartino

Bruno Sammartino VS Rowdy Roddy Piper – December 7 1985, Boston Garden, Boston Massachusetts (Bruno Sammartino: Wrestling’s Living Legend)

The seeds were planted for this battle when the Living Legend appeared on Piper’s Pit at Madison Square Garden on October 21 1985 (also featured on this home video). The rowdy one taunted Bruno about his appearance and his son who wrestled for the WWF at the time. Piper used his verbal skills to get under the Legend’s skin and Sammartino retaliated with a shot to the head. This angered Hot Rod so much so that he attacked his guest with a chair. Just over a month later Bruno Sammartino was given the chance to avenge his attack. Unfortunately The Living Legend was only able to get his hands on Piper for a short time before ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton raced to the aid of the Hot Scot. Bruno met Piper further down the line but on that night a disqualification victory wasn’t enough.

Bruno Sammartino

Coliseum Video released some great matches involving Bruno Sammartino. He was the Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin of his day. The Living Legend was responsible for over 180 sell-out crowds at Madison Square Garden. At the time, he was the highest paid wrestler in the United States, earning what other professional athletes did. Vince McMahon Sr. lured Bruno back with a promise that he would earn a percentage of the live gates and a decreased work schedule.

It has been a challenge for WWE to get Bruno Sammartino to accept his place in the Hall of Fame. He has been opposed to the WWE for over 25 years and has bad mouthed Vince McMahon and his product, until Triple H persisted and persuaded the Living Legend to accept the invitation. On April 6, if not before, Sammartino will make his first appearance in front of WWE cameras in 25 years. For those who are not familiar with this great champion, he is part of what makes New York and Madison Square Garden home to the WWE still to this day.

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26 Comments left on this article...

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  1. Mark D says:

    Very enjoyable read Dan. Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Ryan says:

    I have the rare trish stratus collectors edition and rock bottom 1998 attitude collection dvd that I want to sell. If any other is interested could you offer me a price on here and if I accept we can do business through PayPal. Thanks

  3. Ryan says:

    Bruno DVD set sounds great. Can’t wait. I presume a bio as well which should be great.

  4. LP1 says:

    Bruno did an interview yesterday with Wrestling Observer Radio and he confirmed that a DVD set on his career is part of his new deal with WWE. He also confirmed that he will be a part of several Legends Of Wrestling rountable shows. He also talked abouy other things including possibly being a legend in the next video game. All fantastic news.

    The only sad thing is that WWE has almost zero footage in their archives of Bruno’s prime years(the 1960’s). WWE’s library only goes back to 1970. They didn’t keep tapes prior to then and the ones they did keep they would tape over, which was a common thing wrestling companies would do to save money. Wrestling companies at that time didn’t foresee the future of home video and the value of keeping the tapes. At least they were smart enough to keep the tapes starting in 1970. Either way this is a DVD that is ling overdue. I can’t wait.

    • LP1 says:

      *long overdue

      • Harry Faversham says:

        Its not just wrestling companies that did that. The BBC has lots of holes in its archives for shows in the 60s and 70s for the same reason.Did the Superstar DVD not do well? I thought it wasn’t released in the UK because the BBFC had said one of the matches was too violent. Thats what I heard but it doesnt really add up when Terry Funk vs. Sabu was ok. So maybe they didn’t bother with the UK just because they felt it wouldnt sell well here. I bought a region 1 copy and thought it was a great DVD, but it never occurred to me that it had flopped?

        • Vincenzzzzzo says:

          The Superstar Billy Graham DVD is actually one of my favorites that WWE has done. Very good bio on there and great matches and promos. Not sure how well sales were though.

        • Kirbbdogg says:

          I liked the Superstar set myself. But I remembr hearing that it didn’t sale very well. Due to at the time the younger peolpe not realy knowing who Superstar was. And was why they didn’t do a greatest stars of the 70s set.

    • Kirbbdogg says:

      but bruno might have some old tapes of him self. And this might be where the old NWA libray comes to play. They might have some old stuff of him. I did hear once he wrestled Thez and he did wresle Ray Stevens. And maybe get some if his Japan run also. The olny down side it might not sale due to the younger fans not knowing who he is. Look how Superstar Billy Gram’s DVD floped.

    • RCS1988 says:

      They have footage going back even before 1970, but they don’t have a lot of it. In the HOF package, they showed footage from the 1960’s against the Sheik at MSG.

  5. RCS1988 says:

    The Sammartino Koloff match with Monsoon as the ref isn’t on the Grudge Matches video. The match is on the History of the WWF Heavyweight title CV. The Sammartino Koloff match that is on there was from the October 1975 MSG show. Bruno will be involved with the MSG DVD, the History of WWE DVD, Legends Roundtables, and his own DVD. These matches should definitely be on the Bruno Sammartino DVD.

    Bruno Sammartino vs. the Sheik
    Madison Square Garden November 18, 1968

    Bruno Sammartino vs. Geeto Mongol
    Madison Square Garden February 8, 1971

    Pedro Morales & Bruno Sammartino vs. Prof. Toru Tanaka & Mr. Fuji
    Championship Wrestling August 5, 1972

    Bruno Sammartino vs. Stan Stasiak
    Madison Square Garden December 10, 1973

    Bruno Sammartino vs. John Tolos
    Madison Square Garden July 22, 1974

    Bruno Sammartino vs. Waldo Von Erich
    Madison Square Garden June 16, 1975

    Bruno Sammartino vs. Stan Hansen
    Shea Stadium June 25, 1976

    Bruno Sammartino vs. Ken Patera
    Madison Square Garden March 7, 1977

    There is more, but that’s all I can think of for now.

    • Kirbbdogg says:

      good matches I also think they should also make a specal editon of his Old VHS tape. Like they did with Brock Lesner’s DVD. On the VHS had some matches with Barion Von Ruske Ernie Ladd Mr Fuji. And add his matches with Billy Gram Randy Savage Sgt slaugter Jonny and Greg Valantine Freddy Blasle. And the matchs you just posted. And end the set with his last 2 matches with Hercuse and the tag match he had with hogan in 87.

    • Dan Duffy says:

      I stand corrected. I watched both of these tapes as well as the Bruno tape whilst researching this Column. The match with Ivan Koloff and Monsoon as referee occurred in 1973. Thank you for pointing this out

      • RCS1988 says:

        The Bruno Koloff with Monsoon as the ref match is November 1975 not 1973. the 1973 November MSG show is November 12, 1973 and neither Sammartino or Koloff were there.

  6. Harry Faversham says:

    I think a Bruno DVD is essential. When you are that big a piece of history (and there’s no moral issues surrounding it) then you cannot be ignored. For the same reason Andre The Giant needs to be profiled, even if his matches don’t hold up as well today. These people WERE wrestling for years and years. Its like ignoring Hogan or Austin to me, just a different era. But a Bruno Sammartino blu ray! Just imagine that! I never thought I’d see the day when he would associate with wwe again.

  7. SRB says:

    I can’t even believe how packed the HOF is this year! Backlund, Sammartino, Trish and Foley so far! Some years I feel like there’s nothing going on and other years are huge! I was there live for the Hogan one, that was a packed year too.

  8. Steve says:

    They def need to release a definitive collection. It is a must

    • SRB says:

      I can agree. But, most people on this site would argue against the old guys getting sets. I for one am always for it, but then have to listen to how it wouldn’t sell because little kids wouldn’t want it. Nevermind the older fans who have stayed loyal for 25 years.

      • Steve says:

        Yeah I agree with you…..most on this site would rather a few more dvd’s with the Mankind-Taker Hell in a Cell over a collection on a legend. Maybe they should just make A definitive repeat 3 DVD set

        • SRB says:

          The funniest and also weirdest thing to me about arguing for only current stars to have sets is that people always cite small kids as being the main ones who buy sets. Now unless you are a small kid yourself why would you argue that sets only need to appeal to small kids? Are the comments on this site from small children? Is LP1 9 years old? Is DB 7? Is Harry 6? Then stop arguing for small children.

          • Mark D says:

            I think that the point is that the majority of modern day fans (aged 15 – 35) were only really around from the 80s (and even 90s) onwards and as a result don’t have an emotional investment back to their childhood with stars from the 60s and 70s (like Billy Graham and Bruno Sammartino). Granted there are ‘hardcore’ and ‘history buff’ fans within that age group who like historical wrestling and would buy them (me included), but if you didn’t grow up with those stars it’s very possible that you aren’t invested in them enough to go and buy their DVD. And fans from ‘their era’ are now likely 50+ and aren’t following the business to know there is a DVD about Billy Graham which has been released. This could result in the lower sales of these sets and in turn why WWE aren’t releasing as many of those type anymore.

            However to that I would say WWE should find ways to get the word out to the lapsed fans from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Those fans are still about, why not use advertising to let them know Bruno (lets say) has a DVD out? Put the commercials in mainstream shows, send Bruno out to talk shows (where his demographic will be watching) etc. to promote hos DVD. As I don’t believe WWE promotes their DVD projects outside if their own ‘bubble’ very often – do they?

  9. Vincenzzzzzo says:

    I’m looking forward to, hopefully, WWE putting out a comprehensive DVD on the career of Bruno Sammartino. Now that he’s going into the Hall of Fame, that might be a reality. I’d love to see those old matches remastered on DVD/Blu-ray.

  10. Simon says:

    If WWE were to release a Bruno Sammartino set, it’d be cool to put the old Coliseum video on the Blu Ray extras. Can’t be longer than an hour or so.

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