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