Name: Bruno Sammartino
Year Inducted: 2002
Induction Category: Television Era

Bruno Sammartino

Due to his phenomenal and heroic ring efforts, "The Living Legend" is the term used to describe Bruno Sammartino. Born on October 6, 1935 in Abruzzi, Italy, Sammartino and his family came to America in 1950.

In his youth, Sammartino trained extensively as an amateur wrestler. He even boxed for a brief period and later became one of the strongest powerlifters in history. His wrestling career as a professional began in 1959. Success came quickly for Bruno as he teamed with "Whipper" Billy Watson to capture the International Tag Team Titles in Toronto only three years after his ring debut.

Sammartino scored his most significant victory by defeating "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers for the WWWF Title on May 17, 1963. "The Living Legend" would go on to reign as champion for an unprecedented eight years in the WWWF until he was dethroned by Russian Ivan Koloff on January 18, 1971 at Madison Square Garden. During this amazing run as champion, Sammartino would briefly hold the WWWF Tag Team Titles with Spiros Arion in July 1967. Sammartino eventually teamed up to capture tag team gold with new partner Dominic Denucci and the Italian duo had a fantastic series of matches against the Mongols.

Under the management of wrestling great Arnold Skaaland, Sammartino became the first two-time WWWF Champion when he defeated Stan Stasiak on December 10, 1973. Sammartino had another lengthy run as champion until his eventual defeat by the flashy and flamboyant "Superstar" Billy Graham on April 30, 1977 in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1980, Sammartino would square off in one of his last and most bitter feuds against Larry Zbyszko.

Bruno's opponents dreaded his powerful "bear hug" hold, which would squeeze the oxygen out of their lungs. Another hold that defined "The Living Legend" was his infamous "backbreaker", which he used to punish opponents en route to victory.

In and out of the ring, Sammartino impacted the wrestling industry. Bruno was a featured ringside commentator for the WWWF in the late 1970's, as well as in the newly enhanced WWF during the mid 1980's. Bruno has appeared as an actor in the independent film "Saloonatics" in 2002 and also in the wrestling video "Legends Never Die" in 2006. His colorful life and career can be appreciated through his autobiography entitled, Bruno Sammartino: An Autobiography of Wrestling's Living Legend. Bruno's son, David (aka Bruno Sammartino, Jr. initially) continued the next generation of the Sammrtino wrestling family when he turned pro in 1980.

Bruno currently makes his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he enjoys retirement. It is with great pleasure and distinction that the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum induct Bruno Sammartino into the Inaugural Class of 2002.

-Andrew Malnoske



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