The news came down today that Bruno Sammartino passed away at 82 years old. If you don’t know, Bruno wasn’t just the first big star for what was then the World Wide Wrestling Federation, he was champion for almost eight years uninterrupted and was the prototype for what would come later with Hulk Hogan, the Rock, and even current names like Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns. Bruno was the biggest name in the business for almost 30 years. But that’s not all.
Bruno was a link between my budding fandom and that of my Dad’s. When I started watching back in the mid 80s Bruno was a part time wrestler, full time announcer. And when my Dad saw me watching the show on TV and heard Bruno’s voice we had another thing to do together as Father and Son. He would tell me about when he used to go see Bruno at the Garden in New York or at the old Turner’s Arena in Washington D.C. Bruno was the man to my father’s generation of wrestling fans. And he had a great life story outside the ring, too. If you have the WWE Network go look up his Hall of Fame induction speech or his Legends with JBL interview.
But while we all obviously missed Bruno’s heyday, what he did in 85 and 86 was every bit as remarkable. At 50 years old he was still working on top at house shows in some of his old haunts like Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden, and still drawing. He even did a mini program with Randy Savage when he stood in for Ricky Steamboat after Savage badly injured him during a match. 50 years old, working cage matches. There’s one on one of the old Prime Time Wrestling reruns that’s on the Network. Go look it up for real.
So Thank You and Rest in Peace, Bruno Sammartino. You were a true legend. Thank you for being a bridge between two generations of wrestling fans in my family and for all the memories you gave my Dad, and the handful that you gave me.