WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino dies at 82

WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino passed away at age 82.

Sammartino held the WWE Championship for nearly eight years — by far the longest reign of all time, and a record for all professional wrestling champions, no matter the organization. A household name all over the country, the beloved hero defended his title in legendary rivalries against WWE Hall of Famers Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon and George “The Animal” Steele.

In early 1968, Sammartino headlined the first wrestling event at the brand-new Madison Square Garden, just eight days after it opened. The Garden truly was the house that Bruno built, as he sold it out an astounding 187 times. When he lost the title to Ivan Koloff in 1971, grown men in the crowd were seen weeping, but on Dec. 10, 1973, Sammartino became the first two-time WWE Champion and held the title for an additional three-and-a-half years.

On Aug. 9, 1980, Sammartino defeated his former protégé, Larry Zbyszko, inside a steel cage at New York City’s Shea Stadium in front of more than 35,000 people. The heated grudge match broke box-office records for wrestling events, and Bruno retired from the ring the following year.

Sammartino returned to WWE in the mid-80s as a broadcaster. Now known as The Living Legend, Sammartino also engaged in several rivalries with a generation of WWE’s greatest villains, including “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Honky Tonk Man.

The star power and influence of Sammartino was exemplified by the fact that he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was the 188th and final time that Sammartino headlined and sold out Madison Square Garden.

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