WWE legend Bruno Sammartino passes away

Simon Moss
April 19, 2018

Former wrestling champions, Bruno Sammartino, has died today April 18 at the age of 82, WWE confirms. Two of his siblings passed away at young ages, while Sammartino moved to America with his mother and father (already living in Pittsburgh) in 1950.

A native of small Italian mountain town of Pizzoferrato in the Abruzzi region of Italy, Sammartino emigrated to the United States and his where his body-building skills - he could bench press 565 pounds - were noticed by wrestling promoter Vince McMahon Sr., who began booking him fights. But it was his 48-second defeat of Nature Boy Buddy Rogers on May 17, 1963 at Madison Square Garden for his first WWWF championship that catapulted Sammartino into superstardom. His first title loss to Ivan Koloff in 1971 snapped a almost eight-year reign of 2,803 days as champion that still stands as a WWE record.

Sammartino sold out the famed Madison Square Garden in all its incarnations a remarkable 188 times, the last time being in 2003 when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by one of his biggest enthusiasts, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Bruno Sammartino proved that hard work can overcome even the most difficult of circumstances".

Sammartino was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the 2013 class after turning down previous offers to do so, according to ESPN.

With a reign lasting over eight years, Sammartino is not only the longest reigning champion in WWE - but also in professional wrestling history.

That world title reign lasted nearly eight years.

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Following his retirement from the sport in 1981, Sammartino would later serve as a commentator.

"Bruno is indirectly responsible for where I am today".

Our thoughts are with his family and fans during this painful time.

Sammartino's integrity extended to helping his fellow wrestlers, as he often stood up for them in battles against management in an effort to ensure that other wrestlers on his cards were paid what they were promised.

A true friend...and one of the toughest people I've ever met.

The wrestler is survived by his wife Carol and his sons David, Darryl and Dan Sammartino. Following the news of his passing, WWE stars paid tribute to Sammartino on social media.

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