Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Reports are circulating that former two-time WWE (then known as the WWWF -- World Wide Wrestling Federation) Heavyweight champion "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino is being courted to accept the WWE invitation to be inducted into the organization's hall of fame next year.
Sammartino has repeatedly turned down WWE's invitations into the hall of fame because of long-standing differences he has had with the company and its direction. Also, there are reports that Sammartino believes he is due revenue from merchandising.
I unabashly say that Bruno Sammartino is and for as long as I have been a wrestling fan, my favorite wrestler. My early days as a wrestling fan were spent at the old Capital Centre in Landover, MD to watch Sammartino take on the likes of Ivan Koloff, Stan Hansen and Larry Zbyszko. The battle against Zbyszko, his former protege, was a lumberjack match that drew the first wrestling sellout in Capital Centre history -- 20,000 -- a week after the two drew 41,000 at Shea Stadium in New York.
What is well known about the history of the WWE is that, without Bruno as champion and its main draw during the 60's and 70's, the company may have never experienced Hulkamania or Wrestlemania. There were a number of times that the McMahon Family looked to Sammartino to pull them out of financial despair. Sammartino still holds the record for the longest championship reign (eight years from 1963-1971) in WWE history. Sammartino's second reign was three years.
While I have always applauded the WWE's Hall of Fame efforts in chronicling the history of the business, I have always felt that the Hall of Fame was not legitimate without Sammartino's inclusion. There are other longstanding alumni of the WWE that have not been recognized as yet including another long-time world champ in Bob Backlund as well as one of the greatest tag-team wrestlers of all time, Tony Garea.
Reports are saying that Triple H is trying to set up a personal meeting with Sammartino to discuss this situation. I'm not holding out too much hope that "The Living Legend" will accept the invitation but it would make things very complete if he did.
Bruno Sammartino was the first and only pro wrestler to be featured on the old syndicated sports TV show "Greatest Sports Legends" (sometimes known as "Classic Sports Legends"). Here is that episode, hosted by hall of fame baseball pitcher Tom Seaver.
Bruno Sammartino -- Greatest Sports Legends 1979