Longest Reigning Champ Back After Twenty-Five Year Break From WWE
Nearly fifty years ago, Bruno Sammartino became the WWWF Champion for then promoter Vincent McMahon Sr. Thereafter, in two separate stints covering more than 11 years, Bruno held the coveted Championship Belt for what is now the WWE. Today, the WWE announced that Bruno Sammartino will be inducted into in the WWE Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at Madison Square Garden.
Over a quarter of a century ago, Mr. Sammartino disassociated with WWE over the direction it was taking as “sports entertainment” instead of an arena-based professional wrestling product. The vocal former Champ also spoke out on steroid use in professional wrestling by appearing on many high profile shows like The Geraldo Rivera Show, The Donahue Show and The Larry King Show.
For years, Sammartino rejected the Hall of Fame invitation for the many publicized reasons. However, since that time, through relationships with both Dr. Joseph Maroon and Paul Levesque, Bruno has learned that WWE has evolved and is impressed with WWE’s Talent Wellness Program and its family-friendly content.
In 2009, the WWE hired world-renowned Neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon as Medical Director, to head their Talent Wellness Program. Maroon additionally, hand-picked a team of Concussion, Orthopedic, Cardiology and Internal Medicine doctors from UPMC in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, from the hometown healthcare system that Sammartino is a patient of. Unbeknownst to the WWE at the time, Dr. Maroon had previously successfully performed an extensive invasive surgical procedure on Bruno to relieve extensive spinal cord compression that had left the Champ immobilized and unable to walk. After the surgery and without the aid of any pain medications, Bruno devised his own physical rehabilitation program and regained the ability to walk seven miles daily.
Needless to say, Bruno became a fan of Dr. Maroon’s and even agreed to be part of a book authored by Dr. Maroon titled “The Longevity Factor”. Bruno followed the famous surgeon’s wellness advice provided in the book, and began to take fish oil on a daily basis. Knowing the effects of taking hundreds of hits to the head (many with metal chairs), Bruno was further impressed by Dr. Maroon’s co-invention of the worldwide baseline IMPACT concussion testing, which was developed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Dr. Maroon serves as a concussion specialist to the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was not hard for the WWE to establish credibility thereafter with Bruno when they began taking major steps to test its talent for concussions, as well as use of performance-enhancing drugs, disease, heart problems, and overall wellness. Bruno was contacted numerous times by Triple H, but he still declined to discuss the Hall of Fame. Bruno ultimately conceded because Killer Kowalski (longtime Sammartino most respected opponent) trained Triple H, which enabled Bruno and Triple H to develop their own “old school” friendship.
The final factor that convinced Sammartino that the time was right to enter the WWE Hall of Fame was when his fans all over the world overload Sammartino with letters asking him to reconsider for the fans’ sake. The 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is being held in New York’s Madison Square Garden, where Bruno appeared an unprecedented 211 times, picked-up the 625-pound wrestler, Haystacks Calhoun, and won the title on May 17, 1963, nearly 50 years ago.
Sammartino walked 6 miles this morning after eating a bowl of oatmeal. He has never used steroids, performance enhancement drugs, HGT injections or transfusions. With a big smile on his face, Bruno said “my mother will be proud that I will not need to have Lance Armstrong or Hulk Hogan help with my speech. Good conquers evil – it just takes a lifetime to see the final score.”
Sammartino remains the childhood hero of many world leaders, movie and sporting superstars and a whole lot of people who are just inspired by seeing a weakling become a physical success and role model. The Champ was bullied as a kid, but later in life beat adversity, sickness, war, Japanese Giants, a bear, an orangutan, all challengers and all evil, all due to a mother’s love.
Currently, a documentary on Bruno’s personal life is being bid on by distributors, and a feature film is being evaluated by a major studio. A life-sized statue of the Champ is planned for 2013 in Pittsburgh PA.
Tickets for the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Madison Square Garden are currently available through all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com
or by calling 1-800-745-3000.