Bruno Sammartino as the WWWF World Heavyweight Champion
"Good conquers evil - it just takes a lifetime to see the final score."Bruno Leopoldo Francesco Sammartino
was born on October 6, 1935 in Pizzoferrato, Italy
. Once in the United States, Bruno began making an impact in the business of professional wrestling.
Climbing his way up to Vincent J. McMahon's World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF, now WWE
), Bruno won the WWWF World Heavyweight Title
, and held it across two reigns for a combined total of 4,040 days – the first being the longest single reign in wrestling history at 2,803 days – cementing two records that have yet to be broken. Bruno’s popularity saw him win dozens of matches in the northeast section of the country. Bruno had taken the territory by storm and fans filled arenas hoping to see Bruno take home another victory.
After retiring, he grew increasingly disheartened with the direction that professional wrestling was being taken throughout the next few decades
under McMahon's son Vince Jr.
– most glaringly, the growing amounts of vulgarity and sexuality, and more wrestlers abusing steroids and other drugs. As a result, he famously refused to involve himself with mainstream wrestling promotions unless they cleaned up their act.
Ultimately, WWE had shifted back to producing family-friendly content starting in 2008, and with McMahon's son-in-law Triple H
convincing him to do so in light of it, Bruno finally accepted induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in early 2013.
"Living Legend Tropes":
- Arch-Enemy: George "The Animal" Steele, Ivan Koloff, Killer Kowalski, Larry Zbyszko, Gorilla Monsoon, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Bruno built his career off kicking ass.
- Badass: Absolutely.
- Badass Grandpa: Just listen to an interview with him from 2013. The main has the look and air of a grizzled veteran of the mat.
- Bald of Awesome: In more recent years.
- Carpet of Virility: As seen in the page image, Bruno sported a magnificent Type 1.
- Cassandra Truth: Following the passing of Eddie Gilbert on February 18, 1995 at the age of 33, Bruno gave an interview where he said that wrestling was "full of human junk" and needed to be cleaned up or abolished.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: One of the reasons he was such a star attraction. In 1959, Bruno set a (unofficial) bench press record of 565 lbs, without wearing elbow or wrist wraps. Wrestling audiences would see this inordinate strength in action as he managed to pick up the 640-pound Haystacks Calhoun and slam him to the mat. And through this, his bearhugs could be devastating, as "The Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers found out the hard way. Nowadays, even as he pushes 80 years old, he is still in excellent health, and can still outlift a lot of much younger men.
- Was a scrawny underweight child in his youth who almost died of Rheumatic fever. Then he dedicated his young adulthood to weight training.
- Cool Old Guy: Fans see him in this light nowadays.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Sometimes in more than 1 match a night. Bruno made a name for himself through decisive victories.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Growing up in Italy during World War II; War Is Hell, indeed. As a child during the Nazi occupation of Pizzoferrato, venturing outside his family's hideout at Valla Rocca meant risking their lives, and so food was scarce. Four of his six older siblings died, and his mother was once captured and shot in the shoulder as she retrieved food and supplies before escaping. From his malnutrition, Bruno contracted a near-fatal case of rheumatic fever. The Nazis then eventually discovered him and his family, and they were lined up for execution by firing squad. Fortunately, a resistance movement saved them at the last minute.
- Defeating the Undefeatable: Bruno losing was a rare sight during his main title run even if the title was not on the line.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: His global fame and success as a professional wrestler, especially coming from such a bad childhood.
- Game-Breaking Injury: Stan Hansen gave one to Bruno when the former botched a body slam. Despite returning to action just 2 months later, fans caught on that it had changed Bruno, who was less willing to take moves which required landing on his back or neck.
- Good Old Ways: In his era, Kayfabe was the law of the land, attending a wrestling show was fun for the whole family, with any objectionable content kept at a bare minimum (if allowed at all), and the wrestlers weren't all abusing drugs and steroids like they would as the years went by. Also, Bruno takes pride in his Herculean physique being forged naturally (that is, through years of hard work and smart nutrition), and has been outspoken about his contempt for the steroid and drug abuse that so plagued the wrestling industry in the 1980s and beyond. This was one of the biggest reasons why he estranged himself from Vincent K. McMahon's WWF/E, the other being the increasing amounts of family-unfriendly content being shown in the arenas and on TV.
- Groin Attack: He won his first title match with Buddy Rogers after accidentally head butting here, so he refused to accept the title.
- Happily Married: Bruno has been married to his wife Carol since 1959.
- Humble Hero: Even after becoming the highest paid wrestler in the 60s, he didn't spend his money for a more lavish lifestyle; for instance, he has lived in the same house since 1959. At the WWE Hall of Fame, during a 20 minute speech (which he said was too long), he took credit for nothing, claiming that all of his successes were due to sheer luck or the support of his fans.
- Invincible Hero: His fame comes from this trope. Bruno constantly sold out Madison Square Garden by defeating virtually every wrestler of note.
- Living Legend: A great example of one but this was also his moniker.
- Misery Builds Character: His ironclad work ethic and sense of morality come from his rough childhood under the Nazi occupation of his town. See Dark and Troubled Past listed above.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Bruno wanted his fight with Larry Zbyszko to be one. The match later became a cage match.
- Not What It Looks Like: One of the opponents he body slammed died on the spot, it was later reported the cause of death was a heart attack and that there was a good chance Bruno wasn't the cause of it.
- Popularity Power: How did Bruno hold the title for more than 10 years? By filling arenas with people who could not get enough of Bruno defeating any adversary placed before him.
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Larry Zbyszko's heel turn made him this.
- Red Baron: "The Italian Superman," "The Living Legend"
- Ring Oldies: Definitely one of them.
- Squash Match: When he finally did win the championship from Buddy Rodgers, this was the manner in which it happened.
- Stunned Silence: When he dropped the belt to Koloff at the end of his first title reign, the crowd fell so silent that he thought he had lost his hearing.
- Tag Team: Annihilation Inc., with Dick The Bruiser in Bruiser's World Wrestling Association in Indianapolis.
- Throwing Down the Gauntlet: After being betrayed by Larry Zbyszko, Bruno told him a match would take place.
- Took a Level in Badass: Several times in his early life. When he and his family emigrated to America in 1950, he was significantly underweight for his age due to his family's struggles during World War II, and did not know much English, which made him a target for bullies. As a result, he took up weightlifting and wrestling, and the bullying soon stopped. He went on to become a professional wrestler, and within a few years defeated "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers for the WWWF Championship in just 48 seconds. The rest is history.
- Wrestling Family: His son David, from whom he has sadly been estranged for several years. After failing to get over in WWE in the mid-1980s, he would go on to compete around the world and win a few indy titles, but all long after he had fallen off of any kind of radar.