Beloved Wrestler Bruno Sammartino Dead at 82

Sammartino began lifting weights at a young age in hopes of becoming one of the strongest men on the planet.

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. The promotion would bring in huge men such as Killer Kowalski, Bill Miller, George Steele and Gorilla Monsoon and build them up as unbeatable monsters capable of ending Sammartino's title reign, but none of them could do it.

The WWE opened a live event Wednesday night with a 10-bell salute for Sammartino. Sammartino would hold the championship for almost eight years, the longest reign in professional wrestling history, and then again for another three-plus years when he regained the belt in 1973.

VAVEL would like to extend its condolences to the family of Bruno Sammartino as well as the friends and fans who mourn in his passing.

"One of the finest men I knew, in life and in business", he wrote in a post on Twitter.

WWE said Sammartino sold out Madison Square Garden, known as the mecca of professional wrestling, hundreds of times over his career.

After leaving Italy with his family following the World War II, Sammartino settled in Pittsburgh.

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During his first reign, Sammartino headlined the first wrestling card at the then-new MSG.

It was an emotional night when he lost the title in 1971 but won the title back in 1973.

Sammartino, named The Italian Superman, caught the attention of Vince McMahon Sr. and became a professional wrestler after setting a world record in 1959 by bench-pressing 565 pounds.

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.

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.

Bruno also showed leadership skills and an unwavering dedication to the business in a famous incident with Stan Hansen in 1976. I'm so grateful I had the chance to meet Bruno and tell him how much he meant to my grandfather and the entire Hart family.

"Through his uncommon strength and surprising grace he embodied the spirit of Pittsburgh on the world stage", Peduto said.

  • Stacy Houston