By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
When I became a pro wrestling fan Bruno Sammartino was a part-time performer in the ring. He provided color commentary on WWF Superstars of Wrestling, a syndicated problem I watched each Sunday morning on KPLR. He would have occasional spats with Jesse Ventura as Bruno and the third man on the team Vince McMahon were clearly in favor of the fan favorites.
Bruno did still step into the ring from time to time. I remember specific feuds with Roddy Piper and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. His only WrestleMania match was in the Battle Royal in Chicago at the second installment of the event. He seconded his son David at the original WrestleMania. Admittedly I was a Hulkamaniac in this era, but I did recognize and appreciate what Bruno had done for the industry.
|Hall of Fame induction|
Then there was a huge dispute between Sammartino and McMahon. That estranged relationship lasted decades before Triple H seemingly mended fences and invited Bruno to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. This was exciting news to me as Chad and I had already made plans to attend WrestleMania 29 that year in New Jersey. What made the deal even sweeter was the ceremony was going to be held at Madison Square Garden, the building Bruno sold out time and time again. Several times that night I tried wrapping my brain around the fact that I was finally at MSG. I closed my eyes more than once and pictured the building being set up for the matches and could hear that infamous bell ring and Howard Finkle's voice on the mic that dropped down from the ceiling.
|With the Bruno statue after it was unveiled in New Orleans|
Bruno still holds the record for the longest reigning WWF (now WWE) Heavyweight Champion at more than 4,000 days. I'm glad WWE officials and Bruno were able to re-establish their relationship. While he didn't make many appearances after his induction, it's gratifying to know he did take his rightful place in the eyes of WWE and a new generation of pro wrestling fans have had a chance to learn something about Bruno. Plus there's the permanent memorial in the form of the statue unveiled in 2014.
May he rest in peace.