WWE’s Hall of Fame will finally welcome Bruno Sammartino, the longest-reigning champion in the company’s history. He held the World Championship for 11 years total, eight in a single reign. That stint began on May 17, 1963 when he defeated “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds.
He was of an era when you couldn’t make a wrestler admit the outcome was predetermined if their life was at stake. WWE now openly declares it is “sports entertainment.” Thus the length of a title reign is mostly a measure of how long you can keep selling out arenas. Sammartino sold out more than 200 shows at Madison Square Garden. In today’s short attention span society, it’s hard to imagine anyone challenging his championship record.
The world famous champ stopped working for the company in 1988, and since then has been one of its harshest critics. He despised the use of steroids and the numerous wrestling deaths they’ve contributed to. He also decried WWE’s increasingly vulgar storylines, which have included a woman giving birth to a hand and depictions of necrophilia.
Because of his distaste for the new WWE, Sammartino turned down repeated offers to take his place in the Hall. He once commented that he’d be “the world’s biggest hypocrite” if he accepted.Times have changed. WWE’s storylines are now PG-13 and the promotion does drug testing. The “Living Legend” was pleased enough with what he’s seen to finally join the Hall of Fame.
In an interview with WWE.com, superstar Triple H said that many of Sammartino’s complaints were valid. But because of recent changes, it was time to reach out again. At first, he seems like an odd choice to extend an olive branch. After all, Triple H was a leading figure in the Attitude era and its raunchy storylines. He was the wrestler who simulated necrophilia in the reviled “Katie Vick” angle. But he was also trained by Walter “Killer” Kowalski, a well-respected contemporary of Sammartino. Triple H has a great respect for the business and its history.
“Without the history, there is no today and there is no tomorrow,” Triple H told WWE.com. “To look back on the history of WWE, one of the most important figures in the long story of where this all came from wasn’t recognized. And that was Bruno. It’s important to be able to allow the fans that do know who Bruno is to have the opportunity to pay tribute to him one more time. And to allow the fans that don’t know who Bruno is, or have heard of him and don’t really know that much about him, the opportunity to learn who he is.”
That opportunity will come April 6, 2013 during the festivities for Wrestlemania 29. The “Living Legend” will take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. The place? Madison Square Garden, of course.