Bruno Sammartino is the greatest professional wrestler in the history of the business, and the fact that he is going into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the 2013 class at Madison Square Garden is one of the biggest coups in the long existence of the company.
For those too young to know exactly who this man is or what he did, Sammartino was wrestling's original face champion. Before there was Hulk Hogan or John Cena, there was Sammartino and his unbelievably long title reigns.
CM Punk has been heralded as a star for holding the WWE title for 434 days, but in the '60s and '70s, Sammartino held the title twice for a total of 4040 days (2803 and 1237 respectively.)
That’s over 11 years total as champion.
It was a different time in wrestling and it is almost impossible to compare eras, but there was no bigger star in the wrestling world from the early '60s through the early '80s than Sammartino. His induction into the Hall of Fame is way past due.
Is Bruno Sammartino the greatest wrestler of all time?
One of the main reasons Sammartino refused to work with the WWE before this year was the living legend’s distaste for CEO Vince McMahon.
From the lack of a push during Bruno’s son David’s career to the very public verbal battle over the rampant drug use—both steroids and hard drugs—and the sexual misconduct within the WWE during the late '80s and early '90s, Sammartino and McMahon waged war through the media, even going as far as debating on the Larry King and Phil Donahue shows.
While WWE officials knew that the legend would never work with McMahon, Sammartino told WWE.com that it was Triple H that brokered the deal that finally convinced him to accept the company’s offer:
Triple H contacted me and started telling me all the things that had changed and everything that was going on with WWE. I started watching it after talking to him and when I saw it, I was very, very impressed.
Triple H also told WWE.com why it was so important for him to get Sammartino in the Hall of Fame:
I love the history of this business. Without the history, there is no tomorrow. 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.
No matter what your thoughts are on Triple H as a wrestler or as a person, the fact that he was able to work out a deal with one of the greatest legends in wrestling history is a huge feather in his cap as a future leader of the WWE.
Triple H got the biggest name not currently in the Hall of Fame to agree to be inducted; that’s something Vince McMahon has been unable to do for the last 20 years.
As great as the induction into the Hall of Fame and the aura that will surround that ceremony will be from now on since a name like Sammartino will be enshrined, this deal is reportedly so much more than just a one-night celebration.
In the same report from PWInsider (h/t Wrestling Inc.), there will be a much more of Sammartino in the future of WWE content:
Bruno's deal with WWE is expected to be more than just the Hall of Fame induction as WWE wants to use him for commentary on DVD's, an appearance on TV and some other features. Bruno will likely be involved with the big 50th anniversary DVD that WWE has been planning.
There is a small contingent of fans that is absolutely ecstatic about the announcement of possible TV appearances and DVD commentary work. Sammartino is one of the most intelligent and interesting speakers in the business, and it is just a matter of time before the rest of the WWE Universe is excited as well.
Sammartino is a living legend, and the fact that the WWE was able to secure one of the greatest stars the business has ever seen—while he is still able to accept the honor of being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame—is the ultimate coup.
Madison Square Garden is the house Sammartino helped build, and the arena will explode for the former champion at least one more time.
For more wrestling talk, listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot topics you just can’t miss (some language NSFW).