It is no secret to wrestling fans that Bruno Sammartino and Vince McMahon have had some differences in opinion over the years, and that is a big reason why it took so long for Sammartino to accept induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. With "The Living Legend" now on good terms with the WWE, he and McMahon need to settle their feud once and for all.
Will Sammartino and McMahon bury the hatchet at the HOF ceremony?
Throughout the aftermath of the announcement that Sammartino will be a part of the WWE's 2013 Hall of Fame class, it has been widely reported that Triple H was the one who convinced him to change his stance. As it turns out, it was Triple H alone who brokered the deal as McMahon wasn't involved at all.
According to Sammartino in an interview I conducted along with Donald Wood, Brandon Galvin and Michael Cahill for Ring Rust Radio, he has not had any contact with Vince and doesn't plan on speaking him until the night of his induction at Madison Square Garden.
I have not talked to Vince McMahon at all. In the past six months that I have been speaking with Paul Levesque, I have never once talked to Vince McMahon. Now, yes, as you said he is the boss, so I feel that from my conversations with Paul Levesque and the agreements we’ve come to and so forth, I do believe he had to speak to Vince, and Vince of course had to agree.
But as far as myself, I will see him for the first time at Madison Square Garden at the Hall of Fame. But I have not talked to him, and as far as I know, there aren’t any plans for us to talk until we meet in person at that time.
So when that time comes, we shall meet in person and if he wants to bury the hatchet as the old saying goes, I commend him for the changes that he made. I criticized him before, and I will give him credit because these changes could not have taken place without his approval.
So, you know, I have to be fair too here. So, when I meet him I will shake his hand and I will tell him, ‘Hey, I’m willing to bury the hatchet, I didn’t like what you did before, but I like a lot of what you have done since, so I’m willing to put our past behind us.’
The fact that it took someone other than McMahon to get Sammartino into the Hall of Fame speaks to the bad blood between them, but hopefully a better relationship is on the horizon. It's obvious that Sammartino wouldn't have accepted if he didn't want to forge a better partnership with McMahon, and the same can be said of McMahon in terms of allowing Triple H to go ahead with his courtship of Sammartino.
Sammartino has said on many occasions that he didn't like the direction that the WWE was heading in, and that is why he has stayed away for so long. Not only does that take into account the product himself, but Sammartino was also wary of rampant drug use, including steroids. Now that he has been assured that the WWE has cracked down on that considerably, though, he is satisfied with the company as a whole.
So all these years have gone by and I have refused every time, but now what happened is that I found out doctor Joseph Maroon, whom I happen to know personally, he’s a world-renowned neurosurgeon—in fact, he’s operated on me three times—but his reputation is awesome. When I found out he took on that challenge to clean up the drug situation there was over there, that made me feel good.
Time went by, and I was contacted by the WWE, which was Paul Levesque—better known as Triple H—when he contacted me, I was curious, wasn’t convinced, but after a while he started telling me about not only about the drug program and how strict they were, but he started talking about how they were making it more family friendly by doing away with the nudity and vulgarity and the profanity and all that.
Now that Sammartino appears to be intent on "burying the hatchet" as he puts it, the onus shifts to McMahon. Some fans believe that Vince holds grudges, but I don't believe that to be the case. The Ultimate Warrior gave McMahon tons of problems and even essentially held him hostage for more money at one point, but McMahon brought him back on a couple of occasions.
Eric Bischoff attempted to run the WWE out of business while he was with WCW, but Vince brought him aboard. Bret Hart spit in McMahon's face following the Montreal Screwjob, but McMahon was even able to let bygones be bygones with him as well. When Vince sees an opportunity to further the product and make money, he does it regardless of personal feelings.
If McMahon was willing to forgive Warrior, Bischoff and Hart for far more egregious things than Sammartino giving him the cold shoulder, then there is no doubt in my mind that McMahon will move forward with Bruno too. Sammartino can be great for the WWE in terms of being an ambassador and helping out with projects such as DVD's, and there is no way that McMahon will let past squabbles ruin that.
It's no secret that McMahon will be present at the Hall of Fame ceremony, so hopefully he initiates contact with Sammartino. Whether Vince thinks Sammartino was in the wrong or not, Bruno has already essentially said "I'm sorry" by accepting a Hall of Fame invitation. A simple handshake from Vince is all that remains before Bruno and the WWE are officially on great terms again.
I, for one, hope that cameras catch that moment because it would be truly special. Sammartino is the longest-reigning WWE champion in history and is arguably the greatest professional wrestler of all time as well. McMahon is unquestionably the greatest promoter in the history of professional wrestling as he ended the territory days and made the WWE a global phenomenon.
It wouldn't be a stretch to call Sammartino and McMahon the two greatest wrestling pioneers of the past 50 years, so there isn't a fan out there who doesn't want to see them come together. It would represent a new beginning for Sammartino and the WWE, and there is no question that Sammartino being more visible will be beneficial to the fans.
There is no doubt that the WWE has taken care of the things that Sammartino took issue with, so it is very big of him to tip his cap and end his self-imposed ban. The process isn't over since he has yet to speak with McMahon, but I have all the confidence in the world that April 6 will officially be remembered as the night that Sammartino and McMahon buried the hatchet.