WWE Hall of Fame: Ranking the Best Candidates for Inducting Bruno Sammartino
Photo from WWE.com (Credit: Pro Wrestling Illustrated)
WWE's 2013 Hall of Fame class will feature one of the company's biggest legends in Bruno Sammartino, but who inducts him?
The Madison Square Garden Ceremony will also see Trish Stratus, Bob Backlund and Mick Foley, making this one of the most star-packed classes in WWE Hall of Fame history.
When Sammartino finally gets his deserved entry, someone will have the honor of inducting him, of being the one who officially ushers in the next stage of the Living Legend's career. That person should be someone with distinction, a famous face to several generations and someone with significant ties to Sammartino.
Some of the candidates listed here are taken from Sammartino's suggestions during an interview with Bleacher Report's own Donald Wood. Others are prominent names who would be fitting choices to induct pro wrestling's Babe Ruth into the WWE Hall of Fame.
7. Bill Watts
Bruno Sammartino (left) Adrian Street (center) Bill Watts (right) (Photo from mainmanwalkin's Flickr account)
Bruno Sammartino mentioned Bill Watts in the previously mentioned Donald Wood interview, but he's certainly the least likely of the major candidates.
Watts himself is in the Hall of Fame, but despite his accomplishments isn't all that known to younger generations.
Watts would be considered because he was both an ally and enemy of Sammartino in what was then the WWWF. In the mid-'60s, Watts and Sammartino teamed up to defeat the likes of Gorilla Monsoon and Waldo Von Erich or Smasher Sloan and the Golden Terror.
As Jim Ross recalls, Watts fought Sammartino at Madison Square Garden three times.
Selecting Watts as Sammartino's inductor would please the former champ and a portion of older fans, but it wouldn't have the big-name impact WWE is likely looking for.
6. Dominic DeNucci
Dominic DeNucci vs. Karl Krupp
In the same vein as Bill Watts, the choice of Dominic DeNucci as the man who inducts Bruno Sammartino would suffer from star power.
Although DeNucci won three tag titles with WWE in the '70s, few fans today remember the Italian strongman. His impact goes beyond his in-ring career as DeNucci trained several wrestlers including Mick Foley. That is something WWE could certainly play up.
The main reason for choosing DeNucci would be his relationship with Sammartino.
The two teamed together in the early '70s, winning the WWWF International Tag Team titles together in 1971. Beyond that, DeNucci and Sammartino are good friends.
DeNucci would certainly top Sammartino's wish list, but not WWE's. Besides DeNucci not being a household name, he and Vince McMahon have had issues in the past.
DeNucci told WrestleZone's and Bleacher Report's Justin LaBar, "Plain English, Vince McMahon don't like me, okay. Vince McMahon don't like Italian, Spanish, he don't like anything but himself."
Tension between he and McMahon makes DeNucci's selection far less likely, but Sammartino could push for his old friend.
5. Harley Race
Harley Race doesn't have the kind of relationship with Bruno Sammartino that Dominic Denucci and Bill Watts have, but he's an icon worthy of the induction honor.
Race, like Sammartino, was world champ for a long time. The two men's names both come up in discussion of the greatest wrestlers of all time. In fact, when the two champions met in the ring, no winner was ever determined.
Race told In Your Head Radio (via ProWrestling.net) that he and Sammartino fought to draws each time out of respect for each other.
Should Race be chosen to induct Sammartino, it would be a case of legend inducting legend.
If fans don't remember him as an active wrestler, they may remember him a manager to men like Vader or his occasional appearances on Raw.
4. Larry Zbyszko
Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko interview-1980
It's unfortunate that Larry Zbyszko isn't more widely known by today's fans, because he would otherwise be a perfect fit to induct Bruno Sammartino.
Zbyszko was Sammartino's storyline mentee until he broke away from the champ and the two became rivals. In 1980, the two battled in front of a packed Shea Stadium crowd inside a steel cage.
There would be a cyclical poetry to Zbyszko going from protege to enemy to inductor, but WWE will likely shy away from him because he's just not a big enough name.
3. Triple H
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
In what would be a startling bit of irony, a man who built his career on penis jokes and crotch chopping could induct a man who refused entry into the Hall of Fame partially because of his distaste for acts like that.
Triple H, though, was the man who finally convinced Bruno Sammartino to join the WWE Hall of Fame. Sammartino told ESPN that Triple H was the one who won him over.
Triple H spoke to him about WWE's changes and the direction they are heading. Those conversations have led to the seemingly impossible moment of WWE and Sammartino coming to terms.
It would then be former world champ inducting former world champ, two distinct generations bridging together.
Triple H certainly has the name recognition with today's audience, even if his relationship doesn't go back as far as someone like Dominic DeNucci. Being a WWE executive and having significant say about who inducts Sammartino gives Triple H an edge as well.
2. George Steele
Bruno Sammartino (left) with George Steele (right)
George Steele, the hairy-chested, turnbuckle-eating Hall of Famer, is one of Bruno Sammartino's rivals who many fans today would still recognize.
Steele may be remembered as an in-ring performer, as the man who accompanied Ricky Steamboat to his famous WrestleMania III match or as the elder statesman of the Oddities.
He and Sammartino battled several times in the late '60s and '70s. The two fought to a draw at Madison Square Garden in 1968.
Steele offers a reasonably famous face to go along with a personal connection to Sammartino.
1. Ivan Koloff
Ivan Koloff vs. Bruno Sammartino-1971
In 1971, in front of more than 21,000 fans at Madison Square Garden, Ivan Koloff did the unimaginable.
He defeated a man seemingly incapable of losing, WWWF champ Bruno Sammartino. Sammartino had held the title for nearly a decade at that point.
The two rivals reuniting for this historic purpose creates a poetic moment, one that bridges past and present.
Koloff is certainly not as well-known to today's fans as Triple H, but there are a few generations that will remember The Russian Bear in his prime.
He was on the wish list that Sammartino told to Donald Wood, and among those names, he is the most recognizable to the widest range of fans. It's a move that would make Sammartino and WWE both happy.