Bruno Sammartino's return to WWE is now complete with his Hall of Fame induction. Now he needs to stay here.
Sammartino is one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the sport. He was the first major star of the company, and his return has been long overdue. As many had pointed out prior, there's no point in having a WWE Hall of Fame if Sammartino is not a member.
What is great about Sammartino is that he hasn't become a bitter old wrestler who puts down every aspect of the product. Bret Hart, for everything he's done for WWE, has become a bit of a farce for the way in which he complains about the company and still holds on to the Montreal Screwjob.
At a certain point, you just stop listening to what he has to say because none of it is constructive. Triple H's legacy is massively inflated by WWE at every opportunity, but for Hart to say he's not in the top 1,000 wrestlers of all time is ridiculous.
In stark contrast to Hart was Sammartino.
While very critical of WWE years ago, he was far from the only one to voice concern over the company's emphasis on pushing the button of taste.
It was very encouraging to hear the way Sammartino understood the CM Punk promo in which the Straight-Edge Superstar discounted Sammartino's accomplishments (h/t Marc Middleton of WrestlingInc.com):
I think his interviews for a villain...I think he's very, very good. That's why it surprised me that Billy Graham would say anything when he used to be a villain who would say things to put down his opponents, even myself. I think he does a very good job when he gets on the microphone, how he talks, how he says it. I took no offence at CM Punk, I know he was doing it to be a villain, that's what he does.
Fortunately The Living Legend simply brushed aside what was a complete non-issue. Punk is a student of the game, and he's plainly aware of what kind of wrestler Sammartino is. He meant nothing more than to incite the crowd with his promo.
You could easily have seen Sammartino going, "Well, who is this Punk anyway? He's done nothing in the company, and I would have beaten him in three seconds."
Instead, he went so far as to actually put Punk over. That's exactly what you want from your legends. They should continue watching the product and help to elevate the biggest stars in the company by offering legitimate praise.
Although he doesn't need to appear on WWE television regularly, Sammartino should increase his presence and visibility with the company.
It's imperative that younger fans comprehend exactly what Sammartino meant to the business. Without him, there's no Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena, etc. Although there's a plethora of videos at one's disposal, there's no better way to understand just who Sammartino was in his prime than having him come out for the occasional event and talk about it in the legendary terms he deserves.
You could equate it to the way WWE handles older stars from from the NWA like Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair and Harley Race. While they all wrestled in WWE at one time, their best years were spent elsewhere. When they make an appearance for something like Raw 1,000, the people who aren't aware of the wrestlers are given the impression that Steamboat, Flair and Race are extremely important.
That leads the younger or more novice fans to look into who this Bruno Sammartino guy is. They read up on his career, watch his matches and see the ways in which wrestling has evolved.
Here's to hoping WrestleMania 29 is not the last time fans see Sammartino on WWE television.