Hall of Fame wrestler Bruno Sammartino died at the age of 82, WWE announced Wednesday.
Sammartino is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time and owns the longest reign as WWE champion in history (2,803 days), which he set from 1963 through 1971.
Before Hulk Hogan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and John Cena, Sammartino was the face of WWE and its biggest draw.
Per WWE.com, Sammartino helped sell out Madison Square Garden in New York a remarkable 187 times during his tenure with the company.
WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who inducted Sammartino into the Hall of Fame, paid tribute on Twitter:
Several big names in the wrestling business offered their condolences Wednesday, including New Day member Big E:
Former WWE and current Ring of Honor star Cody Rhodes also tweeted the following:
WWE Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative Triple H chimed in as well:
Additionally, Natalya discussed how much Sammartino meant to her and the Hart Family:
Growing up, my grandfather Stu Hart would ALWAYS talk about Bruno Sammartino and what an incredible wrestler he was. I’m so grateful I had the chance to meet Bruno and tell him how much he meant to my grandfather and the entire Hart family. We will all miss you, Bruno. 🙏♥️ https://t.co/Dclu5hMGa6
Born in Italy, Sammartino immigrated to the United States at the age of 15 in 1950.
Sammartino and his family lived in Pittsburgh, and he went on to become a sports entertainment icon in his adopted hometown.
Prior to the launch of his wrestling career, Sammartino was lauded for his incredible strength, as seen in this photo provided by Alex Iniguez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
During a career that spanned nearly three decades, Sammartino was a two-time WWE champion and three-time tag team champion with the promotion.
After more than two decades away from WWE, Sammartino returned in 2013 to headline that year's WWE Hall of Fame class.
The ceremony fittingly took place in Madison Square Garden, which is a venue that remains synonymous with the man once dubbed "The Living Legend."