WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino Dies at Age 82

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2018

HOLLYWOOD - SEPTEMBER 22:  Professional Wrestler Bruno Sammartino arrives to the Feast of San Gennaro on September 22, 2005 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

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.


The one and only Bruno Sammartino was always a FIGHTING champion. #RIPBrunoSammartino https://t.co/NJbwsSTjbJ


"He brought so much great inspiration to so many millions of children...He has made such great contributions to this country." - Arnold @Schwarzenegger on WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino. #RIPBrunoSammartino https://t.co/wznmodbkKb

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:

Vince McMahon @VinceMcMahon

One of the finest men I knew, in life and in business. Bruno Sammartino proved that hard work can overcome even the most difficult of circumstances. He will be missed. #RIPLivingLegend https://t.co/PNDuQ31Phd

Arnold @Schwarzenegger

Bruno Sammartino was a legend. He was the American Dream personified. From his childhood in Italy hiding from Nazis to selling out Madison Square Garden 188 times as the biggest star of professional wrestling, he was a hero in every stage of his life. https://t.co/29KDwT3gcA

Several big names in the wrestling business offered their condolences Wednesday, including New Day member Big E:

Florida Man @WWEBigE

I will always have an enormous amount of respect & admiration for Bruno Sammartino. I can’t thank him enough for always being kind to me & taking time to have a genuine conversation. Condolences to his family & loved ones.

Former WWE and current Ring of Honor star Cody Rhodes also tweeted the following:

Cody Rhodes @CodyRhodes

Nothing today can happen without what he did back then. Rest in power and thank you Bruno Sammartino. https://t.co/JEuHPUh3fJ

WWE Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative Triple H chimed in as well:

Triple H @TripleH

Devastated to hear the passing of a true icon, legend, great, honest and wonderful man... A true friend...and one of the toughest people I've ever met. My thoughts are with his entire family. #RIPBrunoSammartino #AmericanDream

Additionally, Natalya discussed how much Sammartino meant to her and the Hart Family:

Nattie @NatbyNature

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:

Alex Iniguez @alexiniguez

This photo is from the first mention of Bruno Sammartino I can find in our archives, from a 1958 story in the Pittsburgh Press titled "Pittsburgh Hercules." https://t.co/fHXkwYp0Xa https://t.co/WTQsuiR8NK

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."