Legendary wrestler Bruno Sammartino has finally accepted the WWE's invitation to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He has declined the offer for years due to various changes in the company that he did not approve of.
Sammartino was a big star in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (the WWWF) run by Vincent McMahon Sr, who would eventually go onto pass the company to his son. The company would be renamed the World Wrestling Federation, and is now known as World Wrestling Entertainment. Vince McMahon Sr passed away of cancer in 1984.
Bruno Sammartino was born in Italy in 1935, and moved to Pittsburgh at age 15. He began exercising at the Young Men's Hebrew Association, and became "the strongest man on the planet," WWE.com reports. In 1959, he set a record by bench-pressing 565 pounds. Sammartino immediately caught the eye Vince McMahon Sr and was brought into McMahon's World Wide Wrestling Federation.
On May 17, 1963, the "strongest man on the planet" beat Buddy Rogers in only 48 seconds to become the second WWWF champion in history. He held the belt for eight years, the longest reign of all time in any wrestling organization. He was also the first wrestler to become a two-time WWWF champion. His two title reigns spanned eleven years, ESPN reports.
On February 4, 2013, Bruno Sammartino finally agreed to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, so what changed. and why was he so reluctant before?
Sammartino repeatedly declined World Wrestling Entertainment's offer to be inducted, even as recently as July, 2012. First, Vince McMahon Jr made some changes that Bruno himself "personally didn't care for," he revealed in an interview with Inside The Ropes. He was also "disgusted" by all the drug use.
As years went by and Vince McMahon's vision turned from "wrestling" to "sports entertainment" the wrestling legend became more appalled. He didn't understand or respect the use of vulgarity and profanity, and he was especially sickened when WWE superstar Triple H had sex with a corpse in 2002. There was so much about the way the company was being run, Bruno Sammartino was completely insulted and angry. He felt Vince was making a mockery of the history he was once a part of.
When asked why he wasn't in the Hall of Fame, he responded, "I am in the Hall of Fame. The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame." He said Vince's Hall of Fame was not illegitimate because guys like Drew Carey are in it. "I'm embarrassed to be in that Hall of Fame," he said.
Sammartino was even willing to go so far as to look into laws regarding being inducted posthumously, and how to stop it. His disgust and bitterness with Vince McMahon wasn't just over a change in company direction and vulgarity, but also a sex scandal that rocked the World Wrestling Federation in 1992. In 2010, unsurprisingly, the scandal was brought up during Linda McMahon's run for senate in Connecticut. Linda is the long-time wife of Vince. The way she handled things had come into question.
Bruno Sammartino appeared on an episode of Phil Donahue about the sex scandal and discussed drugs in the business. He said he felt like everything had changed so much he couldn't even recognize the business he once loved.
Even though Sammartino has finally agreed to be inducted, he's made it clear that WWE executive Paul Levesque also known as HHH is the one who changed his mind, ESPN reports.
Bruno was thrilled to hear from Paul that the company has made a lot of changes in recent years and is more kid-friendly. He has even started watching the product again and is very happy with what he sees. There is no vulgarity or profanity.
Sammartino and Vince McMahon have not yet talked about Monday's development. But Paul Levesque and Bruno Sammartino are both happy an agreement has finally been reached.
"For me the more important thing was that nobody deserves to be recognized for being a big star and paving the way for the stars of today more than Bruno. "Everything that we have today this in the business, Bruno was the cornerstone of that foundation. He truly is a living legend," Levesque said.
On April 6, 2013, Bruno Sammartino will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden. So many amazing things happened for the legendary wrestler at MSG. He wrestled there over 200 times and it's where he won the WWWF title. Now, he can add "being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame" to his list of incredible accomplishments.