Bruno: Vince asked me to come back to help Boston’s attendance

Bruno Sammartino’s audio interviews with Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez on the Wrestling Observer website are great, and Sammartino’s most recent discussion this week brought up a tidbit of Boston wrestling history that I did not know about.

Back in 1985, Sammartino had returned to the WWF as color commentator with Vince McMahon for Championship Wrestling, and Bruno also seconded his son, David, at the first WrestleMania. Later that year, with David’s career not exactly going places, McMahon approached Sammartino, he recalled during the Observer interview.

The crowds in Boston were down, so McMahon asked Sammartino to step out of retirement to wrestle on a show or two at the old Boston Garden.

“I said, ‘No Vince. I’m here to do color commentating, I’m not going to put on the tights,’ ” Sammartino said.

Word got back to David that if Bruno got in the ring, it might boost David’s career, and David noted to his father that it could be a big career break (which in hindsight it was not).

So Sammartino agreed to the matches, even though by his own words, he was embarrassed to be out there because he didn’t feel he was in good enough shape any more to wrestle at age 48 or 49. “I’m an old guy, I’m all broken down, I have no business in the ring,” he told Alvarez.

This is what led to Sammartino’s feud in Boston with Rowdy Roddy Piper, which I’ve previously written about. McMahon’s hunch was right: Sammartino’s return did increase business in Boston.

But he didn’t enjoy his matches or his color commentating days. “This was a very, very unhappy time for me because I didn’t want no part of it,” he said. “I despised it” because he saw the changes coming to the wrestling business in the 1980s and didn’t like it.

Wow, Sammartino does not mince words.

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5 comments

  1. Pingback: Grand Wizard’s suit, Killer Bees mask spotted at Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame | Boston Garden Balcony
  2. Pingback: My memories of Rowdy Roddy Piper at the old Boston Garden | Boston Garden Balcony
  3. david

    Nobody could make the Balcony shake like Bruno when he first would enter the crowd went crazy and when he was down and made a comeback it was so loud you could just close your eyes and it felt like a earthquake.

  4. J.Cee

    Perhaps Bruno had trepidations about returning to the ring, but 2 of his Boston Garden matches are on the ol’Collesium Video label against Randy Savage and Roddy Piper, and Bruno did not seem to show any ring-rust whatsoever. Though he wasn’t as nimble as he was during his title reign, he was every bit as aggressive as the Bruno of old. Bear in mind he was in his early 40s when he lost the title in ’77, but he still kept himself in shape for the next several years. Around 1985 I saw him wrestle in a tag-team match at the Providence Civic Center with David, and those in attendence were very appreciative of Bruno’s return, and in turn he reciprocated back to the crowd like the gentleman he was as the WWWF champion.

    • bostongardenbalcony

      I saw one of Bruno’s matches with Piper in Boston, and the thunderous reaction he got from the crowd made the overhanging balcony begin to shake at the Boston Garden. Anyone who ever saw the Bruins or Celtics play at the old arena can tell you about the balcony shaking.

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