Wow. One of the most significant moments in quite a while for us long-time fans will finally happen on WrestleMania weekend when the WWE inducts Bruno Sammartino into its Hall of Fame during ceremonies at Madison Square Garden.
The hall has always suffered by Sammartino’s absence, and deservedly so. To this day, decades after his last appearance with the WWF, Bruno is still remembered by many as the face of the promotion. He connected with so many fans in the Northeast, not only in New York City, but also Philadelphia, Boston, and other cities along the East Coast.
Growing up, I remember that most people I knew, even if they weren’t wrestling fans, knew of Sammartino.
The story of the induction was first reported by ESPN.com on Monday. Triple H is the guy to credit for Sammartino’s change of heart.
Bruno had long resisted going into the Hall of Fame, owing to his long-standing feud with Vince McMahon about the direction the WWF took when it underwent its national expansion in the 1980s. Sammartino didn’t like that steroids became prevalent, and later in the 1990s didn’t like the vulgarity and sexual innuendo that quite frankly made the Attitude Era so great.
According to the ESPN story, Triple H – who is now as an executive with the WWE after retiring as a full-time wrestler – worked hard to convince Sammartino that things had changed and that wrestler health was an important priority for the WWE.
“I felt like if I could get Bruno on the phone and I could run down a list of those things that he didn’t like, I could show him how we changed,” Triple H told ESPN. “We’re PG, family-friendly entertainment with a wellness program that is truly based on the wellness of our performers.”
Sammartino said he is excited to be inducted into the hall in MSG, the building he made synonymous with WWWF wrestling for so many years.
“I had a lot of my success due to appearing at the Garden,” Sammartino said to ESPN. “I wrestled there over 200 times, it’s where I won the title, and it’s where I picked up 630-plus pounds of Haystacks Calhoun.”
The ESPN article also mentioned that Sammartino and McMahon will sit down and talk face-to-face, perhaps during WrestleMania weekend, for the first time in years.
I have bitched and moaned about Bruno not being in the Hall of Fame for a long time, well before I started this blog. To me, the hall is a joke without him.
And now it’s time for me to man up and say thank-you to Triple H and the WWE for making sure that Sammartino is inducted while he’s still alive and while his fans can still be part of this historic moment.
Triple H has plenty of years left to lead the WWE once he and wife Stephanie McMahon truly take the reins from Vince, but the Sammartino induction may end up being his most significant contribution.
It’s hard to believe that a kid from Nashua, NH, who loved wrestling – whom I saw wrestle in the ‘90s on local school gymnasium shows as Terra Ryzing – would be the guy to finally bridge the gap between Bruno and Vince.