Pro wrestling great “The Livng Legend” Bruno Sammartino died on April 18, 2018. He influenced generations of wrestlers and fans during his career and in retirement, and he carried himself with grace even during difficult situations. Here is my open letter to Bruno after hearing of his death.
I start watching wrestling in 1981, so I never saw you in your heyday fighting the likes of Superstar Billy Graham, Larry Zbyszko, and Spiros Arion. My first recollection of you was a house show promo you did for a match against Stan Hansen at the old Boston Garden in either Feburary or March of ’81. It was clear to me even as a kid that you had an aura about you, as if you represented something greater than just a wrestling match.Embed from Getty Images
As a I learned more about your history in the WWWF and WWF by reading the Apter mags, I was excited that I got to see more of you as the early 1980s progressed. You took another tour of duty as a color commentator for the syndicated Saturday morning shows on Channel 56 here in Boston, and then you accompanied your son, David Sammartino, when he debuted.
Little did I know until many years later how unhappy you were to be involved with Continue reading
In my prior post, I looked at the seeds planted in 1984 that began the push towards the original WrestleMania, as well as the build-up for the main event. Now let’s remember the actual card as we approach March 31, 2015, which will be 30 years after the first Mania.
The show took place at Madison Square Garden, beginning (ahem) at the ripe time of 1 p.m. Yes, you’d be home for dinner after the first WrestleMania. Here’s a rundown of the preliminary matches on the card:
- In a surprise that I forgot about until I recently rewatched the event on the WWE Network, Mean Gene Okerlund sung the National Anthem. That’s quite a gap between Okerlund and Aretha Franklin two years later.
- Tito Santana defeated the Executioner – These days, it seems so odd that a WrestleMania opened with a series of jobber matches, but times have changed. The funny part about this match is that the Executioner was actually the late Playboy Buddy Rose under a hood. The mystery of this strange masked man was explained in Rose’s obit in the Wrestling Observer: Apparently Rose was set to come back to the WWF to feud with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat with Bobby Heenan as his manager, so the WWF didn’t want Rose losing as himself at WrestleMania. Unfortunately for Rose, shortly before he was to shoot an angle with Steamboat after Mania, officials found him passed out in a dressing room, and he got canned.
I recently posted a podcast with John Cena, Sr. — the father of WWE superstar John Cena, who headlines WrestleMania 29 against the Rock — who talked to me about the first WrestleMania in 1985, Bruno Sammartino going into the WWE Hall of Fame, and his memories of the wrestling cards at the old Boston Garden. For those of you who were unable to hear the podcast or didn’t have time, below is the complete transcript of the interview. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
It’s not a well remembered fact that former WWWF Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino was part of two WrestleManias.
That might be hard to believe given how anti-Bruno the WWE is these days (and vice versa for that matter), yet in the early days of Mania, the WWF was smart to play all of its cards, including Sammartino. Continue reading
The WWE likes to make a big deal of its second- and third-generation wrestlers. WrestleMania 27 at the Georgia Dome was no exception, as the event saw four multi-generational superstars appear, including the Rock (grandson of “High Chief” Peter Maivia and son of Rocky Johnson), Alberto Del Rio (son of Mexican star Dos Caras), Cody Rhodes (son of “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes), and Randy Orton (grandson of Bob Orton, Sr., and son of Cowboy Bob Orton).
But sons of pro wrestlers are nothing new. Did you know if you go all the way back to the first WrestleMania in 1985 at Madison Square Garden, there were also four second-generation wrestlers who competed? Here’s a list of them: Continue reading