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
Way back in 1989, I was at a Saturday Night’s Main Event taping in Worcester, MA, when Demolition lost the WWF Tag Team Championship to Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson (the Brain Busters). It was the first time I had seen a title change hands live.
That loss marked the end of one of the WWF’s all-time greatest records, as the face-painted Ax and Smash had held the tag titles for 478 days and cemented themselves as a classic tag team, albeit one with unlikely origins.
Now, current WWE Raw Tag Team Champions New Day are in line to break Demolition’s record if they retain they titles through Dec. 14, 2016. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E have held the tag straps since Aug. 24, 2015. By the way, Kingston grew up in the Boston suburb of Winchester, MA, which at one point was also the home of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.
The New Day: Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods
Even back in the ’80s, it was rare to see tag champs go so long holding the belts, but Vince McMahon had made it his mission to put Demolition in the same league as Continue reading
On July 19, I sat at ringside at the DCU Center in Worcester — we locals still call it the Centrum — to watch the draft between WWE Raw and Smackdown. And one of the biggest surprises for me of the night was the crowd’s reaction to former three-time WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund.
If you don’t keep up with wrestling these days, 66-year-old Backlund is back on TV, playing the role of a coach to current WWE wrestler Darren Young. Backlund has even gone as far as to “allow” Young to use his old finisher, the cross-face chicken wing.
In Worcester, at one point during Young’s match, the crowd erupted into a chant: “Backlund! Backlund! Backlund!”Embed from Getty Images
Backlund first beat Superstar Billy Graham for the belt in Continue reading
This year marks the 30th anniversary of WrestleMania 2, a lousy card that took place on April 7, 1986.
I’m not sure what to say about this show. Having just rewatched it recently on the WWE Network, Mania 2 was just as bad today as I remembered it back in the day. Even by 1980s standards, the matches felt rushed and there was no showstealer that you’d expect to see today.
This may have been the worst WrestleMania ever, with the only possible competition being WrestleMania IX.Embed from Getty Images
The event — which took place on a Monday night — emanated from three arenas: Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY; Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena) outside of Chicago; and Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Vince McMahon — who clearly believed Continue reading
I have to shake my head when the WWE tries so goddamn hard to manufacture an ethnic superstar. Alberto Del Rio’s recent return has as much to do with his Mexican heritage as it does his alleged star power.
I’ve learned through hindsight that one of the key differences between current WWE head Vince McMahon and his late father, Vince McMahon, Sr., is that the latter understood that ethnic heroes like Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Argentina Rocca, and Victor Rivera came from grass-roots support. In other words, the fans wanted to love these guys.
Vince Sr. didn’t decide one day that the WWWF needed a Latin superstar and started to push around Morales. Instead, the fans reacted to Pedro, and the build followed. It worked for 12 years for Morales, who was WWWF Heavyweight Champion and later among the biggest names who established the new Intercontinental Title.
I remember when Vince Jr. did the house show promos for his dad’s TV, Morales would go off on his opponent in Spanish, which must have thrilled folks in the area who spoke that language because it let them connect with Morales on a personal level (check out 2:00 into the clip below).
Does anyone ask Del Rio to speak a few words outside of English? Nope. But that might Continue reading
The fellas at the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling Podcast scored a rare interview recently with the Magnificent Muraco, who is on the way to retiring as a longshoreman, a career he took up after his pro wrestling days wound down in the early 1990s.Embed from Getty Images
Muraco, who was one of the hottest heels in wrestling during his 1981 and 1983 runs in the WWF, sounds old now but still has fond memories of performing in the Northeast. He occasionally watches his old matches and said his style back then was to get beaten on for the first seven to eight minutes of a bout to get the crowd riled up.
“All I do is get the shit kicked out of me and the people are popping the whole time,” Muraco said.
He specifically recalled a gargantuan reaction from the crowd at the old Boston Garden when Hulk Hogan and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka teamed up. He’s likely referring to a May 1985 show in which Hogan and Snuka faced Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton, which was the first WWF show broadcast from the Garden by NESN.
Muraco was questioned during the podcast about the Nancy Argentino case, which has Continue reading
Time caught up to Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka this week, as more than 30 years after the mysterious death of his girlfriend, Snuka has been charged with her murder.
On Tuesday, Snuka turned himself in to Lehigh County, PA, police officials to face charges of third-degree murder, which essentially means killing with malice. The charges carry a possible 40 years in prison, according to the Morning Call of Allentown, PA, which had aggressively reported on the strange circumstances of this case within recent years, which eventually led to a grand jury re-examining the facts.Embed from Getty Images
Snuka had long maintained his innocence in the death of Nancy Argentino, who died on May 11, 1983, during the height of Snuka’s popularity with Continue reading
Certain angles, for whatever reason, stick with you from youth. Andre the Giant and Killer Khan had a feud in the 1981 that was based in storyline on Khan breaking Andre’s leg. In reality, Andre likely hurt it outside the ring, and the Khan plot was a nice tie-in to his real-life injury.
But what really set the feud on fire was an simple angle on Saturday morning WWF Championship Wrestling in which Khan attacked a recovering Andre with his crutch.
What I remember most about the incident wasn’t the beating (30:02 into this YouTube clip), but announcer Vince McMahon’s reaction.
McMahon was conducting an interview in front of the live audience with Andre about when the giant would return to the ring. Suddenly, Classy Freddie Blassie, Khan’s manager, came out and claimed Andre was washed up, calling him a “palooka,” which was a classic Continue reading
As we wind down pro wrestling’s big season, I wanted to look back at the aftermath of the first WrestleMania 30 years ago.
Sure, the success of the inaugural Mania opened the door for the annual card to continue, from 1985 right to WrestleMania 31 this year. They’ve been mainly good shows, with some great cards as well and a few stinkers. But had the first Mania flopped, while it’s possible Vince McMahon would have attempted another supercard, it would not have been under the WrestleMania name.Embed from Getty Images
Let’s continue my look back 30 years ago to the original WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden by running down the big matches on March 31, 1985. Please check my prior posts in this series about the build-up for WrestleMania and a review of the preliminary matches on the supercard.
- Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik defeat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo to win the WWF Tag Team Title – The match was short, but all action and was probably the best in-ring performance of this Mania. Captain Lou Albano accompanied the babyfaces to the ring, while Classy Freddie Blassie managed Sheik and Volkoff. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, on color commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, actually claimed Volkoff was a former Olympian. There were some great, simple spots in the match, including Sheik accidentally dropkicking Volkoff (I’m not sure I ever saw Sheik do another dropkick since then) and a high backdrop by Rotundo. Fans at the time buzzed about the ending, when Sheik broke Blassie’s cane over Windham’s back, leading to the title change. Interesting to note that Rotundo performed in the original WrestleMania, and this year his son, Bray Wyatt, faces the Undertaker at WrestleMania 31.
- Andre the Giant defeats Big John Studd in the $15,000 bodyslam challenge – The rules were simple: If Andre slammed Studd, he would win $15,000 in cash in a duffel bag; if Studd wasn’t slammed, Andre had to retire. As you might imagine, this was the typical slow match these two often did, with the prerequisite
rest holdbearhug from Andre. The slam came out of nowhere, and then Andre attempted to throw the cash to the crowd, but Studd’s manager, Bobby Heenan, ran up and stole the bag from Andre. The crowd went nuts at the end of the match after getting the slam they wanted.