WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino has died at age 82.
“The Living Legend” was the face of Vince McMahon Senior’s WWWF in the 1960s and 1970s, and packed the house at Madison Square Garden on a monthly basis for matches with other legends like Superstar Billy Graham, Ivan Koloff, Bruiser Brody, Freddie Blassie, Stan Hansen, Bob Backlund, Blackjack Mulligan and Larry Zbyszko. During that time, he held the World championship for more than 11 years, including a 2,803 day run in his second reign which is still a record for the now-WWE.
Sammartino had a contentious relationship with both McMahons after his heyday, despite returning for a time in the 1980s where he served as his son David’s manager while also participating in non-title programs himself. The Italian-born Pittsburgh native sued the elder McMahon for money he believed he was cheated out of during his record-setting title run. Current WWE Chairman and C.E.O. Vince K. McMahon settled that suit out of court after his father’s death, but he and Bruno would butt heads over what Sammartino saw as tawdry angles and the proliferation of steroids and drug use in his federation for many years.
In 2013, Paul “Triple H” Levesque succeeded in bringing The Living Legend back into the fold. Sammartino spoke about how he believed his issues with WWE had been addressed, partly through their partnership with another Pittsburgher, Dr. Joseph Maroon, and accepted enshrinement in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Sammartino’s death was reported by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports columnist Ron Cook. PWInsider adds Bruno had been hospitalized recently, but no other details are available at this time.
He is survived by his wife of almost 60 years Carol, their three sons and four grandchildren.
On behalf of the entire Cageside Seats community, we express our condolences to the Sammartinos.