Reports, a term I’m using loosely here, have constantly been popping up for the past year or so concerning Bruno Sammartino’s lack of WWE Hall of Fame credential. First, the idea of being inducted makes him sick, then he might be alright with it, Triple H got involved, Vince doesn’t give two cents, and all along this ride, most fans agree that Bruno must be in. Most, I say, because as per usual, I find myself an outlier.
Sammartino made his professional wrestling debut in 1959. A winning effort, that took him a mere 19 seconds. In 6 months time, he was headlining Madison Square Garden, teaming with Antonino Rocca. After becoming frustrated with low pay, he would leave Capitol Wrestling to work for rival, Kola Kwariani, who also ran out of the New York area. However, attendance soon fell off, and Sammartino would jump back to McMahon Sr’s camp, only to be given fewer dates as retaliation.
With even less pay this time around, Sammartino again decided to leave, this time to work for famed promoter Roy Shire, in San Francisco. However, once he arrived he was told he had been suspended due to missing a date in Baltimore. Bruno has stated that McMahon had set him up to take the fall, by double booking him on that day; the show in Baltimore and another in Chicago. Only failing to mention the show in Baltimore.
Now unable to find work due to McMahon’s attempt to blacklist him, Sammartino eventually tried his luck with, Toronto based famed promoter, Frank Tunney. He quickly became a big draw in Canada, while in, he would win his first gold, the International Tag Team title, alongside “Whipper” Billy Watson, in September 1962. Also during his stint in Toronto, he would face off against two huge names, in Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz.
Sammartino defeated Rogers in their meeting, to win the NWA Heavyweight Championship, when the champ was unable to continue after having attempted and failed a leap frog, only to be head-butted below the belt. However, Sammartino vehemently refused to accept the title in this fashion.
Back in New York, McMahon was having a difficult time drawing with new WWWF champion Buddy Rogers. So, he and partner Toots Mondt, had Sammartino’s suspension lifted, paying $500 (about $3500 today). That was not enough to convince Bruno to return. Instead, he demanded a title reign, and boy did he get one.
On May 17, 1963, Bruno would defeat Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds to capture his first WWWF Championship. Having suffered a heart attack (or so he said) just a week earlier, Rogers was not well-off. Though, according to Sammartino, still thought he was going to win, and thus had to be hoodwinked.
Sammartino would hold the title until 1971. Six years, 8 months, and one day. During which, he defended the title all over the World, including: Mexico, Japan, Australia, and Spain. He was also honored by The Pope.
When he did finally lose the gold, to Ivan Koloff, the crowd was dead silent. The ref raised Koloff’s hand three times, just to be sure they understood I guess. Fans were said to have been crying after the bout, and the announcer, fearful of a riot, didn’t actually hand Koloff the strap.
All of this alone easily, without any doubt, is a Hall of Fame career. And I’ve left out a lot, like all his other title victories, his post-1977 career, numerous Match of the Year awards, how he’s the only man to ever lift Haystacks Calhoun, and those years in the ‘60s when he was a promoter.
Bruno Sammartino should be in the Hall of Fame, he deserves to be in. He doesn’t want to be in though, if he did, he would be by now. No, instead, Sammartino has chosen to spend the past many years complaining about the business, living in the past, and calling the Hall an embarrassment. Trampling on all the legends who do have a ring.
Sure, he makes some good points as to why he’s against being inducted. There isn’t a physical building, and there are numerous ridiculous names who shouldn’t have ever been thought of as a Hall of Famer, let alone actually in the Hall of Fame. You know what, though, who freaking cares? Seriously, WWE’s been looking at where to have an actual Hall of Fame building, and the front runner is coastal Florida. The only thing I can think of, is a hurricane coming along, and washing away all that historic memorabilia. (I’m not exactly an optimist)
As far as the worth of some so-called “Hall of Famers,” yeah, there are some names that piss me, and I’m sure you, off. Most being celebrities who played some minuscule role at a WrestleMania. However, they are in they’re own little Celebrity Wing of the Hall. That being said, I’m perfectly fine with names like Donald Trump and David Arquette going in. The case for Trump being that he’s hosted a couple ‘Mania events, and has also taken on more performance roles. He easily deserves the nod. With Arquette, I’ll have to explain myself here. As horrible as it may be, he is the only celebrity who can lay claim to being a World Champion, and every wrestling fan should know who is because of it. Also, unlike a lot of celebrities who take on a role solely for the publicity, David’s actually a huge fan, which I understand doesn’t qualify him for induction, but it certainly puts him ahead of some others in my book.
Yes, there are also wrestlers who don’t belong. Honestly, though, I almost think that’s one of the neat things about the WWE Hall of Fame. Not everyone can be a Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, or Rock. Hell, not everyone can win a major title. Those performers still play a role in this wonderfully wacky business, though. I mean, there are some pretty famous jobbers out there who I’d be happy with being inducted. The Brooklyn Brawler for example. No, I”m not saying it’s ok to induct everyone who’s ever been on a show; there will have to be some extent to this.
Does putting non-big names in the Hall of Fame diminish it? Perhaps. It’s not like outsiders (non-fans) will care, however. I don’t consider myself a baseball fan, and as such, I don’t care who the heck is in Cooperstown.
As fans of of this specific, complicated, entertainment, we should understand that different roles will be played, and that sometimes the supporting cast is what makes a movie or show so successful.
Bruno Sammartino likes to believe differently, which is perfectly fine, as everyone is entitled to their opinions. He likes to take it a step further, though, which in my opinion has gotten to the point of shitting on the business. I realize he’s a very old school kind of guy, but at this point he’s only coming off as a bitter, former wrestler, who can’t let go of his grudge with McMahon.
If he doesn’t want to be in, then fine, but there’s no reason to go calling it a sham, an embarrassment, or whatever else. The Hall of Fame would be better with him, but doesn’t need him, like so many seem to believe. There are several larger, even better, names who have rings.
Thanks for Reading,
(He’s also been critical about the direction the business has taken. I can not currently argue with him on this point.)