Backstage Update: Bruno Sammartino’s HOF Induction
Partial Source: The Wrestling Observer
Bruno Sammartino’s WWE Hall of Fame induction is part of a package deal that will include historical features, DVD interviews and other items WWE will market to their audience.
The deal was made official on Friday and, as previously reported, was largely able to come about due to the efforts of Triple H, who successfully pitched the idea of a working relationship to Bruno.
Here are our reports from earlier:
Legendary pro wrestler Bruno Sammartino will be announced as the next inductee into the Class of 2013 WWE Hall of Fame tonight during RAW. ESPN’s Jon Robinson already has a story up covering the big and quite unexpected news for those who have kept tabs on Sammartino’s comments in recent years.
Sammartino added, “Being inducted into the Hall of Fame at Madison Square Gardens is the biggest thing in my life,” Sammartino said in an exclusive interview for ESPN Playbook. “Any time that people feel that you accomplished enough to enter into a Hall of Fame, of course this is a tremendous, tremendous thrill for me. I had a lot of my success due to appearing at the Garden. 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.”
Paul “Triple H” Levesque is a big reason Sammartino is accepting the invite according to the ESPN article. It had been made public that Triple H had made numerous attempts to get Sammartino as part of the Class of 2013 with the ceremony taking place at Madison Square Garden. Sammartino added, “In talking to Paul Levesque, I made it clear, I’ve had issues with WWE and wrestling in general, because there were other organizations. I didn’t like the direction they had taken. It was bothersome to me. I’m an old-school guy. I spent 25 years in this business. But after talking to Paul, and him explaining to me the changes they’ve made in their program, and how they’ve hired a doctor like Dr. Maroon, who is a world-renowned neurosurgeon, who also operated on me, and now that he has been put in charge of the company’s wellness program and their drug testing, that impressed me. I know what kind of a man he is, and he is a giant in that field, so I take my hat off to WWE because they took such huge steps to make things better for the wrestlers themselves and making sure they are healthy to perform. That was very, very important. But as Paul explained to me, WWE made a lot of other changes. There’s no more profanity, there’s no vulgarity in the current product, and that stuff had bothered me as well. When Paul first spoke to me and told me all the changes, I started watching it again, and I was very convinced that they are doing amazing things. I see the wrestlers and all the changes they made. There’s no profanity, there’s no vulgarity, and it’s a family-friendly program. That’s what it used to be, and that’s a huge role in the whole factor.”
“From a legitimacy standpoint, it’s important for us to get Bruno in,” Levesque said. “He’s one of the biggest names there has ever been in the business. So for us to not have him in there, for the legitimacy of the whole thing, it was a major issue. For me, the more important thing was that nobody deserves to be recognized for being a big star and paving the way for the stars of today more than Bruno. Everything that we have today in the business, Bruno was a cornerstone of that foundation. He truly is a living legend. As we started getting into Hall of Fame season, it’s almost like this storyline wrote itself. To have Bruno Sammartino brought into the Hall of Fame in Madison Square Garden, a building he sold out more than anybody in the world, that’s a remarkable achievement. It was an opportunity to honor Bruno, but it was also an opportunity for our fans. There has been this bad blood between Bruno and the WWE for years, and we’re not trying to hide any of it, but I just felt like we are at a point where a lot of it can be resolved. Our wellness program and the way our programming is now, a lot of people are unaware of it, so 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. We’re PG, family-friendly entertainment with a wellness program that is truly based on the wellness of our performers. We want them to be healthy and live long, productive lives. So I just felt that if Bruno knew about those things, he might feel differently, and eventually, that’s what came to be. Clearly, Vince knew about this right from the get-go, and when I said I wanted to reach out to Bruno, Vince was probably thinking, ‘Well, good luck with that,’” Levesque said. “So Bruno and I established this relationship, and as we came to an understanding on all of this, Vince asked me, ‘Hey, do you think I should call Bruno? I’d like to talk to him.’ At the same time, Bruno said, ‘Do you think I should have a conversation with Vince?’ And I said no to both of them. I didn’t think it was right to do over the phone. They had bad blood for a long time, and we’ve all kind of buried the hatchet here, and it’s a new beginning and a fresh start and everybody is in a great place with this. But going back to what Bruno said about being old-school, I think we should all get in the same room together and the two of them should look each other in the eyes and shake hands. This should be in person. I don’t think it’s right to do over the phone. They both agreed to do that, and while it hasn’t happened yet, Hall of Fame is probably where we’ll make that happen. Vince and Bruno will see each other for the first time in years and officially, in person, look each other in the eyes and bury that hatchet.”
To check out the full ESPN article, click here.
UPDATE x 2: WWE has made the official announcement that Bruno Sammartino will be a member of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2013. You can see the announcement here or below.
Sammartino is quoted in the announcement as saying, “Triple H contacted me and started telling me all the things that had changed and everything that was going on with WWE. I started watching it after talking to him and when I saw it, I was very, very impressed.”
Triple H added, “I love the history of this business. Without the history, there is no tomorrow. To look back on the history of WWE, one of the most important figures in the long story of where this all came from wasn’t recognized. And that was Bruno.”
Here is the WWE.com announcement:
At long last, Bruno Sammartino will come home to Madison Square Garden on the night before WrestleMania 29 to take his rightful place as a WWE Hall of Famer.
The longest-reigning WWE Champion of all time was announced Monday as the fourth inductee for the Hall’s star-studded 2013 class. Sammartino will join fellow former WWE Champions Mick Foley and Bob Backlund and former Women’s Champion Trish Stratus in sports-entertainment’s most hallowed hall on April 6, 2013. But for all the greats who have been and will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, only Bruno lays claim to being the one true “Living Legend.”
Sammartino’s induction has long been anticipated by a generation of WWE fans who grew up idolizing the Italian strongman. In an exclusive interview, Bruno revealed to WWE.com why he felt 2013 was the right time to finally enter the WWE Hall of Fame.
“Triple H contacted me and started telling me all the things that had changed and everything that was going on with WWE,” Bruno said. “I started watching it after talking to him and when I saw it, I was very, very impressed.”
For Triple H, the hall was incomplete without The Living Legend.
“I love the history of this business,” Triple H said. “Without the history, there is no tomorrow. To look back on the history of WWE, one of the most important figures in the long story of where this all came from wasn’t recognized. And that was Bruno.”
Born in a small mountain town in Italy, Sammartino immigrated to Pittsburgh at age 15. After breaking world weightlifting records as a teenager, Sammartino was noticed by Vincent J. McMahon, who encouraged the impressive athlete to pursue a career in professional wrestling. He became an overnight sensation and on May 17, 1963, defeated “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in the old Madison Square Garden to become the second WWE Champion in history. Sammartino held the title for nearly eight years, by far the longest reign of all time — not just in WWE, but with regards to any sports-entertainment organization.
Bruno Sammartino became a household name throughout the 1960s and ’70s by turning back rivals including Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon and George “The Animal” Steele. In early 1968, he headlined the first-ever wrestling event at the new and current Madison Square Garden. In all, Bruno sold out the building on an astounding 187 occasions and is partially responsible for it becoming The World’s Most Famous Arena. It was there on Dec. 10, 1973, that Sammartino became the first-ever two-time WWE Champion and he held the title for an additional three-and-a-half years. On Aug. 9, 1980, Bruno main-evented an epic event in front of more than 35,000 people at New York City’s Shea Stadium that broke box-office records.
“Arguably the biggest name ever in the history of the business is Bruno Sammartino,” Triple H said. (Check back with WWE.com later in the week for our in-depth interview with both Sammartino and The Game.)
For many longtime fans, the WWE Hall of Fame was simply not complete until the beloved Bruno Sammartino was inducted. Now it will happen at the building where he achieved his finest moments. Tickets for the Induction Ceremony are on sale now and available at the MSG box office, online at Ticketmaster.com and various Ticketmaster outlets, or charge by phone at 800-745-3000. Ticket prices range from $50 to $150.
UPDATE x 3: Here is WWE’s official press release announcing the news:
STAMFORD, Conn., February 4, 2013 – WWE announced today that Bruno Sammartino will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at Madison Square Garden.
Sammartino, nicknamed “The Living Legend,” is a two-time WWE Champion and the longest reigning WWE Champion in history, holding the title for a combined 11 years. His first title reign began on May 17, 1963, where he defeated “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers at Madison Square Garden.
After losing the Championship in 1971, he regained the title on December 10, 1973, defeating Stan Stasiak at Madison Square Garden, holding the Championship until April 30, 1977. When he retired from the ring, Sammartino became a color commentator for WWE’s syndicated Superstars program and stepped back into the ring on special occasions.
After his departure in 1988, Sammartino was openly critical of WWE, and for many years declined the offer to be inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame, citing concerns with WWE’s content and culture.
“For my fans around the world, I am pleased to be joining the WWE Hall of Fame, especially at Madison Square Garden,” said Bruno Sammartino.
“Having sold out more than 200 shows at Madison Square Garden and being the longest reigning WWE champion in history, Bruno Sammartino is truly ‘The Living Legend,’” said Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman and CEO. “This is an extraordinary and historic moment to have Bruno take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame.”
Tickets for the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony are currently available through all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000. All tickets are subject to service charges and facility fees. For more information on Bruno Sammartino, please visit www.BrunoSammartino.info.
UPDATE x 4: The following aired on RAW this week: