Friday, March 22, 2013

The Living Legend Returns


            Who do you think I’m referring to? It could be anybody, there are a lot of powerful guys who had their best days and now are returning to the place that gave them that glory but I’m referring to quite possibly the most popular Professional Wrestler of the 60’s and early 70’s and that’s Bruno Sammartino. He defied an era when pro wrestling still had colorful characters but also had a more mat based style to some of the guys who fought in the ring.

            His style of wrestling was some mat-based with a plenty of power moves and a brawler type style as well. Even though his wrestling isn’t as popular as his strength, he still can go the distance with some of the biggest names in the business at the time. His strength was the stuff of legends. One of his first tastes of glory was picking up 640 lb. Haystacks Calhoun in 1961 if I recall and it was a big deal at the time and still is a feat that no one did to him after. Bruno’s lifting power was just incredible, he was one of the first men to Bench Press over 560 lbs. At 5’10 and over 260 lb. he was a force not to be messed with.

            Back in the 60’s where the most popular stars had an ethnic background Bruno was at the top of the ladder because of his Italian background and his love with the fans especially at what might be called the house that Bruno Built Madison Square Garden in New York. No one guy before or since has headlined the World’s Most Famous Arena more times than anyone 211 headlines with 187 sell-outs. Color TV was very low and only less than a handful of shows had color the most popular being Batman so whenever you saw Pro Wrestling it was 99% in Black & White. You had guys like Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, Fritz Von Erich, Pat O’Connor, Lou Thesz, Walter ‘Killer” Kowalski, a young Harley Race and even Karl Gotch but nobody made the money like Bruno did.

            His training was legendary, picking up heavy weights, hundreds of squats and push-ups and had endurance like some of the other greats who can go do hour long marathons in the ring. Many guys couldn't keep up with him and he even wrote a short book on how to build the body from basic strength training and muscle building and he did this (hopefully I’m right) all without drugs, steroids or PEDs when it was the boom of its time. He was a man of hard work and will to become the very best and wrestled the very best.

            He had the longest reign of any champion in history going on nearly 8 years as the champ when he beat Buddy Rogers in 1963 till he lost to Ivan Koloff in 1971. He won it back in 1972 I think and lost again to Superstar Billy Graham in 1977. Nobody ever since held the world title for that long and that tells yeah how important the man was to the business at that time. He fiddled around a while longer before retiring and became a commentator for WWE.

            He ended up leaving the business for good because of what Vince McMahon was bringing to the business and Bruno would have none of it. He was bitter about the business for the longest time about its direction and what was changing with the business until recently a man who has a hold on the company in certain areas especially in Talent Development is Paul Levesque aka Triple H got to talking with Bruno and told him what was going on really. Because of this encounter, Bruno started learning to love some of the business again and finally broke down after turning down so many offers to be in their Hall Of Fame has finally come to an end. The Living Legend will be at Madison Square Garden one more time being the headline but not in the ring, not in an interview but on stage as a WWE Hall Of Famer.

            I've been watching wrestling ever since I was 11 years old and learned so much about the wrestlers that I wanted to learn more about the history and how it came to be and how we as fans can improve it. I like more of the mat style wrestling than the colorful antics of the wrestlers. My first glimpse of Bruno was in a Video Game, Legends Of Wrestling 2 where they did interviews with big names like Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, Jimmy Snuka, The Road Warriors, Eddie Guerrero and Paul Orndorff to name a few and I was fascinated with how they portrayed Bruno. The powerful man that he was and how he talked about his matches with Killer Kowalski was just great. It made me love the old-timers ever since then and I kept learning more about real style wrestling and pro wrestling.

            I don’t know if its because I’m of Italian descent or because of my love for wrestling but I felt connected to Bruno’s career and wanted to learn more about what he did, who he wrestled and how he trained. I’m glad one of the best finally gets the respect he’s deserved for so long and be enshrined for the test of time. I never got to see Bruno during his Career because he retired not too long after I was born give and take a couple years but at least I and others my age who are in love with wrestling get to see some of his work through youtube and some other wrestling sites and be in awe of what it would be like to be in that era. Welcome back Bruno and thank you. 

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