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. (TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW) 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'S ALUMNI PROFILE)
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. (WATCH BRUNO'S HIGHLIGHTS)
"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.