Injuries forced Sammartino to retire from wrestling full-time in 1980, but it didn't prevent him to return to the ring to feud with the likes of Macho Man Randy Savage, Rowdy Roddy Piper and King Kong Bundy in the WWE. Bruno would hold the belt for nearly eight years, a record that stands to this day and will likely never be broken in the WWE or any other promotion.
Sad news. Bruno Sammartino has passed at 82. Some say Sammartino is responsible for a historic 187 sellouts of MSG with him in the main event match, though that figure has been disputed. His feats of strength were noticed by local wrestling promoters and eventually he worked his way up to Vince McMahon Sr.'s World Wide Wrestling Federation, grappling at the old Madison Square Garden for the first time in 1960.
During his childhood in the small Italian mountain town of Abruzzi, Italy, Bruno Sammartino heard stories about how the streets in the United States were paved with gold. He was famously bullied in school for being frail and foreign with no command of the English language.
He began lifting weights and set a world record in 1959 by bench-pressing 565 pounds.
In 1963, he defeated Buddy "Natural Guy" Rogers in just 48 seconds to become the second-ever World Wrestling Entertainment champion in front of almost 20,000 fans at the old Madison Square Garden in New York City. The years after Sammartino transitioned into a broadcasting role.
Sammartino would be champion off and on again until leaving WWF for good in 1988. He retired from wrestling in 1981, but returned to the now-renamed WWF a few years later, working as a commentator, but also wrestling on occasion, usually alongside his son David, who was a mid-card wrestler for the company at that time. One of Pittsburgh's all-time great sportsmen and great people.
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) announced the news on its website. For over seven years Sammartino consistently sold out Madison Square Garden feuding with villains such as Gorilla Monsoon, Waldo Von Erich, George The Animal Steel, Ernie Ladd, Freddie Blassie, The Sheik and many other well-known wrestling villains of the era. Sammartino managed to take the belt from Rogers in 48 seconds, and held the WWWF Heavyweight Championship until January 18, 1971.