WWE has lost one of the faces on its Mt. Rushmore this morning as Bruno Sammartino, one of the most important professional wrestlers in history and a building block of the industry, died on Wednesday at age 82. WWE confirmed the news. The only details on his passing at this time are that he’d been battling health issues for the past several months, and that he died peacefully.
There’s no way to overstate Bruno’s role in the history and formation of WWE as a sport, brand, and attraction. Wrestling’s “living legend” was Hulk Hogan before Hulk Hogan, the most popular wrestler of the 1960s and 1970s, holding the then-WWWF Heavyweight Championship only twice, but holding onto it for over 11 years. Bruno’s first reign remains the longest single reign for a champion in WWE history at an astonishing 2,803 days, for a grand total of 4,040. He’s also notable for selling out Madison Square Garden a massive 188 times, including one final time when Arnold Schwarzenegger inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
WWE uses “legend” to describe all of their notable, older Superstars, but Bruno Sammartino is the legend.
If you aren’t familiar with his work, below are a few clips to remember him by, followed by a number of pro wrestling’s biggest stars sharing their memories, thoughts, and condolences. Even though he’s passed away, Bruno will always be the sport’s Living Legend.