The entire wrestling world was stunned on Wednesday with the news that Bruno Sammartino, arguably the greatest and most successful pro wrestling of all time, had passed away at the age of 82.
Sammartino’s influence and impact on pro wrestling is absolutely impossible to put into words. He shaped the entire business, and served as a mentor and inspiration to several generations of wrestlers after he retired. The outpouring in the wake of his passing of support, and the endless references to his kindness, guidance, and generosity by his peers and those who followed in his wake are a testament to how resonant Sammartino continued to be into the year 2018.
While Sammartino was on the outs with WWE for many years, the company has gone full-bore with lauding him since he accepted the Hall of Fame invite in 2013. His likeness was the second bronze statue the company made (after Andre the Giant), and although Sammartino wasn’t as visable a Legend on WWE television as those from the Rock ‘N’ Wrestling and Attitude Eras in recent decades, his greatness was always acknowledged.
To that end, WWE made sure that its first event following Sammartino’s passing was not without reference to the man. As they kicked off their current overseas tour in South Africa, WWE opened their live event there with an emotional 10-bell salute to the Hall of Famer.
As we continue to read and watch tributes, it becomes more clear just how much of a debt is owed to Sammartino for being the true architect of what we understand professional wrestling to be in its current form. We have no doubt that a big Sammartino video package will be coming on Monday’s Raw, and maybe even some special attention paid to the man’s legacy at next Friday’s Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia.