Sometimes, we take for granted just how crazy the inside world of professional wrestling can be. There’s a certain carnival sideshow mentality among the industry that has never quite been shed, because people can’t resist a spectacle and will usually pay good money to see one. Last week, I showed you Dean By-God Ambrose in an alcoholic deathmatch, but you have to go old-school for the TRULY crazy stuff. You may be familiar with Bruno Sammartino, right? He’s the longest-reigning champion in WWE history, with 4,040 total days of holding the title. He’s also probably the only WWE Hall of Famer to wrestle an ape.
The setting: A Pittsburgh carnival in 1956. It was one of those “survive five minutes inside the cage with the champ” sort of deals, except instead of Bonesaw McGraw, Sammartino got an honest-to-god orangutan. From an interview on the Camel Clutch Blog:
…the carnival was in town and they had a wrestling monkey and they said if you could last five minutes with the monkey, they would give you $25.
…I’ll tell you what, I have never seen anything so powerful. I tried to get behind it, you know like an amateur move, thinking that maybe I could get him off of those bars and get him down on the floor. But when I finally got behind him, that thing was swinging around the cage like it had a flea on its back.
“Is this ethical animal treatment?” “Shut up and tell me what kind of odds I can get on the ape.”
The crazy thing to consider here is that the orangutan has a disqualification victory over one of the greatest WWE champions of all time. That’s right, the match somehow ended up going closer to fifteen minutes, and a rightfully frustrated Sammartino said “to hell with this” and punched the orangutan in the gut. In the fifities, signing off on an interspecies grappling match was 100% legal, but actually trying to defend yourself against your untamed opponent was a strict no-no. So there you have it, Bruno Sammartino is the world’s most famous simian puncher, and the victorious ape is now the world’s third-greatest orangutan behind King Louie from The Jungle Book and Maurice from the new Planet of the Apes movies. Man, I love wrestling.