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RETRO COVERAGE: BRUNO SAMMARTINO'S WWE HALL OF FAME INDUCTION

By Mike Johnson on 2018-04-18 10:43:00

When Bruno Sammartino was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, it was a seismic story, one that saw long-time grudges and bad feelings between WWE's original "Living Legend" and the company finally subside after decades.  It also almost didn't happen.  Triple H had personally pursued bringing Sammartino back into the fold, wanting to honor him, but Bruno, after decades of misgivings about the WWE product and the way things had gone down in the past, turned the invitation down and publicly discussed that decision, including an interview here on PWInsider.com.

Weeks later, Bruno changed his mind, in part due to conversations with Dr. Joseph Maroon, who was not only in charge of WWE's Wellness Policy, but had personally operated on (and in Bruno's mind, saved) Sammartino's back.  That led to the two sides finally making amends, opening the doors for Bruno Sammartino returning to headline Madison Square Garden one last time.

Here is PWInsider.com's coverage of Bruno's induction, written by yours truly:

Arnold Schwarzenegger inducts Bruno Sammartino. He thanked Vince McMahon and HHH for inviting him here. He said the Garden was packed and asked where were all of us when his last film came out.

He praised the WWE stars for being the great athletes and inspirational figures. He asked what he could say about Bruno and praised his lifting abilities. Arnold said he knew about power and lifted 400 Lbs. Last week...Chris Christie out of his chair.

He talked about Bruno being champion for 11 years and set the record for the most sellouts. He said tonight is another so he broke the record.

Arnold said he wanted to make a movie on Bruno's life but Bruno said he wanted an actor to play him. He is pretty funny tonight.

He talked about his first meeting with Bruno and how he was a great immigrant story, chased by the Nazis. They moved to Pittsburgh and was bullied because of his accent, so he began his journey and the bullies disappeared.

He introduced Bruno.

The crowd gave him a massive roar and chanted his name and then welcome home. Bruno was stunned and said My My My you turned the clock back 50 years. He said he was ready to run to the ring but he's an old man today. The crowd chanted for one more match.

Bruno said maybe it was our parents or grandparents here but he thanked us for bringing him back to those days. He thanked Arnold for inducting him. He said they became good friends in the 60s and 70s and said his acting and political careers were amazing. He said he was very grateful he was here.

Bruno said to be inducted is very special because you are being recognized for his contributions to wrestling but in this case, for it to happen here in MSG is so special. He headlined MSG more than anyone in the history of the venue. He said he can hardly believe it but it was 50 years ago he became the WWWF champion.

He talked of slamming Haystacks Calhoun in the Garden and he thought the roof was going to burst. He said he was thankful for what MSG did for him. He said there may be bigger and nicer arenas but around the world, everyone knows MSG.

He said MSG would give him publicity and put him on the covers of the wrestling magazines. That made him a headliner anywhere he went in the world because of MSG.

Bruno said he was one of the luckiest men in the world. A third of his town in Italy was wiped out by The Nazis. His father had come here to build a future and when the war came, his dad was stuck here and his mother was left to take care of them. They hid in a mountain and she had to make a 24 hour journey to find them food and was caught once and almost bled out after being shot...but she did it because she had kids to be taken care of.

Had the war gone on a few more months, he would have died. He was sick with Rheumatic fever and the Allied doctors warned his mother he wouldn't last another day. His mother had lost two children and refused to lose him.

He finally made it to the States in the 1950s. When they came here he didn't speak English and was bullied. He fought back but in his weakened condition he couldn't defend himself. A friend felt sorry for him and introduced him to the Y. He worked out and worked out. He said he saw muscles forming and that inspired him. He went from a weakling to one of the strongest men in the world.

Vince said he was in the business for 25 years, not just for the hard blows they take but because its all year round. They travel all over. His first title reign, he had two days a month for his family. He married his high school sweetheart and they are still together today. He has much to be grateful for.

The years took a great toll on his body because in his day they used boxing rings and after time, you pay a price. He was happy when it was time to retire because he spent so many years away. He was hurting bad and didn't take aspirin or painkillers. He reached a point where his body could not continue.

He was happy to be home but suffering all the time. He talked of the doctors who helped him, Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Frank Houston. He said they saved his life when they took him on and he went through several major surgeries. He said that because of them he's an old guy but still trains six days a week.

He said he wanted to throw some gratitude for those who came from Pittsburgh that came here. People came from DC, Boston and Philly came here.

He said in this business, if you become a headliner, a promoter gives you a chance but if people don't fill the seats, you aren't one for long. He said he was lucky he received that reaction from the fans and since it was MSG promoters elsewhere wanted him. Everywhere he went he did well because of the Garden.

He concluded that he's very grateful for Arnold and WWE for allowing him to headline in MSG one more time. He thanked everyone from the bottom of his heart.

He received astounding ovation.

They brought out the class for a final bow with their inductors.

When they all gave their final bow,Vince and Bruno shook hands and hugged. There was the money shot!

Backlund jumped in the crowd and went nuts running through the Garden. Before that he teased putting Vince in the chickenwing.  

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