Bruno Sammartino, a Pittsburgh-raised and -based wrestling icon, has passed away at the age of 82. Like so many of us, his immigrant family moved here to build a new life, and through his uncommon strength and surprising grace he embodied the spirit of Pittsburgh on the world stage. After becoming the second-ever WWE Champion by defeating Buddy Rodgers in 48 seconds back in 1963 from Madison Square Garden, Sammartino was able to hold onto the strap for over 2,000 days.
Sammartino would become quite the staple at the Garden holding the championship for almost eight years, the longest reigning champion in professional wrestling history.
- Ted DiBiase (@MDMTedDiBiase) April 18, 2018Growing up, my grandfather Stu Hart would ALWAYS talk about Bruno Sammartino and what an incredible wrestler he was.
Some fans in the crowd were so shocked by Sammartino's loss that some fans were even crying. The WWE inducted Bruno into the Hall of Fame in 2013.
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Sammartino, who was 83, began wrestling in the late 1950s and spent more than a decade as the most popular wrestler in the old WWWF. He became the first person to ever hold the title twice and held it for an additional three-and-a-half years. 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. Today he is better known as Bruno Mars. They eventually joined his father in Pittsburgh in 1950.
Sammartino finally accepted an invitation for induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, which he entered on the eve of WrestleMania 29.
Tributes to the wrestling star have already started pouring in, with Triple H describing Sanmmartino as a "true icon" and admitting to being devastated by his passing.
Our thoughts are with his family and fans during this painful time.
WWE confirmed Sammartino's passing this morning on Twitter.