Welcome to a new series of articles here at the MWC Blog that we shall call: Cases For The Greatest.
This is where I examine some of the wrestlers who are often viewed by some or many as the greatest pro wrestler of all time and why they have an argument in being so.
In this edition, we will take a look at arguably the greatest World Champion ever: Bruno Sammartino!
Ring Name: Bruno Sammartino
From: Abruzzo, Italy
Weight: 265 lbs.
Trained by: Ace Freeman & Rex Peery
WWE Championship (2x)
WWWF International Tag-Team Championship (2x)
WWWF United States Tag-Team Championship (1x)
WWE Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 2013)
Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 2002)
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestler of the Year (1974)
December 17, 1959 - Made his professional wrestling in-ring debut in Pittsburgh defeating Dmitri Grabrowski in 19 seconds.
January 2, 1960 - Had his first match at Madison Square Garden defeating "Wild" Bull Curry. MSG would go on to become synonymous throughout Bruno's career.
Early 1960's - Challenged Lou Thesz twice for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship but failed in capturing the prestigious belt.
May 17, 1963 - Bruno defeats "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds to become the second ever WWWF World Heavyweight Champion, now known as the WWE Championship.
January 18, 1971 - After reigning at an astonishing 2, 803 days as the company's World Champion, the entire arena was left in shocked when Ivan Koloff defeats the seemingly unbeatable Sammartino!
December 10, 1973 - Bruno took a break from wrestling in between his two world title reigns due to the overall fatigue of being the top guy but would be once again called up by Vince Sr. to become the champion beating Stan Stasiak this time.
April 30, 1977 - A 1, 237 day reign would come to an end at the hands of "Superstar" Billy Graham.
1978-1981 - Left the WWF and would go on to compete for various territories and had his first initial retirement.
March 31, 1985 - The first ever WrestleMania. Bruno was in the corner of his son; David in his match against Brutus Beefcake.
August 29, 1987 - Bruno's final match ever in a WWF house show in Baltimore. Him and Hulk Hogan would defeat the duo of King Kong Bundy and One Man Gang. Sort of an unofficial "passing of the torch" if you will to the new face of the company.
1988 and onwards - Sporadic appearances in numerous promotions, but the WWF who became a critic of especially around the Attitude Era where Bruno was not a fan of the "hardcore and sex appeal" motif the whole company was going for. Plus all the steroid use as well which Bruno never partook in.
2013 - He finally buried the hatchet with the company and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, headlining Madison Square Garden one last time. A fitting conclusion to a legendary career.
Before Hulk Hogan went on to burst Hulkamania around the world and Stone Cold stomping a mud hole on Vince McMahon's face, there was first Bruno Sammartino headlining Madison Square Garden night after night! While the WWWF was already established as a wrestling promotion being founded by Vince McMahon Sr. and former wrestler Toots Mondt, it was when they signed Bruno that the company truly saw its first major star and they were not wrong in making him as such.
Buddy Rogers was the inaugural WWWF World Heavyweight Champion but by this point of his career, he was no longer The Nature Boy of old, instead he was in fact old and out of his prime already due to the years of service he did in the squared circle. So the promoters decided to take a next step and have Bruno as the newest top guy. Due to the massive population of Italian-Americans especially in New York, it wouldn't take long before Bruno would go on to become a box office attraction!
As mentioned already he sold out Madison Square Garden night after night and still holds the record as the only athlete to ever do so! In his first run with the WWWF World Title, Bruno had an amazing 409 title defenses! Those are the only recorded ones too, who knows, there might be more. Facing a plethora of challengers like Gorilla Monsoon, Freddie Blassie, Dr. Jerry Graham, and Waldo Von Erich just to name a few. To this day he still holds the record for the longest individual title reign of a major world title at 2, 803 days! His second run with the belt later on was no slouch either at 1, 237 days. Overall he also holds the record for longest combined day reign as a World Champion with his only two reigns at 4, 040 days! In comparison Lou Thesz's total combined day reign as NWA World Champion is at 3, 749 days across 3 reigns! If that is not impressive then I don't know what is.
Match wise Bruno was a stud of his era. In his prime he was able to serve good matches with the right opponents, one of his most well known bouts ever was against a prime Giant Baba where the two tore the house down in Japan! Some might say that he wouldn't last a second before being boo'd if he were to wrestle in today's era but I think that is a flawed argument. Any athlete for that matter, especially with the mindset of someone like Bruno, would be able to adapt his style with whatever era he is living on and still be a major player of the game. This is why I hate in from a basketball perspective where fans would say Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain wouldn't last in today's game because it is different style in the past, similar with Bruno these men are intelligent athletes and will always be great no matter the timeline.
He may not have been the greatest interview in the world, but Bruno did not need to. In his era, you do not really need to speak that much anyway as his charisma and drawing power alone makes up for it! The way he wrestles in the ring whether as a dominant champion or even a beaten underdog against the likes of Stan Hansen and Larry Zbyszko, shows that he has a level of character in his performance too. He wasn't one dimensional as some would like to think. Plus back then flashy gimmicks weren't that popular yet, yes there were guys like Buddy Rogers and Gorgeous George but they were innovators of what we now know today as "gimmicks" but I digress.
There is one man synonymous with the decade of 1970's in the world of professional wrestling that is: Bruno Sammartino. Without his success as champion, the WWE may not likely be what it is today. He blazed the trail for guys like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and John Cena. Although Bruno is the prototype or the blueprint if you will on what a babyface main eventer is: about as family friendly as you can get while maintaining a physical presence in the ring whoever he is pitted against.
The term "legend" gets tossed around easily nowadays but only few can truly call themselves legendary and Bruno Sammartino fits that adjective pretty well.
That is why he has the Case for being the Greatest!
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The name is Super Mastodon. Been a wrestling fan throughout my life, and I share my interest with you here, at the MWC Blog.
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