NEW YORK, NY - UNDATED: Bruno Sammartino a professional wrestler has his hand raised by the referee in victory. Sammartino held the World Wrestling Federation Championship for more than twelve years throughout his two title reigns from 1963 thru 1971 & 1973 thru 1977. (Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)
Facts About Bruno Sammartino Only Hardcore Fans Know
Bruno’s Childhood
Bruno Sammartino was born in Pizzoferrato, Abruzzo, Italy on October 6, 1935, and was the youngest of seven children. After Bruno’s family was almost executed by the Nazis during World War II, his mother, Emilia Sammartino, fled with her three children to a mountain called Valla Rocca, where they had to live for over 14 months while WWII raged on.
His Rheumatic Fever
Bruno reveals in his autobiography that he suffered from Rheumatic Fever as a child, which damaged his heart valves. His mother, Emilia, tried everything to save Bruno, including applying leeches to his body to “take away the poisonous blood in [his] system,” and Bruno admitted that his mother was his hero.
The Bench Press Record
Sammartino was obsessed with weightlifting, often spending up to five hours a day in the gym, and his favorite exercise was bench pressing. Among his several victories, the biggest one was when he set an unofficial bench press world record of 565 pounds in 1959.
Selling Out MSG
Sammartino achieved quick success in wrestling because of his domineering presence. As one of the most popular and successful wrestlers of his era, Sammartino sold out Madison Square Garden a record-setting 187 times, and once again in 2013, when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
He Never Turned Heel
With an in-ring career spanning 28 years, it’s surprising to note that throughout his whole run, Sammartino was always a babyface, and never even teased a heel turn. The fans saw him as the most honorable and humble man in wrestling, and he never had to rely on the hardships of his early life to gain sympathy — the people supported and adored him anyway.