WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino died early Wednesday morning after recently being hospitalized; he was 82 years old.
PWInsider reported that Sammartino was recently hospitalized in Pittsburgh, where he lived.
Sammartino was the first superhero in professional wrestling, and was a cornerstone for Vince McMahon Sr.’s WWWF in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Sammartino first won the WWWF Championship in May 17, 1963 and went on to hold the belt for almost eight years. He followed that with a title win in December of 1973, holding the championship for almost four years. In total, his title reigns equaled 4,040 days. His two title reigns are first and fifth all-time in terms of overall length. His combined days as WWWF Champion is almost double the next-closest wrestler, Hulk Hogan, who totaled 2,185 days.
After returning to the WWF in the 1980’s as a commentator for the WWF, Sammartino was at odds with the company for years. He was publicly critical of Vince McMahon and the direction he had taken the pro wrestling business, criticizing McMahon for, among other things, the use of steroids and the adult-themed storylines of the Attitude Era.
Sammartino reconciled with the company and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, prior to WrestleMania 29 in New York. The Hall of Fame that year was held at Madison Square Garden, where Sammartino had so famously sold out crowds as WWWF champion.
WWE noted that Sammartino’s induction ceremony, “was the 188th and final time that Sammartino headlined and sold out Madison Square Garden.”
Sammartino appeared on an episode of Raw in October 2013 to celebrate his birthday and he was at the Hall of Fame ceremony again in 2015 to induct Larry Zbyszko.
Sammartino was born in Italy, and his family famously fled Italy during a Nazi Invasion in World War II. Sammartino’s family settled in Pittsburgh in 1950, and he remained living there until his death.