INTERACTIVE WRESTLING RADIO INTERVIEW - "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino

Show: Interacrtive Wrestling Radio
Guest: Bruno Sammartino
Your Host: James Walsh

 

Growing up just outside New York City, I can tell you that there was a time, well before Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior,

The Rock, or Steve Austin ruled the wrestling industry, that one man was considered a God at or above the level the

individuals before mentioned were at. He is an Italian superstar and is the original "Living Legend." He is Bruno

Sammartino. And, he's the latest guest on TII!


"THE LIVING LEGEND" BRUNO SAMMARTINO

-- Bruno explains how he got into the business through a high school friend knowing him when a promoter asked about him. The promoter asked him to come and do a work over in front of Vince McMahon Sr..

-- He originally felt he was going nowhere as a prelim wrestler, and when people were talking about how Haystacks Calhoun hadn't been lifted off his feet, Bruno thought he could do that. So, he mentioned it on a radio show and fans flooded mail to The Garden requesting the match. It was made, and Bruno said that when he lifted Calhoun he thought the roof was going to fly off.

-- His first WWWF title win over Buddy Rogers was his best career highlight. When he won the title however, he was worried about being on top of the card. He knew he was now in the main event, and that was good, but he was apprehensive as to whether the fans would come out to see him - and when they did, he felt a hell of a lot better.

-- Bruno then kills a rumor on the whole Buddy Rogers title win. Rumors have you believe that Rogers was in hospital with a heart defect the night of his title loss. Bruno tells the real story of how Buddy was completely fit, how Rogers he had his wrestling licence revoked and then re-instated, and how the two even wrestled the week before in a non-title match where Bruno won with a backbreaker. Buddy then wrestled the Friday and Saturday before he lost the title (on the Monday).

-- When speaking about his favourite matches, he felt that some of his best matches were against Koloff, Monsoon (for a man of his size) and Killer Kowalski - a man with whom he had numerous 1 hour long matches.

-- Sammartino speaks of the only time he ever wrestled Lou Thesz in around 1960's when he was a rookie - they went around 45 minutes and Bruno rates it as a good match.

-- Bruno updates his favourite matches with the one against Pedro Morales at Shea Stadium.

-- On the topic of how he broke his neck against Stan Hansen, Vince McMahon tried to play up the lariat as the move which caused the injury. However, Bruno puts the injury down to the fact that because he was so regular at MSG (Madison Square Garden), he didn't realise that not everybody else was; for others it was a special occasion and they were more nervous in the ring than he was. Hansen went for a bodyslam and he went for a tackle, and something went wrong, ending with Bruno drilling head first into the canvas, and breaking his neck.

-- When Mohammed Ali was bantered about, Vince McMahon tried very hard to contact all of the promoters around the country he got along with in order to drum up the $6 million needed. It never happened, and the match went to Antonio Inoki.

-- When he dropped the belt to Ivan Koloff, he felt he would hear tremendous boo's throughout the audience. He took an amazingly hard kneedrop across the neck for the pin, and Sammartino heard nothing; Bruno thought that something had happened to his hearing. However, when he got up he saw that the crowd was just in a stunned silence, and people were literally sobbing.

-- He re-gained the title 8 years later after defeating Stan Stasiak, but it wasn't as special as the first time. When he lost it the first time, he was able to work a lesser schedule and begin recuperating from his injuries. However, when he became champ again he'd end up working sometimes every day of the month, save 2 Sundays. McMahon begged him to take the belt again, and promised it'd be for only 1 year. 1 turned to 2, to 3, to 4. Bruno said if he didn't drop it soon, he'd retire with it. So they had Bob Backlund win it from him.

-- In Bruno's opinion, Larry Zbyszko was a better talent than most people credited him for. He was good at the technical side, and the high spots side. However, he feels his best talent was being able to be different as a heel or a face. If he turned to being the villain, he'd drop the technical moves and turn to more heel tactics.

-- However, on the other hand, he doesn't believe that his match against Zbyszko at Shea Stadium was as good as his first cage match against Koloff at MSG. He was satisfied with it for the time in his career, but he wouldn't put it in the same class as the one with Koloff.

-- When Bruno returned in September of 1984, he was misled in what Vince's vision was. Vince claimed he wanted to keep tradition and wanted Bruno to be an advisor. He became disillusioned when he saw the changes and felt that steroids and drugs were very obvious. He said the only reason he stayed as long as he did was because he signed a contract, which he considers a stupid mistake. His lawyer said he was "locked in pretty good."

-- Bruno competed for many years in weight lifting and bodybuilding. He said it was very obvious that steroids were a very serious issue at that time even though he never saw anybody "shooting up in their behinds like they did" personally. He says you don't go from an average build to Superman in two days like that. He says you can point at early deaths. He mentions Quick Draw McGraw and Gino Hernandez about deaths involved in steroids. He also says Billy Graham is a perfect example of how dangerous they are.

-- He finds the vulgarity and nudity of the business today disgusting and says he has not watched it in 12 or 13 years. He says it's a lie that people say it is more popular now. He says he wrestled in Washington, New York, Philly, and other areas constantly and now they go to those areas maybe twice a year and don't nearly sell out.

-- He never encouraged his sons to wrestle. But, David was set on wrestling but Bruno wanted him to go to college first. David refused and Bruno didn't really help him train because of it. He says Zbyszko helped David some. When David got on the WWF, he didn't mind helping him but the last thing in the world he wanted to do was actually get in the ring and wrestle again. Vince wanted that, though.

-- "David was not consistent in doing his part to be the best he could be." He said David would leave and come back. Vince tried to talk David into getting Bruno in wrestling again because it would help David. David would get disgusted after being put in dark matches after teaming with Bruno so McMahon put Bruno in a situation where he had to put on the tights here and there to bring David back.

-- David is in Georgia now living with his wife and children working for a company that manufactures windows and things.

-- In the Silverdome, Hogan and Andre drew 93,000 people. He says he heard that only 60,000 actually paid. He said that was still huge but someone said, "Boy, Hogan's really become a card!" He says he disagrees with that because Bruno was still in the WWF when they went back and they only drew 9,500 with Hogan on the card.

-- He wasn't very involved in the WrestleMania appearances he made. He said he liked the concept early on because it became a Super Bowl of wrestling. He says the pay per view events it spawned really helped the guys in the business make a lot more money.

-- He says that if the business would have stayed just wrestling but adopted the pay per views and merchandise without changing the actual product, it still would have done great.

-- His last match ever was teaming with Hulk Hogan against King Kong Bundy and One Man Gang. He did not feel it was any epic match by any means and it was only a match of punching and kicking saying that he was in his 50's at the time and Bundy and Gang were too big to really work a big match around. But, he did not enjoy the match. "I hated every second that he had to be there and I was thrilled to death when it was over."

-- The WWF has already tried to get him back on TV as recently as last year. Kevin Kelly called him to do a feature on the show Confidential where he would be allowed to talk about anything and anybody in any way he saw fit but he refused the offer saying he just wants nothing to do with wrestling in its current state. He says he doubts Vince would ever personally contact him and he doubts he'd ever consider going back even if he did.

-- Eddie Mansfield released a video in 1985 telling the secrets of pro wrestling. He feels kayfabe has changed completely. He said the biggest question that used to get asked was if wrestling was real or not. He says you protected the business heavily back then because it was your life to do so but now he doesn't think they do that anymore.

-- He did not do anything with WCW or NWA (Halloween Havoc Thunderdome Cage match as special referee) to spite Vince. It was just a mutual agreement.

-- He did a tribute event to a late wrestler in 1995 and a lot of WCW wrestlers and the WCW Company was also involved in it. WCW got very interested in bringing Bruno in to do some guest referee spots for them and eventually Bruno agreed to do it. He feels he was paid very well to referee a match between Randy Savage and Ric Flair and feels he was received very well.

-- Mark Madden made a remark on Monday Nitro claiming saying "the late" Bruno Sammartino and then apologized for it weeks later. Bruno said that someone told him about it after it had been said and he wanted proof that it was said so a tape was given to him to watch and he did watch it and heard what he had said and immediately got on the phone with WCW. He told them that if a retraction was not made, he would have his lawyer proceed with a suit. He also did call his lawyer and the lawyer said he had a very good case against them for it.

-- He feels Mark Madden is no good for the business. He talks about when Madden was an announcer for WCW, he had a radio show where he basically was talking about things like razor blades in the tape and things like that and really seemed to be talking down about the business. He feels that if you make money off the business, you have no right to badmouth it that way.

-- His new website is up. BrunoSammartino.com. He was honored in the town he was born in Italy. They built a 15-foot monument in his honor. All his family and others came back for the event and there was a big ceremony making a holiday out of it. It was all filmed so they released that for sale on the website. Another film available is a video called "The Boys Are Back." He says they had a lot of wrestlers that talked openly like he has in our interview so far. There is another one being produced now called Legends Never Die. He says Roddy Piper was on there and was hysterical in what he said. He says he was shocked to hear that Piper went back to the WWE after what he said. Bruno says he also tells a story about being blackballed. He also has authentic autographed photos, which he feels many of the pictures on eBay are not authentic but his are guaranteed.

-- He does not feel that the real reason Piper was fired had anything to do with what he said on the HBO special. Instead, he feels that Vince just saw no value in him. He says Vince is getting desperate looking for someone to spark some interest. He mentions that they brought back Hogan and that didn't work. He laughs and says they brought Sable back and she had sued Vince for $100,000,000 at one time. He says just like Hogan was phased out as Mr. America doing silly things to make him quit, Piper was fired because the Piper's Pit just did not work and Vince realized it. He goes on to say that if Piper would have caught on again, Vince would not have cared what Piper said on HBO.

-- Another item available on BrunoSammartino.com is the book he wrote some 13 years ago. He says he saw the book selling on eBay for $100 a piece so they decided to reprint some and sell it on the website.

Plus, word associations with names like Vince Sr., Vince Jr., Elizabeth, Mark Madden, and so many more!

AND, an after-show wrap-up with the author of the Pro Wrestling Encyclopedia (www.pwbook.com), Rick Clark (known on 3SWForums as Mr. Rickbear).