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Bruno Sammartino, Wrestling's original hero, dies at the age of 82



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Bruno Sammartino, the charismatic, muscular wrestler who was World Champion wrestling champion under the terms of five US Presidents, has died at the age of 82, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. said Wednesday [19659004] Sammartino's popularity was such that his nickname had been "the living legend" for decades.

Sammartino died on Wednesday, according to NBC affiliate WPXI of Pittsburgh, where he lived since 1

950. The station said Sammartino helped build his original studios as a worker after he emigrated from Italy, but before he went into professional wrestling.

Bruno Sammartino in the early 1970s George Napolitano / MediaPunch / IPx via AP file

Sammartino, born 1935 in the small town of Pizzoferrato in the central Italian region Abbruzzo, moved to the United States a teenager and soon took Weightlifting, sculpting the bodybuilder Six Pack abs years before the term was invented.

He was about professional wrestling around 1960 as a clean good guy – a "wrestling-face" – and quickly became one of the superstars who fueled the explosive growth of sport as a popular entertainment in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1960, Sammartino joined Vince McMahon's Sr. Capital Wrestling Corporation, which became a widespread popularity as a world wrestling federation. Now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, the company is the dominant player in professional wrestling under the leadership of McMahon's son Vince Jr.

McMahon called Sammartino on Wednesday "one of the best men I knew in life and in business" [19659004] "Bruno Sammartino has proven that hard work can overcome even the most difficult circumstances," said McMahon, who brought Sammartino back to WWE in 2013, introducing him to the company's Hall of Fame.

The induction healed a 15-year fraction between the two, which began in 1988, when Sammartino went over the use of steroids from fellow campaigners and WWE's outrageously exaggerated storylines. He was introduced to the inauguration by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who welcomed him on Wednesday as "the embodied American dream."

"From his childhood in Italy before the Nazis to the sale of Madison Square Garden 188 times as the greatest star of professional wrestling, he was a hero at every stage of his life," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

The Garden, in turn, called Sammartino "one of the greatest stars in the long and storied history of Madison Square Garden, a legend in Every Path."

Sammartino won the WWWF World Championship in May 1963 and held it for nearly eight years until January 1971, according to WWE the longest rule of all time. He won it in December 1973 and retained it until April 1977. Overall, his time as champion spent the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter.

He survived A Broken Neck, which he endured in 1976 in a game when Stan Hansen slammed him on the screen. Doctors advised him never to wrestle again, but he vigorously trained and was back in the ring in four months, the Pittsburgh Press reported.

Sammartino retired in 1981 as an active wrestler and became a prominent and popular analyst on the ring. He survives his 59-year-old wife Carol and three sons.

Bruno Sammartino, then 65 years old, at his home in Pittsburgh in November 2000 with a picture of him at the age of 35. Gene J. Puskar / AP file

Sammartino was more than just a popular Pittsburgh figure, said Mayor Peduto on Wednesday

"Bruno Sammartino was one of the city's greatest ambassadors ever," said Peduto a statement. "Like so many of us, his immigrant family moved here to rebuild their lives, and by his unusual strength and surprising grace, he embodied the spirit of Pittsburgh on the world stage."

After hearing the news of Sammartino's death, Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday:

"There's a saying about being cautious about meeting your heroes because you're disappointed Millions grew up with Bruno Sammartino, and those who met him did not disappoint. "


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