Thursday, October 1, 2015
Bruno Turns 80
Growing up, Bruno Sammartino was a wrestling name that I knew as well as Hulk Hogan or Junkyard Dog even though he had all but retired by the time that I began watching. My parents grew up in Sammartino's home base of Pittsburgh, PA, and made sure that I knew all about him. I can still remember them happily pointing out the LJN Bruno figure shown on the Wrestling Superstars cardback. They weren't the only ones in the area who remembered the Italian hero of the '60s and '70s. I know that fond memories remain of Sammartino's impact in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, but he will always be a top sports legend here in the 'Burgh. Baby boomers still talk about Sammartino with awe in their voices. He was real to their grandparents. He was real to their parents. He is real to them. The feeling was mutual. While Bruno may have ruled the entire northeast wrestling scene, the Steel City was where his heart was.
Would Sammartino work in the wrestling world of today? That remains to be seen. Sammartino's ethnic hero mystique is lost in today's world, but I see a lot of Bruno in Cesaro. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Cesaro is a modern-day Sammartino. Sadly, "The Swiss Superman" is grossly misused, thus preventing any further comparisons. Still, the combination of strength and ring skill can easily make one think back to the heyday of "The Living Legend." With one flick of the pencil, Cesaro could probably be a decent replication of a Sammartino-type wrestling star. A match between the two in their primes would be an absolute classic.
It has been documented that 2015 has seen some health setbacks for Sammartino and subsequently a slowing of his appearance schedule. All word of late has been that "The Living Legend" is on the mend and will be in prime shape to celebrate his milestone birthday on October 6th. While no one is promised a tomorrow, it'd be foolish to bet against Bruno Sammartino celebrating many more birthdays and quite possibly setting another record--longest living pro wrestler in history.
Happy Birthday, Champ!