Wrestling world pays tribute to WWE legend Bruno Sammartino

Bruno Sammartino

World Wrestling Entertainment announced the news early Wednesday that after a brief hospitalization Sammartino died, he was 82. "Bruno Sammartino proved that hard work can overcome even the most difficult of circumstances".

WWE paid tribute to Bruno Sammartino today at a live event in South Africa by giving the wrestling legend a ten-bell salute following his passing.

As we previously reported, Sammartino passed away at his home in Pittsburgh at the age of 82 after recently dealing with undisclosed health issues.

The WWE said Sammartino, who started his career as a weightlifter, once bench-pressed 569 pounds (258 kilograms), catching the attention of WWE promoter Vincent J. McMahon.

Bruno became an overnight sensation, connecting with not only fellow Italians, but also Latinos, Greeks and Jews, successfully bridging the gap in America's melting pot of wrestling fans.

According to the WWE, in 1963 Sammartino defeated Buddy Rogers to become the second-ever WWE Champion. There, he held the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship (WWWF Heavyweight Championship during his second reign) for over 11 years (4,040 days) across two reigns, the first of which is the longest single reign in the promotion's history at 2,803 days. He was also in the first hall of fame class at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame here in Wichita Falls. He held the title for eight years, which is still a record.

His son Shane McMahon wrote: "Bruno Sammartino is and will always be iconic".

KDKA reports Sammartino sold out Madison Square Garden 188 times as a headliner.

Sammartino's popularity earned him the nickname the "Living Legend". He retired from in-ring competition in 1981, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2013 at Madison Square Garden. "Condolences to his family & loved ones".

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