Bruno Sammartino interviews always make headlines but they are especially newsworthy when they are conducted on Pro Wrestling Radio. I have had the honor to interview the WWE Hall of Fame WWWF champion on several occasions and the Living Legend never disappoints. That is why I couldn’t wait to have Bruno back on the show after it was announced that he was coming home.
The following is the complete Bruno interview transcript of the entire hour of conversation. You can find the audio and video as well on the website. Bruno will be returning to the show soon to discuss his post-WrestleMania 29 thoughts and more.
Interview with Bruno Sammartino 2013
Bruno: Well, thank you, Eric. That’s far a kind of you for all these wonderful things, but I’m happy to be with you and let’s go, si?
Eric: Yeah, absolutely, it’s amazing, Bruno. We’ll get in to the interview. It was the year 2000, 13 years ago when you first join me on the show and I feel that the listeners and people that have read the interviews, and downloaded them on iTunes have really gotten a good chance to know you over the 13 years we’ve been able to talk and of course, the topic of the WWE Hall of Fame has always came up and now you’re going in. So, the first question is what happened?
Bruno: Well, a lot of this has happened, Eric. If you remember when I was pretty darn outspoken about them, I was very, very concerned first that of all, about the steroids, the steroid drug use that were around. Now, I have to be fair here, I spoke of the WWE, but this was rampant in any other wrestling organization that was going on at that time. But I was talking about WWE because prior to that, as you know the World Wrestling Federation was eventually changed into that, and I was very, very bothered about what I saw and we’re starting to hear about death here and there. Remember Rick McGraw…?
Bruno: …and others, you know, I was very bothered by everything that was going on and I became very outspoken about it. I know it offended a lot of people, but I really didn’t care much. I was hoping to bring attention to it and maybe something would be done to correct what was going on, because it was not only bad, but it was very dangerous. Well, after a couple of years of that I finally…I felt like I was…there were deaf ears out there, so nobody seemed to care, you know, want to hear about it. So, I’ve decided at that time, okay, I gave my best shot, I really meant good by it all. But since nobody care, so whatever, time to go on with the rest of my life, on my own way. That’s exactly what I did. I quit watching it, I never watch wrestling anymore for many years, and about six months ago, I got a call from Paul Levesque or Triple H.
Bruno: Of course, he’s McMahon’s son-in-law. And I must tell you about this guy. I don’t know him, I really don’t know him, I know him as Triple H, but I really don’t know him personally at all and I must say that he was err…he came across the phone as really sincere, very honest and after a few conversations we kinda put an end to it for a while. But then it came back, about four months later and we started talking again. Then, he started to explain to me about the…for example, the drug program that they had. Dr. Joseph Maroon, who headed the drug program, he had a staff of about six people. You know, it turns out that I know Dr. Maroon very, very well. Dr. Maroon has done three surgeries on my back. He’s a world renowned neurosurgeon and so when they told me about him, that he’s the head of the narcotic department who do testing and all that kind of stuff, I must say that I was impress ‘cause I know him well.
I had some meetings with Dr. Maroon and he explained to me everything that he was doing, coming to this stuff and I know what kind of man this guy is. This is an extremely well respected man because of everything that he has done in his life, that he has achieved and I also know, as he even told me that he would not have tackled this problem, surgeon session, unless he had a free hand at the whole thing. He convinced me pretty well that he had things pretty much under control.
They were not only testing for different drugs, so forth, but also for concussions and also the wellness program, which they give total physical to all participants in wrestling to make sure they had not done serious damage to themselves and they were healthy, and good to go out there and perform.
Bruno: Well, like I said, I had a number of meetings with him and I was convinced of that part ‘cause I know him very, very well. By the conversation with Paul Levesque again, he spoke about other things that I had been outspoken about. The nudity, the vulgarity, the profanity that existed in wrestling; and he asked me to please start watching wrestling again, as I said I haven’t watched it for many, many years. And I started watching it, and in all fairness, there was no more nudity, no more vulgarity, and there’s profanity! I watched it for about two months straight to convince myself that’s the way it really, really was. He assured me it was like that and will continue to be that way because they want to make the show to be more family friendly. Well, I like that, you know, and because of Dr. Maroon and because of what I saw with my own eyes.
When he spoke to me a good while back, he said to me “Bruno, you always said that you weren’t interested in the Hall of Fame because you felt that you could be a hypocrite, ‘cause you’ve been outspoken about the different things that’s been going on, but you also said when you were asked, what if all that changed?” Would it be fair enough to say it’s different now and I would accept? I said, yeah. I said many, many times that I need to be convinced these changes were made, and so forth and, well, like I said after months and especially the talks I had with Dr. Maroon, I felt it’s only fair of me to be fair with them. As critical as I have been in the past, I have to take my hat off to them because they really meant business when they talked about blood testing and whatever, and not only that Eric, as I watched the show, I’m looking at these guys and they look athletic, but I don’t see any of the look of yesteryear that they had.
Eric: You don’t see anymore ultimate warriors in there anymore.
Bruno: Ultimate warrior; Hulk Hogan, the British Bulldog, all of those guys, you know, they’re so obvious about the use of steroids and it’s been days which these people erm…so, you know, it be fair and like I said, all the nudity, all the vulgarity and profanities all disappear and so talking to Paul, which by the way, I must tell you I don’t know him. I only know him as Triple H – one of the star wrestlers of the WWE – but on the phone, he was very convincing that he’s sincere. He really showed me that he meant everything that he said, and he love old school wrestling, and he was trained by Kowalski. He said that he had great respect for my generation of wrestlers and that as time went on and he had more of a say-so about the business, he would like to go more and more towards that era.
Eric: Gotcha. So it sounds like, you know, as much as Triple H had to do with this, it sounds like the doctor had a really big part in helping show you the changes in the WWE today.
Bruno: Without question, the doctor had a lot to do with it because when Paul Levesque or Triple H told me about it, he sounded extremely sincere about the whole thing, but I guess for me, I wasn’t convinced unless I speak to Dr. Maroon, because I know him. I know him for many years, I know his reputation. I know what kind of a man he is. Like I said, I had personal experience with him, he operated on me on three different times. So yeah, Paul told me all about it, but I had to hear it from him and everything I hear from him made me realize that Paul Levesque or Triple H was being very, very sincere and very honest with it. Then there’s another side where Dr. Maroon had nothing to do with, which was, of course, the nudity and the profanity, and all that vulgarity that was going on in the organization. That was strictly what Paul had told me that was gone, and there would be no more of that again, you know, about being family friendly and so forth.
So, putting everything together, I believe – I was convinced – so I felt it was only fair on my part because I had been critical of them. Now, I must give credit where credit is due, they did make all the changes and I applaud them for that. That’s what made me changed my mind and accept the Hall of Fame.
Eric: Is there a part of you – now that this is gonna happen, and it’s a month and a half away – is there a part of you that’s excited to have your grandchildren and people in your family, who never got the chance to see you in a wrestling ring, see you in Madison Square Garden on a big stage and see you get the respect and acknowledgement from the wrestling community?
Bruno: Well, I certainly hope so. In the past, I certainly wouldn’t want my grandchildren to ever see it because of all that was going on. Today, I can honestly say that I would be okay. With all the things that Paul told me and the direction they have now taken, and keep going that way, yeah, I wouldn’t mind if they saw it. And you’re gonna see in future a lot of the matches of some guys of yesteryear, including myself. All that to me, are parts of the stuff I applaud.
Eric: Definitely, definitely. So, we know you’re going into the Hall of Fame and you just touched upon a DVD. What the fans expect, is there going to be more than you going into the Hall of Fame? Or is there going to be a DVD, or are you going to appear on television? Is there anymore to this than just the Hall of Fame?
Bruno: Well, definitely. I will not do a lot of travelling because I’m tired, but I will do some. Yes, there will be a DVD and probably be video games featuring me. They have the program called round table where they get three to four different wrestlers from, I guess, mostly yesteryears to speak of the business and what it was like, and all those kind of things. I agreed to do some of those.
Maybe there might be every now and then a personal meeting, a personal appearance, at a club. I’m just guessing like at Boston or maybe Philadelphia – something the team said they will approach me about, the different things. Of course, a lot would be the things I agreed to do, and I will be fair and do the things I can, but I would not go on the road like yesteryear. I enjoy my life at home too much with my wife, my sons and my grandchildren.
I would not go back on the road, but if periodically I have to make one appearance here and there, I’m willing to do that. So, I’m more excited about the videos. They may show highlights of some matches or I should say, in Madison Square Garden, of some of my best matches. They may do interviews of me speaking of my different opponents through my career and make a video of that. I’m sure they have other things in mind, the way their talking, and like I said, plus another video game and so forth. So, I don’t know everything that’s gonna take place, but there will be opportunities for other things.
Eric: Gotcha, gotcha. Now, I don’t know how closely you follow the program over the last couple of years. One thing that pops into my mind, when I heard about this deal, is their treatment of legends on TV. It’s really not that good. I don’t know how close you paid attention to it, but they portrayed a lot of the legends as clowns, as these goofy old men. I mean, is there a point where you would come there and they present you with something that make you look ridiculous and you’ll say, “No, I’m not doing it”?
Bruno: Well, first of all I have not seen what you’re saying because since I said, Eric, I’d been watching it for the last two months and I’m not familiar with what you said. But I assure you, I absolutely assure you, if anything like that came up with me, I would hope that you know me well enough throughout the years that I would absolutely backfire on them.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, and I do, but I think some of the other fans out there who maybe don’t know you as well worried about that.
Bruno: Nah, no chance. Believe me when I tell you, no chance, that could be the biggest mistake they could possibly make – whatever it is that you saw in the past that I’m not familiar with – is to try to hit me with that stuff. So, I would absolutely not go through.
Eric: Gotcha! Now, one of the questions that other people had, when I put out there that I was going to interview you – and a lot of people send in questions – one of the biggest questions people had was who’s going to induct you? Do you know yet?
Bruno: No, I don’t know and I’ll tell you why. They’re very good about that, and when I say ‘they’, I’m talking about Paul Levesque (Triple H). He said to me that ordinarily, those that are being inducted, they usually choose who they want to induct them. They asked me in a very, very nice way, they said that if I were to allow them to think about it a little bit, because they feel they should allow someone who’s worldly, someone who’s known around the world to do that. They said they would come up to me with three to four different names and they would discuss it with me. If I disagree with any or all of who they might suggest, they would absolutely honor my wishes with who I want. So, I wanna be far and give them that opportunity to find out who they’re thinking about and so forth.
Now, I don’t know if you heard, Eric, but I’m also inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame.
Eric: Yes, and congratulations!
Bruno: Well, thank you very kindly. That takes place on March the 2nd and the people behind this, a gentleman by the name of Dr. Robert Coleman, and a staff of I believe 48, that nominated you and they have to vote. They voted unanimously for me to be inducted. Now, this is going to be held in Columbus, Ohio, and they’re expecting between 175-200,00 people for the weekend, and the co-host for that is Arnold Schwarzenegger. And so I know Arnold before he became a big movie star and governor, ‘cause when I used to wrestle in California, I used to work out with him in Gold’s gym and he used to come to wrestling matches. It’s a possibility and I can’t tell you he hasn’t been approached yet about it. That I know he’s one of the possibilities, there are others and who the others are I don’t know. But when I go to Columbus on March the 2nd and I would be on stage with Arnold, maybe I would asked him myself and that would be fine with me.
I repeat, whoever else they had in mind besides Arnold, I don’t know, but if they don’t work out, they did made it clear to me whoever I consider, they would accept.
Eric: Interesting, interesting. That’s a name I wouldn’t expect. That’s definitely worldly, that’s for sure.
Bruno: Yeah, I’ll say.
Eric: One of the things you used to tell me and we laughed on the show, people would call in and say “Bruno, why don’t you go into the Hall of Fame?” and you said to them, “What Hall of Fame?! There’s not even a Hall of Fame!” Do you think they’re any closer to making an actual, physical Hall of Fame?
Bruno: Well, that’s another thing. I absolutely brought that up and I absolutely discussed it with them. Paul Levesque tells me that they have actually looked for different area. There’s one time they look to Orlando, Florida, didn’t worked out; New York, didn’t worked out. I didn’t pushed for the reasons why they have not work out, but he more or less told me, “Bruno, we’ll definitely keep looking and keep searching. I can’t promise you that it’s going to be in three months, five months or six months, but we’ll keep looking for a place to have that happen.” And the way he’s been very sincere to me, Paul Levesque. I believe him and I believe that as well. I believe that will happen.
Eric: Interesting, interesting…and I have been reading a lot on the internet and I know a lot of people have as well, about a movie on your life that’s in the making. Can you talk a little about that as well for people that might not be aware of the movie and what’s going on?
Bruno: Surely. First of all, before the movie, there was a documentary that’s been worked on for six whole years. In fact, the people behind this documentary – a gentleman by the name of Marty Lazarro who by profession is an attorney – he’s a very dear friend of mine whose grandparents came from my neck of the woods in low country, and he’s been a fan of mine when he was a little kid. As he learned more and more about me and my life, he said this is a story that needed to be told.
So, he got some people, another gentleman by the name of Kenny Brown, who did a lot of films and they’ve done documentaries in the past. We actually made four trips to the north country, but three was specifically for this documentary. We even head for the mountains in the north to where the Nazi’s hid during the war.
They interview people in my hometown who went through the experience. They got films and photos of my town and what it looked like after the war. This thing, I’m proud of because it’s complete now and I looked at it from the beginning until the end. What I love about it, is because it’s honest, 100% truth and now there are different people, companies I should say, who want to be distributors of this project worldwide. So, we’re in the process now of dealing with these different companies to see who we feel is best suited, who can do it more justice.
As far as the movie, yes, the script if you will, has been done. They had a very good name, a Hollywood screenwriter by the name of Paul Gay, who did it and he finished it all. We understand that the latest on the project is that there are two Hollywood studios that are very interested in doing it, but there are some independent companies who are also interested. Now, the producer, a gentleman by the name of Scott Rosenfelt, you’ve probably heard of him, he’s the guy who produced Home Alone and 38,000 movies he’s involved with. He’s in the process of meeting with, not only the studios but some independent people who want to finance and produce it.
So, that’s where we are with that, but to be honest with you, I’m more excited about the documentary because I know for a fact it’s 100% truth from beginning to end. The movies, too often tend to Hollywoodize it, as the saying goes – make changes. And even though I have a say-so about that, I still don’t feel as comfortable about that as I do I do about the documentary. But then again, as we look a bit into casting, and this and that, I feel much more comfortable with it, you know, said and done.
The documentary, like I said, I have seen it and I’m absolutely proud of it, and I can’t wait until the whole public and the world get to see it ‘cause I think it was great.
Eric: I can’t wait, I mean we’ve been talking for over 10 years and I’ve gotten to know your story over 10 years. And I can’t wait to see what that’s like in a major motion picture.
Bruno: Well, hopefully, Eric, you’ll have to wait much longer because the documentary is gonna show sometime later this year.
Eric: Good, good, excellent! Again, I asked fans questions and one of the questions that keeps coming up is what do you think is gonna happen when you meet Vince McMahon? Do you have any idea what you plan to say to him or what?
Bruno: No, I don’t know. We’re not going to meet at Madison Square Garden until April the 6th for the Hall of Fame. Yes, I’ve been asked that too, Eric. The only answer I can give is this; I have been extremely critical of him as to the direction he took wrestling to, and again, I go back to the rampant drugs and steroids use and all that stuff – the nudity, the profanity, the vulgarity. By the same token, I will be fair. I’ve had a meeting with Dr. Maroon about the drug program and all that, and watching the nudity, the vulgarity, the profanity. I think I’m man enough to, as critical as I have been of him, I will also give him credit for having turned around and make all these great changes, and I have no problem expressing all that to him when the time comes.
What’s going to happen, I don’t know. But when I do meet him on that night I would, as the saying goes, you’ll have to play by the ear. But I certainly would meet him face to face and look him in the eye, and I can’t tell if we’re gonna have a conversation on different things. As he very well knows what bothered me tremendously, but I’ll be man enough to also thank him and congratulate him that he saw the light and turn things around the way he had, and I would express that to him as well.
Eric: Yeah, one of the questions that came from the fans and this is a great question, somebody asked me to ask you who your inspiration was.
Bruno: In wrestling?
Eric: I guess in wrestling. Who inspired you? Who motivated your career?
Bruno: Well, as a little kid in Italy, I always hear the name Primo Carnera. I was fascinated by him, the name and what I heard in Italy. He was worshipped, that Primo Carnera. My God, he was a giant! He became World Heavyweight Champion boxing, he beat Ernie Sheffer…I can’t remember. But anyway, he actually started in wrestling, and then went into boxing and then came back into wrestling.
Carnera was about 6’7”, 275lbs, and in Italy was worshipped as a giant and oh my God, I know I didn’t even get to meet him. So, when I came to this country, I trained in both wrestling and weightlifting, and throughout the years I never forget Carnera and his reputation, the way he was thought of. Then, when I came over to this country, like I said, developed myself and watching TV, I actually saw him on television and I saw what everybody was talking about. This giant, 6’7”, 275lbs and not an ounce of fat in his body, and gosh, I thought that was unbelievable! Then, another guy that I saw also inspired me, I don’t know if you remember the name, but Argentina Rocca.
Eric: Oh, sure!
Bruno: Rocca, who was also from Italy, went to Argentina as a 16 year-old, and I looked up to and admire these guys. So, when I became a wrestler, it was one of my biggest thrills not only to get to meet Primo Carnera, but I got to be his tag team partner in a number of matches. Same thing with Rocca, I was tag team partners with him in the Garden a number of times.
Bruno: So, these guys, in terms of looking up to people and respecting them, they’ll probably be the ones who influenced me the most.
Eric: You know, something I never asked you over the years is about the WrestleMania 2 battle royal, you had all those NFL players in there who I’m guessing weren’t too smart into the business. What was that like, to be part of that and worked with those players?
I can be perfectly honest with you, that was a part of my career I didn’t like at all. That was after I retired in 1982 and I came back as a color commentator in September 1984. In 1985, I was asked to put the tights on and I refused, but my son was there at that time – David – and I was put in an awkward position with David because I was told that if I put on the tights, he and I would be tag team here and there, and this would be a great boost for him. Well, long story short, I was totally against it because I’ll still be retired, but I don’t want to be said for my son or anybody because I couldn’t do what I could to help him with his career.
So, I put on the tights, but I was very, very unhappy about that. I don’t want no part of it and no longer did I wrestle tag team with David now, because after that they asked me to appear in single matches as well. Again, I really want no part of it, but I did. And they swear in the next WrestleMania that you’re talking about, the first one I was second to my son as he was wrestling in Madison Square Garden, I believe against er…
Eric: I think it was Brutus Beefcake?
Bruno: Something like that, if I remember correctly, and then I was in Chicago and I did go to that battle in Chicago with football players. But any of those events that I put the tights on, I can only tell you this, that I didn’t like it, I hated it, I want no part of it. I was put in a position like I had to, but I absolutely want no part of it. And to be perfectly honest with you Eric, I never even consider that part of my career. People asked me when I wrestled, when I retired, I said in 1959 and I retired in 1982. I don’t even look at that as part of my career because I didn’t belong there; I wanted no part of it. It wasn’t my doing, it wasn’t my choice, so I just don’t consider that part of my wrestling career.
Eric: Gotcha, gotcha. You brought up the color commentary and I wanted to tell you that I recently watched an interview with Jessie Ventura. Jessie said that he begged Vince MacMahon to keep you, that you were the perfect foil for him, and he liked working with you so much as the good cop, bad cop that he begged Vince McMahon to keep you and was really upset when you had left at that point.
Bruno: Jessie Ventura said that?
Bruno: Well, I left because when I came back in September 1984, and I started seeing the changes that were taking place in wrestling, I started seeing the use and abuse of steroid and enhancement drugs, and I start seeing changes in wrestling itself with nudity and some stuff. I became so very, very bothered by it all and that’s what caused me to leave. I want no part of it and as you know, Eric, I’ve spoken about all that kind of stuff.
Had that not happened, I don’t know for how long, but I would had stayed and do color commentary. If I could contributed in any way, shape or form to wrestling for young people, I would have been delighted to do that, but the direction it took bothered me tremendously and I felt I couldn’t be part of that. I found it very necessary for me to bow out and leave.
Eric: Were you surprised that Jessie said that? Because if I remember, correct me if I’m wrong, ‘cause we talked a lot. But I vaguely remembered you telling me when we talked about this that you felt ostracized by Jessie and Vince when the three of you guys were doing commentary. That they would dress in a dressing room by themselves and away from you, and keep you out of the loop. Does that surprise you?
Bruno: Well, I’m disappointed of the fact that there were different rooms where everybody dress and here’s the three of us; first, it was me and Vince doing the commentary, then Jessie joined us. Prior to that, we threw in somebody else because they had the couple, the All-Star Wrestling something else…
Eric: I think the wrestling challenge was one of that.
Bruno: Yeah, something like that. He was with one groups, I think maybe with Monsoon, then Vince brought him in with the three of us, and yeah, that’s true, they had dressing rooms. It was Vince McMahon and Jessie Venture, like I wasn’t there. My name didn’t even exist. So, I would change wherever I could get dressed for that, but I guess it was because already I had shown displeasure of what’s going on. But it wasn’t long after that I left the organization.
Eric: Now, Jessie came back a couple of years ago and call that match with Vince. Would you call the match with Vince one last time?
Bruno: You mean do commentary?
Eric: Yes, yes, the commentary.
Bruno: No, all that is behind me. I mean, there’s been so much talk and I’ve not been asked. As the old saying goes, I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it, but it all depends. It all has to be something that I agree with and approve of, okay, but not just they want me to do something. If I don’t like it or believe in, no, I absolutely will not do it.
Eric: This is a fan question that came in. At what point in your career did you feel like you made it, that you’re finally a success?
Bruno: When I beat Buddy Rogers for the title, and by the way, that was 50 years ago.
Eric: Good one, good answer.
Bruno: After that, when I beat Rogers, I knew I was a headliner. Sure, I had concerns. I had serious concerns, I thought I was given the opportunity; I was the new World Wrestling Federation champion. The question in my mind was will people accept me as that? Will they come to the arena when I headline? Naturally, you’re concerned about it. But I must tell you, and I’m so grateful that it didn’t take long for me to get that out of my mind ‘cause the people’s support of me, they came out by the groves so I can’t tell you what it meant to me. The respect and love and appreciation from the fans!
Because I never kidded myself, I don’t know if I ever told you, but I now said this many, many times. In this business, if you’re given the opportunity to be a headliner, or advertised as a headliner, and people don’t come out to see you, you’re not going to stay a headliner very long. And I was a headliner for close to a quarter of a century. So, whatever success I had, I really owe it all to the fans because they came out and supported me. Had they not done that, I wouldn’t have been successful as I was as far as being a headliner.
And so, I honestly, truly feel that I owe it all to the fans. They are the ones who were responsible for me to have been a headliner for as long as I was.
Eric: As far as your WWE Hall of Fame speech goes – this is a fan question that came in – do you plan on writing it out or you plan on just going up there and talking off the cuff?
Bruno: I never write any speech. I’ve spoken in many, many occasions; I was honored at one of the greatest sports banquet in the country and I was honored in the lifetime achievement award and asked me to give a 30-minute. No, I never write anything, nor I think anybody writes anything. I speak strictly as I feel what’s in my heart. When it comes to Hall of Fame, that night, I will see how things go, and I will speak, but no written speeches of any kind. I speak of what I feel on that particular night and what it means to me, and I would try best of my ability to express all that.
Eric: You mentioned a couple of times that you watched the product just to see what was going on and get a feel for it. A couple of fans asked me to ask you, was there anybody you that watched stood out to you that you thought was good and had a bright future?
Bruno: I’ve been asked that. I’m not trying to be unfair to anybody, please understand that, but it was so different in my era from what I see today that I really can’t make comparisons. It’s a complete different world of wrestling. Maybe some of us, including myself, wouldn’t fit in. Give you examples; I see some of these guys, they go up to the top rope and do back summersaults. I couldn’t do that, would never attempted stuff that. When I go back to my days, when I think back in my day…let’s just talk about some of my opponents.
When I talk about the Killer Kowalski, the Ivan Koloff, the Don Leo Jonathan, the Big Bill Miller, the Toru Tanaka, these kinds of people; I don’t see these kinds of guys around today. I don’t, like I say, I’m not putting anybody here today in any way, shape or form down, but it’s a completely different world of wrestling. I just couldn’t make the comparison. The people I knew of yesteryear and the people I knew of today, they’re just a complete different ball game as far as I can tell.
You know, when I complained about steroids and stuff, people say to me, “Boy, these guys are bigger and much better built than you!” The difference was with those guys who were using these drugs, they developed themselves and they muscled-up and all that stuff. In my days, talk about Big Bill Miller for example – 6’ 7”, 340lbs.; or Don Leo Jonathan – 6’ 8”, 350lbs.; or Ernie Ladd – 6’ 11”, 340lbs.; or Bobo Brazil – 6’ 5” 320lbs., these were naturally big, big men.
I, myself wasn’t near as tall as these guys. I wasn’t 6’ tall even, but I was also in the early part of my career, 275lbs. After breaking my neck, I dropped down to 250lbs. and decided to stay that way because I was losing track as I was naturally getting older.
Now that I’ve been watching wrestling in the past couple of months and these guys are very athletic, and they’re doing a lot of acrobatic moves; a lot of good, impressive stuff! I don’t want to take anything away from them, but it’s a completely different style than it was in my day, and that’s why I just couldn’t make the comparison between the two.
Eric: What do you think about CM Punk dropping your name in a couple of his promos?
Bruno: Well, I don’t know! If he were just say things to create controversy, but what he said was silly; he said that I only wrestle once a month in Madison Square Garden. He made it sound like that was it; I only wrestle once a month. The reality is that the first eight years I had the belt, I had two weeks out of the month I wrestled seven days a week and the other two weeks, I would wrestle six days a week. I’ve only two days of the month to come home free to come home to visit the family. When I used to go to Japan or Australia or South America, wherever I went, it would be on tour where you wrestle every single day, and you come back in time for the Garden. Vince McMahon would not run the Garden without me, Vince McMahon Sr.
So, if I wrestle on Monday, Tuesday morning I’ll be catching the plane to Japan or Australia. Once I gone there, I’ll be on tour for three weeks and then make sure I left and came back in New York in time for the next Garden show.
The point is this, in my 23-years career I wrestle close to 7,000 times. So, what’s this punk talking about, once in a month in Madison Square Garden? He was just saying stuff to maybe aggravate the anger of some people or he just didn’t have a clue about what my career was all about.
Eric: One of the fans had asked me to ask your thoughts on going into the Hall of Fame the same night as Bob Backlund. I know you and I have talked about Backlund over the years on my show. So, just quickly, you know, what are some of your thoughts of going in, ironically, the same night as him?
Bruno: Well, I understand that Mick Foley is going to be going in, Bob Backlund, I’m sorry to say this girl’s going in I’m not familiar…
Eric: Trish Stratus.
Bruno: Yeah, I just don’t know, because like I said, I wasn’t watching wrestling for many, many years, so there are a lot of people that I did not know in that organization. So, I will tell you whoever this girl is, she must be well thought of to be inducted into this hall of Fame.
As far as Mick Foley, I didn’t see too much of his career because I wasn’t watching at the time, but I never heard anything negative about him. I know any interview that I’ve heard him on that’s outside of the wrestling world, he’s always seems to be a very respectful guy. I know that he was trained by a good buddy of mine, Dominic DeNucci.
Dominic always spoke very well of Mick Foley and he always told me Mick Foley is a very nice guy, a good guy who respected the old timers, who Dominic couldn’t say enough good stuff about him. So, everything I heard about Mick Foley, I like him very, very much, sounds like he’s a very, very good man.
As far as Backlund, I’m more familiar with him, and his wrestling career and I would say that he certainly…he was champion for a period of time. He’s a guy who always kept himself in good shape and he was a guy, another guy, no gimmick or nothing. He just went into the ring with a pair of boots and tights. I certainly believe very strongly that he belongs to the Hall of Fame, and I’m very happy that he’s been inducted to the Hall of Fame.
To be perfectly honest with you, because I objected to idea of going into the Hall of Fame, I wasn’t sure at all who entered. I didn’t know anybody who’s in it. I kinda felt he was already in, when in fact I was a little surprise to find out that he had not gone into the Hall of Fame, but I’m happy for him that he’s finally going in this year.
Eric: As we wrap up the interview here, your fans have been very, very passionate and supportive over the years. What’s the reaction you got from your fans when the news broke that you’re going to be in the Hall of Fame?
Bruno: I gotta be very honest with you, they’re overwhelming. I cannot tell you! I expect there would be a reaction of my going into the Hall of Fame. I would expect some people would be happy and thrilled about it, some people might not be. I might even get some criticism because of the way I’ve been outspoken in the past. But now, I’ve gotten just about zero of that! I’m sure there are some, but I haven’t gotten that.
Everybody who has contacted me through e-mails and through letters and through phone, and they all say how thrilled they are that I’m finally going into the Hall of Fame and their thrilled about it, and all the positive stuff. I must say, I’m surprised there’s very, very little negative – I haven’t met any, but like I said, there must be some out there.
Eric: Alright. Well, as we wrap this up here, I just wanna say, Bruno, that I’m just very excited that the fans of today and this generation are gonna a chance to see Bruno Sammartino, to see Bruno Sammartino matches in videos and interviews, because up until now, as you know, they’ve buried your past. The fans tried to bury the matches and the tapes, and now the fans are going to get a chance to get acquainted with you. I think that’s fantastic and I’m really happy for you for that, and I’m happy for them that they’re gonna get a chance to really sink their teeth into a big part of wrestling history.
Bruno: Well, you know what Eric, thank you and so am I. But you know, in today’s world, and believe me, nobody knows less about computer and internet than I do. I’m totally in the dark on that, but all the people in my family, my own sons, would talk to me about that. I think with so much information about you in the internet, especially I think that people may be younger and have not seen guys like me, but they certainly seemed to know about me. And I’ll tell you the proof of that surprised me, almost shocked me, I should say. That was on Monday night RAW when they announced that I was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I believe that was in Atlanta, Georgia – not in New York, Philadelphia or Boston but in Atlanta, Georgia – and I happen to watch that night because I was told they’re gonna announce me.
And I must tell you, I was shocked when I saw the reaction of the audience. They all stood up and applauded, and a lot of people even started chanting my name! That really surprised me, because these are younger people who were not around at the time when I was wrestling. So, it tells me they must, through the internet or whatever, they must have really, really followed and see who was who because, again, I was really, really shocked at the reaction I got. And not only this, worldwide – and I don’t know if you know this – but it was told to me, trending or whatever you called it, worldwide, that for a while, that was one of the most talked about subject around the world; my going into the Hall of Fame.
So, I say that times have changed so drastically that even young people might know who you are because stuff like the internet and what have ya.
Eric: Well, Bruno, first of all, I wanna apologize to the lovely Mrs. Sammartino for taking you away from her on Valentine’s Day for an hour. But really, it is always an honor and a pleasure, and I mean really, the biggest thrill that I had in doing these shows since 1998 is just getting to know you and having you one the show and giving the fans a forum to ask you questions and interact. And just like I said, I’m too thrilled to be seeing you acknowledged and a part of the wrestling culture today, and it was an honor to speak with you again. Hopefully, after the ceremony, things settled down a little bit, we can catch up and let the fans know what happens and any behind-the-scenes stuff.
Bruno: I would be very, very happy Eric, and I too, thank you so very, very much. You’ve always been kind and generous with me in times and so forth. And as far as the fans, I hoped I’ve answered their questions. Anytime you have me on and they have had questions, I always like to hear it and do my best to answer them to the best of my abilities. I thank you, Eric. It’s always a pleasure to do your show.
Eric: Well, always a pleasure to have you.
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