Bruno Sammartino Interview 2004

bruno sammartino wrestling interviewThe following interview with former WWWF world champion the “Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino. The always outspoken Sammartino talks about his career, returning to the Ric Flair, meeting with Jim Ross, Bret Hart, and even takes calls from listeners. The interview was taped July 31, 2004 and previously broadcast on Pro Wrestling Radio.

Eric: The true bona fide living legend of professional wrestling, former WWWF World Heavyweight Champion, and somebody I can proudly say is a friend, Bruno Sammartino. Bruno, welcome back to the show.

Bruno: Well, thank you, Eric. It’s nice to be on your show.

Eric: Bruno, it’s an honor to have you back. The first thing I want to ask you, before you, on the first hour of the show, I had Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin on the show. Do you remember him?

Bruno: Yeah, I remember Jimmy Garvin, sure.

Eric: He had some great things to say about you. He just went on and on, because he heard me promote that you were going to be on in the second hour and he was telling me how much he respected you and how it was just an honor to be on before you. As a little a bit of trivia, he was saying, at the time, he thinks he was only the wrestler to have ever wrestled Danny Hodge, Lou Thesz, and Buddy Rodgers. I said, ‘I don’t know, Bruno might have wrestled the three of them.’ I know you wrestled Lou Thesz and Buddy Rodgers. Did you ever wrestle Danny Hodge?

Bruno: No, I never did.

Eric: Wow, so he has you beat there.

Bruno: (Laughs) That’s right.

Eric: (Laughs) Before we get into anything, I know the question your fans always want to know, how’s your health doing? How you’ve been doing these days?

Bruno: Eric, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had some major surgeries, as you know. I’ve had various back surgeries, a couple of them; they were pretty extensive. Then I had the hip replacement, about four and a half months ago. I’ll tell you what, I’m doing great now. I’m training six days a week; I do three days of roadwork and three days with the weights. If I may say so myself, at this stage of my life, I think I’m in pretty darn good shape.

Eric: That’s excellent. You, my friend, have made the news a lot lately. All of the stories that have come about you at the Monday Night Raw show, prior to live event in Pittsburgh two weeks ago. Many people have reported that you met with [Vince] McMahon, and that you met with [Jim] Ross. Why don’t you tell everybody what actually happened, so they can actually hear what really did happen and not a whole bunch of speculation?

Bruno: It’s amazing. I’ve been hearing so many different things about this. It just boggles my mind because there are so many ridiculous stories. It’s very simple what happened. My attorney, and friend, is Martin Lazaro. He has an office in downtown Pittsburgh, as does Vince McMahon’s lawyer, whose name is Jerry McDevitt. His firm is in downtown Pittsburgh, as well. They know each other. McDevitt contacted Lazaro about a possible meeting between me, my attorney, him (McDevitt) and they were going to bring in Jim Ross. I declined. I told my lawyer, ‘Why would I want to meet? There’s nothing further for us to meet about. I’m not interested in anything to do with wrestling, anymore.’ Anyway, they talked some more. First of all, McDevitt said that Jim Ross would like the opportunity to see me again. And I too, I must tell you, I always respected Jim Ross. Jim Ross is a good guy. My experiences with him have always been positive. My attorney said to me, ‘Look, what do we got to lose? You get a chance to see Jim Ross, who’s willing to come to town. Let’s see what it is they have in mind.’ So, very reluctantly, I mean that sincerely, I said okay to Martin Lazaro. We met and it was nice to see Jim Ross. We greeted each other well. Jim Ross was very opened. He said, ‘Bruno, I know that you and Vince McMahon have your differences, and I certainly am not going to be the one to try and patch things up between you two, however, what I want to know, there are a few things that [we want to see] if you would be interested in.’ I said, ‘Such as?’ He said, ‘Well, Bruno Sammartino has been kind of outside of wrestling for many years, and we still get this interest out there and we wonder if there’s a possibility that we could do something, whether it be merchandising or whatever.’ I said, ‘I have to think about any of that stuff, but if there were to be any involvement in the future, there would have to be some concessions made. For example, there are 500,000 kids, Eric, in schools in America that are on steroids.

Eric: Really?

Bruno: 500,000. That’s a very scary number.

Eric: It is.

Bruno: And what happens is a lot of these kids look at their heroes, no matter what sport, and they hear so much about how these guys enhanced their careers by using these drugs. I think it’s one of the things that encourages these kids. One of the things I wanted to do was to speak on that, to speak on the dangers of these drugs. Anyway, basically, we went back and forth on this, and there was, I don’t want to say nothing accomplished, what was accomplished was that it would be considered, by both sides. I said that they would have to make concessions, if I felt I could contribute something in a positive way. I’ll always be interested because I loved wrestling, for all the years I was in it. I just got turned off, with all the negatives that followed, that appalled me, to a large degree. I was very outspoken, if you remember some fifteen years ago or so. After that, I just went about my way. What happened with that was, we were doing a shoot, a documentary on my life, [with] these people here in Pittsburgh. Before, we went to Europe; we went to Italy, to shoot at the town where I was born in. Our people contacted the Civic Arena, because on the 26 th, as you said, they were going to have RAW, but what we were interested in was the ring. We needed to do some shooting in a ring, as part of the documentary. When I say we, not me, but the people that are doing this. They contacted the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh and they asked if they could get permission to do some shooting in the ring, when the ring would be up, with me, concerning this documentary. Not only that, but there’s a CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, it’s called KDKA, and they were doing a story on me. They wanted to do something in the ring. So we were going to do both, accomplish both of these things. What happened was that McMahon’s lawyer found out about, and this Jerry McDevitt contacted my attorney, again. He said, ‘Look, you guys are going to be at the arena again and Vince would really like to meet with Bruno.’ Again, I declined. Now, we’re in Europe; we’re in Italy; we’re touring all over with this documentary. Lazaro spoke to McDevitt again; he got a call. He (McDevitt) said, ‘Talk to Bruno. Tell him all we want to do is have a little talk.’ I kept declining. Lazaro said to me, ‘Bruno, we’re going to be there anyway. For God’s sake, let’s see what’s on the man’s mind.’ Again, I really wasn’t interested. Then I finally said okay. When we came back from Europe, in fact the night before, we went to the Civic Arena, and while we were over there we decided to shoot both the documentary and the CBS affiliate that was doing a story on me. Somebody from McMahon’s office came over to me and my attorney, and asked if we could follow her to this office. We did. We met with Vince McMahon and McDevitt. It was a very brief meeting. I spoke up and I said I didn’t know what he was interested in, but, as far as I was concerned, I suggested, ‘Whatever you people are interested in, put it down on paper, send it to my attorney, we will look at it, and if you’re willing to make some concessions about what I believe in, we’ll go from there.’ And with that, I walked out. My attorney remained in there a while. I walked out because we had some shooting to do in that ring.

Eric: Right.

Bruno: That’s all there was to it. There was nothing that was agreed upon, really discussed. I’ve been hearing so many stories; I can’t believe where they’re coming from. There’s another thing. When we got through with the ring, this appalls me. I have to say, a lot of the wrestlers, I didn’t know who they were because I don’t watch wrestling. I haven’t watched wrestling for many a year, but, I must say, a lot of them came over and introduced themselves to me while I was near the ring. They were all extremely polite, telling me it was honor to meet me, but a big fellow by the name Batista, who I never heard of before, he came over, and he was full of compliments. It was very flattering, because I didn’t know any of these people. But as I was leaving, somebody called me. [It was] a lady with the arena, and as I was talking for a minute, I looked and I saw Ric Flair.

Eric: Yes.

Bruno: I wanted to go over and speak to him, but as I turned, he took off. I couldn’t believe he would do that. He took off. But believe it or not, the following the day, from a guy friend of mine who was in the arena said that there was a story going around that Ric Flair came to me to shake my hand and I turned my back on him. I was furious at that because it was such a lie, but I wasn’t sure if Ric himself had said that or if somebody else had said that. So I kept quiet to see what came of it. Well, what came of it was, that Ric did a radio show in Canada and he said it, he repeated that story, and my friend got a tape of it. This really appalls me, because the guy when he saw me and I started to walk, he took off like a thief. I can’t believe he would even say that, because there were so many witnesses around who saw what happen. To say that he came to shake my hand and I turned my back is such a ridiculous lie. I never knew Ric too too well; in fact, I’ve only ran into him four or five times. I never had any real conversations with him or anything. So I can’t say that I really, really know him that well. I was very disappointed in that and some of the other things he has said. I just don’t understand it. I’m puzzled by it all.

Eric: For those out there that don’t know what he said, I’ll paraphrase. I’ll love for you to rebut this because he had his say everywhere and you really haven’t had a chance to have your say. The two main things that he said about you in his book: he said he worked under you in Madison Square Garden and St. Louis. He said he wasn’t impressed. He said you didn’t do much in the ring and he said you weren’t a draw outside of the Northeast. Your comments, sir.

Bruno: I’d like to know where he gets that from because [for] example, I wrestled San Francisco, a number of times with [Ray] Stevens and we sold out each time we wrestled there. I had terrific gates in Los Angeles. When I was with the Bruiser [Brody], we sold out, my goodness, all over, in the Midwest, Chicago, Indiana, and other places. St. Louis, I wrestled Harley Race and we had a sellout. Yes, I had a couple of other matches were not necessarily sellouts, but they were close to sellouts. I wrestled in Tennessee; I wrestled in Texas [and] most every place I’ve been. By the way, in Japan, which I made twenty tours, Ric Flair, he told you he was on the card in Madison Square Garden, what happened there was that [Jim] Crockett would call Vince McMahon Sr. and say, ‘Would you please put Ric Flair on the card because it would be good publicity in the Carolinas to say Ric Flair is wrestling in Madison Square Garden tonight.’ But he was only in preliminary matches and really nobody knew him too well or he was. My point is, not to take anything away from him, but to suggest I only drew in the Northeast. I set records in Australia. He was on a tour, one time, when I was in Japan, and I was on the main event every night. Guess what? Ric Flair was in the preliminary matches. If he was so much bigger, why wasn’t he the headliner and me underneath? Like I said, in Australia, all the tours I made there, we set records in attendance. In South America, when did he ever wrestle in South America? I toured South America several times and we did phenomenal business. I don’t understand where he gets his stats. One time he made a comment when he was in South Carolina, ‘So what’s the big deal about selling out Madison Square Garden with such huge population?’ Well, guess what? Years later, he came into Madison Square Garden, him and Hulk Hogan headlined the card, and they had 9,000 people.

Eric: That’s true.

Bruno: I know it’s true because I remember it very well. He never sold out any clubs in New York. I’m not knocking that, but I’m saying, well, in a way, I guess, I am not knocking it, because it’s in defense of what he’s saying. I just don’t understand where he gets these numbers. How he knows so much about me when he was never around when I was around because he was strictly down south. So I’m very confused and puzzled by why he’s come on with these negative comments that he made about me.

Eric: That’s the funny thing about it. I remember when you I talked off the air and I had said, ‘Have you heard what he said?’ and you haven’t at the time. I told you and you were so surprise, you said, ‘I don’t even understand why he would say this about me.’

Bruno: Well, Eric, you said he said I was lazy in the ring. Well ask people like Killer Kowalski, Don Leo Jonathan, Ken Patera, Gene Kiniski, Ivan Koloff. I mean anyone who has ever seen me with these people, know what kind of action we provided in the ring. For one guy to accuse me of being lazy…if there’s one reputation I had amongst my peers, which makes me feel very proud, was always the great shape I kept myself into, and the great shape I was performing in the ring. I don’t understand why this man would say these things. I just don’t get it.

Eric: And you wrestled many, many 60-minute matches in career.

Bruno: Many, many. Overseas I had 60-minute matches, in both, Japan, Australia, and over here in the states, I can’t tell you how many hour matches. In fact I had matches that were much longer then that. One time I wrestled Waldo von Erich for one hour twenty minutes. I wrestled Monsoon for an hour thirty minutes. I wrestled Pedro Morales for one hour seventeen minutes and I even had other matches that length. So, like I said, I am just so confused because I just don’t understand why this man would say these things. I just don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

Eric: Now, a guy that he took a lot of shots at in his book and continues to is Bret Hart. Right when you got out of things was when he kind of took off. How familiar are you with Bret Hart?

Bruno: I knew him, because…that’s another thing. In Canada, I was Canadian Champion back in ’61 to ’63. I was a pretty big card all over Canada. What this guy says ‘outside of the Northeast’…and I wrestled in the Stampede [Wrestling organization], which Bret Hart’s father, Stu Hart, was the promoter over there. I wrestled all over that area and I got to meet the Hart boys. Bret Hart, I got to meet him well, and I thought he was a very good performer in the ring. My experience was that he was polite. He seemed to be very respectful. Again, I am confused, because I heard a little wee bit. What’s amazing to me about Flair is that he finds fault with people. When somebody says he admits his own faults, ‘he admits that he used steroids for a lot years and, also, he was a heavy boozer.’ As far as being a credit to the business, which I heard people say he is, excuse me, but how is he a credit to the business? Here’s a guy who’s right now is involved in a lawsuit because he exposed himself. You heard that, I’m sure.

Eric: That’s true.

Bruno: On an airplane, exposed himself to the stewardesses. In bars that he hangs out, he would jump up on bars and he would moon everybody in the bar. This is a guy who was almost got arrested because he wasn’t paying his income taxes for years, and Crockett worked out a deal with the government. My point is don’t go knocking a lot of people when you have that many skeletons in your closet.

Eric: Now, Bruno, hypothetical speaking, if, for example, you were going to go into a WWE Hall of Fame, who would you want to induct you?

Bruno: Boy, that’s a tough one, because up to now, I have no such intentions, so I never gave anything like that a thought. Believe me, up to now, I never had any interest in that hall of fame. Right now, I couldn’t even tell you. (Laughs) I have to think about that one.

Eric: Are you surprised that Billy Graham wound up going back there?

Bruno: I don’t know. Surprised? In a way, I’m surprised, because I remember when Billy, for a while, was pretty outspoken, as well, about the organization and what he felt what he’d been doing because of the organization wanted, but what transpired to change his mind, his feelings to go back, I really don’t know. I haven’t talked to anybody in so many years. I will admit, I was a little surprised, but then I don’t know what transpired between the two.

Eric: Yeah, I remember years ago when the two of you would do shows together and were very outspoken. I have just finished reading a book by Jim Wilson, which really outlines the NWA antitrust suits that were going on in the ‘50s and the ‘60s. What do you know about those antitrust suits?

Bruno: I honestly know nothing about them. I never even heard of them.

Eric: Really?

Bruno: No, honestly.

Eric: According to this book, there were FBI files, they were investing [Sam] Mushnick and [Jim] Barnett and that whole bunch over there.

Bruno: Really? I didn’t know that, Eric.

Eric: Bruno, let’s set the record straight here, you did sell out Madison Square Garden more than any other wrestler in the main event.

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Bruno: According to the guy who writes The [Wrestling] Observer, he makes it sounds like everybody sold out the Garden more than I did. I don’t understand any of that. I’m very grateful for my career because I have wonderful fans and they did come out. I wrestled Boston Garden and many, many other arenas around for well over 100/200 times because I’ve been around for a long, long time. I never kept track of how many sellouts there were. When they did the Greatest Sports Legend, they did some investigating on that, and they came up with some numbers. They were never my numbers. I was never the one because I was so busy traveling over the world those days, who paid attention to how many times you wrestled here or there? I certainly never did.

Eric: Right. Bruno, if it’s okay with you we’ll start bringing up some of your fans.

Bruno: I’d be happy to.

(Because of technical difficulties, Eric relays the following two callers’ questions to Bruno)

Eric: We are going to talk to Vince, first. Hello Vince?

Caller Vince: Hello Eric and hello Bruno. Eric, two quick questions, I know you have tons of people. Larry Zbyszko, when he turned on Bruno Sammartino, I’d like to know if that was a wrestling angle or something else. The second question, his son, David, since he has such big shoes to fill, how does that affect his mind and his career?

Eric: Alright, that’s a great question. I know the Zbyszko answer, that was definitely an angle, but we’ll definitely get into your second question. Thanks Vince. Bruno, his question was when David was wrestling, the pressure of having to fill your shoes and just how that affected him?

Bruno: I guess it did affect him, somewhat. He just never seemed comfortable with the business. He felt, I think, the name didn’t always help him, because he never really believed he gotten the push that he could have gotten or should have gotten. I’m not going to get into whether he was right or wrong or whatever, but I do recognize the fact, unfortunately, there was a lot of pressure because of his name and because maybe the expectations were too great. I know it bothered him a lot.

Eric: Let’s bring on Ron next.

Ron: It’s an honor to talk to you, Bruno. Two questions: one, who was your toughest opponent when you were the World Wide Wrestling Federation Champion, and two, if you had the opportunity to come to the WWE, would you come back?

Eric: I think he already answered the second question. Thanks, Ron. Bruno, he was asking as WWWF champion, who were your toughest opponents?

Bruno: The most grueling matches, I’m talking about grueling as the beating your body took and the long matches that could be exhausting, you always have to put in Killer Kowalski. Ivan Koloff was a favorite opponent because every time I wrestled him I felt we had a combination of good wrestling moves, high spots, as we called them, some roughhousing, but I always felt the people got to see a real lot of action and got their money’s worth. But there were others: Don Leo Jonathan was awesome, Toru Tanaka, Monsoon, for a guy 420 pounds, he could go. I hate to name only one guy, because there was a lot of talent. Big Bill Miller, who was a national champion in All American Football, 326. These guys, and there were many others, I don’t want to exclude anyone, but these guys were all phenomenal athletes.

Eric: Now, I don’t know if you are even aware of it, but a couple months ago, the WWE, they were promoting The Great American Bash pay per view and in the Northeast markets, in specifically, they were showing commercials with clips of you in the commercials. Were you aware of that?

Bruno: No, I was not. Why would do that? I wasn’t in that.

Eric: (Laughs) I know. Again, that was my question to you. I guess, they were going along the lines of trying to sell the concept of tradition, but the tradition of you not even being part of the company for the last two decades. It just kind of boggled my mind to see to you in the commercials.

Bruno: I wasn’t even aware that they were showing anything with me.

Eric: Wonders never cease, huh?

Bruno: That’s for sure.

Eric: What was your last match, Bruno?

Bruno: I retired, officially, in 1981. After I opened up the Meadowlands, I promised Japan, after they found out I was retiring, they wanted me to do a little of a farewell tour. Because Japan has always treated me well, I felt that I owed it to them. I went, and I did a ten-day tour. When I came back I was retired. Four years later or so, when I came back as a color commentator, after Vince McMahon Sr. died, [Vince McMahon] Jr. contacted me saying, ‘who better than I to keep wrestling in the tradition of the father’ blah blah blah. I bought into all this stuff, and my son, at the time, was wrestling. He was going to come into the organization. That’s when things happened that I was very unhappy about because Vince McMahon already, to show you, 1985, Boston was down. He asked if I could come and put on the tights. I said Vince, ‘I’ve been retired for over four years. I’m not going to wrestle anymore. I’m supposed to be color commentator and that’s it.’ Then he got to my son. ‘To bad you can’t get your father to put on the tights. It would be a great boost for you, for your career.’ My kid came to me and said, ‘Gee, Dad, this could be a break for me.’ Long story short, I said okay. I had some matches like that, but I never considered those as a continuation to my career. My career ended in1981.

Eric: Yeah, but an interesting story to note is, the last match you actually wrestled in, you were Hulk Hogan’s tag team partner. Weren’t you?

Bruno: (Laughs) Yeah. In Baltimore, if I remember, it was me and Hogan, against, what did they call him? One Man Gang?

Eric: Yes.

Bruno: And [King Kong] Bundy. Yes, I did have that match.

Eric: How ironic. (Laughs)

Bruno: Yeah, really.

Eric: Let’s bring up, Paul.

Caller Paul: Bruno, I just want to know, how do you feel knowing the impact that you’ve had on so many people? Some of the young people, some of the old people, the in between; and they think of you, they think of their youth and they think of what a great person you were.

Eric: Thank you, Paul. Did you hear his question Bruno?

Bruno: Now, Paul, I heard very clear.

Eric: (Laughs)

Bruno: I really did. At first of all, I want to thank him for those kind words. You know what, Eric, because I love the game, because I have tremendous respect for the fans, anybody who knows me will tell you that I’ve always said ‘if it wasn’t for the fans, you’d be a nobody.’ People consider me to be a wrestling star in my day, well, I wouldn’t have been a star if the fans didn’t come buy tickets and support me. I appreciate it so much, that I say it to this day, from the bottom of my heart. I love my fans; I respected them and I did everything that I could not to disappoint any of them. I tried to conduct myself in a way throughout my career that would end with approval. Because I feel I owe everything to the fans.

Eric: I think that’s a major difference of the generations, the generations of your wrestling to the generation of now. The fans who grew up watching you, even into their 40s and their 50s, still remember you having a big impact on their lives, and I don’t know how many people in their 50s are going to be calling Hulk Hogan on the radio and thanking him for a having an impact on their lives.

Bruno: I don’t know because everything has changed. I’m not going to lie. I’m not thrilled with some of the changes that have come into the business and I’m not happy, to be perfectly honest with you, as to the behavior of some of the so called stars, when it comes to giving a positive example when it comes to the young followers of the business. I think that we have the responsibility, especially when they support you as they do. I just think it’s a shame that a lot of people have lost that part.

Eric: Have you done anything or will you be doing anything with the Cauliflower Hour Banquet?

Bruno: No, I haven’t gone to any of those, either. I haven’t done any. I was so appalled with so many with things that when on in the game, watching so many young people dying at such early deaths, and I felt, with [being] outspoken as I was for a good while, and things they were going the way they were, I just got really turned off with it and I felt that it was time to go on with rest of my life and just split from the wrestling.

Eric: Let’s bring up, Al.

Bruno: I can hear Al, too.

Caller Al: Hello Bruno.

Bruno: Hi, Al. How are you?

Caller Al: Good to talk to you.

Bruno: Thank you.

Caller Al: My grandparents were great fans of yours from Pittsburgh.

Bruno: Thank you.

Caller Al: My question is were the first man to benchpress over 500 pounds and how much did you weigh at the time that you did it.

Bruno: I did 565 pounds. I did it with a two second pause on the chest, those were the rules when I was competing. I don’t know what they are today. You would take the weight, lower it to your chest, and the judge would count a thousand one- a thousand two, he’d slap his hands and then you started your lift. I did 565 pounds. At the time, when I did that, that was considered the record.

Eric: Absolutely. It’s documented. Let’s bring up, Joe.

Caller Joe: Hi Bruno, this is Joe from Philadelphia. How are you?

Bruno: Hi, Joe. How are you?

Caller Joe: I’m doing great.

Bruno: Joe, I want to thank you so much. After I had my last surgery, you sent me some stuff, a program and photos and I appreciate that very kindly. Thank you.

Caller Joe: It was my pleasure. Bruno, I want to thank you for being such a great role model to me when I was a little boy and for being so nice to my wife and me, especially up in Hamburg, when you invited us to sit with you for an hour and a half and for all the good things you’ve done for wrestling. If any young wrestler needs a good role model, there’s somebody to model themselves after- it’s you, Bruno. You are the man.

Bruno: You’re very kind and I appreciate that very much. I have had the opportunity to see you, your wife, and your child. I’ve always been happy to see everybody and I hope everybody is well and stays well.

Caller Joe: My question, Bruno, is how was the feeling and atmosphere [during] the honors they gave you in Italy?

Bruno: Naturally, I couldn’t describe the powerful feelings. This was the town I was born. I had fond memories. I have some horrible memories, because during the war, I was a little boy and we were driven from our town. We had to go to higher matters; I got very sick. I came down with dramatic fever and almost died. My mom kept me alive. To be able to survive that and then to have the opportunity to be able to come to the greatest country in the world, to come to America, which gave me a new life and a career. Then to go back there and to build this monument they honored me with and have this sports facility. The home my mom and dad built, they made it a landmark in Italy. I wondered if I was dreaming that all this was true. I never ever expected anything like that. Naturally, I was so honored beyond words.

Eric: Bruno, I cut Joe off, but let me tell you this. I’ve had this show going for almost six years, and since day one, all the time, Joe is always asking me ‘When are you having Bruno back?’ He loves you and idolizes and he such a great, great fan of yours.

Bruno: And I’m grateful for that. I’ve met him a number of times and he’s always been very, very nice. I appreciate that.

Eric: Let’s bring up James. James, you’re on the line with the Living Legend.

Caller James: Hi, Bruno.

Bruno: Hi, how are you?

Caller James: I’m fine. This is quite an honor.

Bruno: Thank you.

Caller James: I have a quick comment. You were talking, earlier, about sellouts. I happen to know that you hold the attendance record for filling up the Philadelphia Spectrum. I believe, it’s a record that still stands today. My question is, the Philadelphia fans have a reputation of being hard, how did you enjoy wrestling in the Spectrum?

Eric: Thank you, James.

Bruno: I’d loved it. I don’t know what you mean by hard? I never experienced that. They would always hold these banners made up about me and they would chant my name many a time, “Bruno! Bruno!’, I never experienced any harshness. They treated me extremely, extremely well. Philadelphia, I say this in all sincerity, was one of my favorite towns to be in, not only to wrestle, but to be in the town. I have relatives and friends over there. No, I have nothing but good memories of Philadelphia.

Eric: Bruno, something I have to ask you, every time I have you on, I always forget to ask this, so this time I wrote it down. I had Captain Lou Albano on, about two or three years ago, and he said that you were the one that talked him into being a manager.

Bruno: What happened was, his career as a wrestler (laughs) wasn’t setting any records. (Laughs)

Eric: (Laughs)

Bruno: And I noticed him making an interview one time, and the way he talked in that. I said to him ‘if your career isn’t going as well as you’d like it to be, you ought to try managing because you have the gift to gab.’ I think there are wrestlers who need that kind of voice for them. There were wrestlers who were great in the ring, but were not great when it came to doing interviews to promote themselves. Here’s a guy who can really help those people out. I can give you an example. Baron Scicluna, tremendous wrestler, the ‘60s, in the ring, but put a microphone in front of him, and he just couldn’t do anything with it. A guy like Albano would be a tremendous asset in promoting him. I did suggest because I saw in him the ability to talk the way he did. (Laughs)

Eric: (Laughs) Again, we are talking to the Living Legend Bruno Sammartino. You can go this website BrunoSammartino.net. You still got your website going on strong?

Bruno: Yes, it’s BrunoSammartino.net.

Eric: Let’s bring up Steve.

Caller Steve: How’s going Legend?

Bruno: Very good, Steve.

Caller Steve: Two guys I’m wondering about, in their prime, why they couldn’t get over on you: Spiros Arion and Victor Rivera.

Bruno: Spearus Arion, believe it or not, the first time I saw him was in Australia. He came from Greece. I went came back to the states, I told McMahon Sr., I said, ‘There’s this Greek fellow in Australia, and I thought he was pretty darn good.’ I thought, since nationalities played a pretty large role back then, I said, ‘He would be an asset in your promotion for the Greek audience. They would love this guy.’ Vince McMahon contacted some promoter in Australia to have him come here. Victor Rivera, I thought he was very talented wrestler, who came from Puerto Rico. I thought he was a good guy. I got along with him very well. In the ring, I thought he was very good performer.

Eric: Excellent. Bruno, back in your day, especially when you were touring around, did anybody, maybe a veteran or a new guy, try to get cute with you, so to speak, and try to test you?

Bruno: Oh, in the early years of my career, you ran into a lot of that. It was a lot different in those days. What a lot of people don’t understand is you can’t compare today with that. In those days, you had many different territories. Not in only in the United States, but Canada, and of course there were a lot of place to go. A lot of guys protected themselves and their reputation. They weren’t going to allow promoters to bring them down. They fought for their reputation because they wanted to remain headliners. There were a lot of times where a lot of the heads were butting to maintain their positions. I think it was quite different. I had people test me a lot of times throughout my career.

Eric: How important was it, especially back then, to know how to shoot, to know how to protect yourself in that type of a situation?

Bruno: Back then, most of the guys had backgrounds in wrestling. When I came from Europe, I went to 6-month language school, but when I went to high school, they had no wrestling program. I used to get guys to work out with me on the mat. But I was fortunate, because one of my teachers was friends with the wrestling coaches at the University of Pittsburgh. Early on in high school, I used to take off to Pitt to work with the Pitt wrestlers. I did that for years.

Caller Dana: Hi Bruno, I’m Dana, I’m a retired midget wrestler out of Boston; I trained with Walter [Killer Kowalski]. My question to you, being in such great shape that you are in, besides cardiovascular training, what did your diet consist of? What did you eat and what was your diet?

Bruno: I credit my condition more to my work ethic. I was kind of a fanatic when it came to training. As far the food and that, when I was 267, I had a very good appetite. My diet wasn’t all that special. In the morning, I would have cereal, a couple eggs; for lunch, some fish and a vegetable, for dinner, I would always have a dish of pasta and either chicken or steak or something like that because I did consume a good bit of food. I did deprive myself. That’s another thing that bothers me, Eric. Recently, somebody wrote an article about me being in some matches where I ran out of gas. You talk to anybody you’d like, my opponents, and, I think it’s one thing they all credit me for was for always the great shape I kept myself in the ring. It kind of bothered me and hurt me a little wee bit that somebody would excuse me of not being in shape and therefore being lazy and all that stuff.

Eric: Well, I can tell you personally that I’ve had Killer Kowalski here on the radio show and he said he loved wrestling because you would always push each other and ‘Bruno Sammartino could always go, go, go.’ That was exactly what he said about you.

Bruno: I appreciate that coming from him. It’s a compliment. In the business, he was really respected. There were a lot of guys, who were sweating a little bit when they had to wrestle Kowalski, because they knew what they were in for. Let’s face it, once you get tired in that ring, you are going to look pretty bad, if there’s still time left in the match. Once you run out of gas, believe me, you’re in trouble. Kowalski put that kind of fear in a lot of people.

Eric: Let’s bring up Andre.

Caller Andre: First of all, it’s an honor to be talking to Mr. Sammartino. My dad would spend many nights telling me how he spent many nights watching you at the Boston Garden with a variety of wrestlers. So again, it’s an honor to speak to you.

Bruno: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Caller Andre: My question is, and I guess Ric Flair talked about it a little in his book, what kind of rivalry was there between you, as the WWWF champion, and the NWA champions of that time? The Harley Races, the Briscos? Was there any type of rivalry between you?

couldn’t get together about the amount days, they decided heck with unifying the two organizations. That’s what they had in mind. As far as me, I wrestled in St. Louis, I wrestled in a lot the NWA territories; there was never any animosity with me.

Eric: Bruno, I could do four hours with you. This hour flew by and you’re the greatest. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s always an honor and it’s always a pleasure.

Bruno: Well, Eric, it’s always a pleasure for me to do your show. I want to thank you and all the callers who called in. I truly, truly enjoyed being on your show and talking to those fans.

Eric: I know a lot of them were counting down the hours till they had a chance to talk to you. Hopefully, we’ll have you back in the near future, so we can take more calls from the fans out there.

Bruno: Let’s do it again. I’d love to very much, Eric.

Eric: Bruno, I want to thank you. For more information on Bruno, you can go to Brunosammartino.net, right?

Bruno: That’s correct.

Eric: Bruno, have a great weekend.

Bruno: You too, Eric. You and your listeners, thank you very much.

Listen to the Bruno Sammartino interview in its entirety on Pro Wrestling Radio

Bruno’s autobiography, Bruno Sammartino: An Autobiography of Wrestling’s Living Legend.

The collectible WWE Classic Superstars Series 10 Bruno Sammartino Action Figure.

See Bruno Sammartino vs. Superstar Graham and Killer Kowalski on the WWE – The History of the WWE Championship DVD.

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