Bruno Sammartino Interview 2000

bruno sammartino interviewThe following interview features former WWWF world champion the “Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino. This was Bruno’s very first appearance on the radio show. Bruno talks about being blackballed, wrestling Muhammad Ali, winning the WWWF title, and more. The interview was taped February 5, 2000 and was broadcast on Pro Wrestling Radio.

Eric Gargiulo: What are you doing these days ?

Bruno Sammartino: Well, not a heck of a lot. I do some personal appearances around the country but I try not to do too many, to be honest with you after twenty-five years of of continuous traveling, I just enjoy being home. I go back to the old country one, some time twice a year & other than that I just enjoy being home with my sons,.& my grandkids & I am enjoying that very much.

Eric: On keeping up with the current scene:

Bruno: To be perfectly honest with you I know to each his own & everybody likes what they like but I don’t particularly care for the direction wrestling has taken. and so it bothers me quite a bit, so I choose not to watch it, occasionally someone will call me & they’ll say “you have to watch this”and “you have to see this” and Ill tune it in. But to tell you that I watch it on a regular basis, absolutley not.

Eric: Was there any truth to the negotiations between you and World Championship Wrestling?

Bruno: I am glad you are asking me that question, because I have had so many people call and even someone wrote in one of these newsletters that supposedly I had negotiated with Russo and we had an agreement, and the facts are & these are the facts. Never have I intended to put on the tights again. Never did I ever speak to Russo. Never once, nor to anybody else in the WCW. How these stories got out and how I supposedly agreed to put on the tights for whatever short it was its all nonsense. I absolutely have never spoke to a soul from the WCW about anything (Laughs).

Eric: Why do you think WCW put the story out?

Bruno: I don’t know what is going on, because as I say, different people called me and asked me if this was true. I was going to put on the tights, I was going to go to Buffalo on a Nitro show, this and that. It was just all weird, because I had no idea where all this was coming from.

Eric: Comparing the exposure inside the business today from his era.

Bruno: Well, its a completely different world. The wrestling in my day. I think that we were more interested in wrestling. I think that if you even look at the backgrounds of the wrestlers back then, most of them were pretty darn good wrestlers, you know with backgrounds, in amateur wrestling and all that. And basically sure there was always a certain amount of showman ship. You could not keep the rules like amateur wrestling. Because then it wouldn’t have been the spectator sport that wrestling was. But Ill say this to you That people believed in wrestling then and I think appreciated it a lot more. Because unlike today everyone talks about how popular it is, and I am not suggesting that it is not. Television ratings they shoot for and stuff like that. But we used to go for example, we used to go to Madison Square Garden and we used to headline that place every 3 and 4 weeks. In my career I headlined it 211 times and I had 187 sellouts, so that will tell you how popular wrestling was. As far as the arena. We used to go to the arenas every 2 weeks, 3 weeks and 4 weeks, some arenas we used to run every 2 weeks, some 3 and some 4 . These were major clubs, yet we were very consistent in packing these arenas. Today if you follow it well, like here in Pittsburgh where I live. They come here maybe three times a year. Same thing I understand with Philadelphia. Which in other words, they cannot come every 3 weeks or 4 weeks all year round and be able to have the same success as far as having the people fill that building? So its a completely different thing in what you are shooting for. We used television strictly to advertise for the arena and to introduce new talent. Today they use television to do all these soap opera stuff that they do, to gain higher ratings. Because with the bigger ratings I guess bigger sponsors and they make money that way you know.

Eric: Popularity of his era compared to now.

Bruno: Absolutely I would suggest to anyone that believes that. And people tell me that too. “Gee wrestling has really gotten big.” I don’t know where they get that from. We were big in the sense that we did it the way wrestling always was. Like boxing. We did it at the arena. We did not concentrate on television to try to make television the big thing. Television was a means of advertising for the arena. But as far as popularity, you know its Something to have people watch television for free, rather than having people get out of their homes and travel to the arena and watch it. We were very successful. We had scalpers in Madison Square Garden that were selling tickets outside The Garden for three or four times what they were I know when I was back with the WWF for a short period of time as a color commentator. That’s exactly what was going on. I know that for a fact. They were giving out tons of tickets to fill the buildings to give this illusion of how popular they were. The facts were, they could not fill the buildings at that times. Today I don’t follow it. You know a couple years ago they were in serious trouble but they went deeper into the gutter as far as I’m concerned, with all this vulgarity, the nudity, the profanity and all that which appeals to certain kind of people and they have come back as far as popularity. But Ill tell you how sick that is. As far as some of the people that this appeals to. We have a guy here in Pittsburgh that I’m sure you guys know. Kurt Angle, who won the gold medal in Atlanta for the US, yet he was here in his hometown of Pittsburgh recently and he’s wrestling this guy that they call. He’s supposed to be a Pimp. They call him Godfather or something and he had these girls with him that were supposed to be prostitutes, yet when they announced Kurt Angle as the gold medalist for the United State Of America, people booed the heck out of him, yet when the announced The Pimp they applauded like crazy.

Eric: Days as a color commentator & the how hard it was to do with the new direction.

Bruno: That’s why I left, I had to get out of there, because it wasn’t just the changes that I didn’t like that they were making But at the time, I saw the drugs the steroids and, the other things that were going on, that I found absolutely appalling. And I said no this isn’t the world of wrestling that I was a part of. I just had to get out of there, because I knew I didn’t belong and I just didn’t care for what was going on at all. At that time I thought the changes were rather drastic, but then never would have I believed what has happened in the last two years. With the new changes now they have these girls, good looking girls. That come in with these G. Strings and they have these supposed accidents with their breasts pop put, & they have all these soap operas, where they are pretending to be having sex. I mean then the vulgarity and the language. Do you know that in my day, if you slipped the word out of anybody’s mouth? Not only could you be banned from television, but they would literally tell the promoter that if it ever happened again. They would throw you off the air.

Eric: Use of foul language in promos.

Bruno: Well I agree with that, its just like the comedians that you hear about today, that use all of this language. That’s pretty sad, that means that they can’t get the laughs by being straight like some of the former comedians. I’ll tell you what shocks me the most. This really shocks me. and that is that parents would think that there is nothing wrong with exposing their young children to this kinda stuff in the arena. Here in Pittsburgh, they interview a couple of parents and they said “oh the kids here that kinda language now in the streets, so like whets the difference ?”So they accept this and they are letting their kids know that this is OK its acceptable and you wonder what has happened to our society when stuff like this is being accepted today. To me its a tragedy.

Eric: Special memories of his favorite matches.

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Bruno: Well, with Monsoon, I don’t know if you remember at the time when I was at my heaviest around 275 and Monsoon was around 420 and we were wrestling in Boston and I picked him up for this big slam and it made the papers all over Boston. The media when they heard about it came over to cover it. The ring literally collapsed & we got buried inside that ring & then we had to sit for two hours while they did the repairs and then resume the match, but they were guys back then, they talk about some bigger guys today, my goodness we had Big Bill Miller, there’s a guy 6’7”, 320 pounds a National Wrestling Champion and an all American from Ohio State a tremendous athletes, and Don Leo Jonathan, who could forget a guy 6’6”, 325 lbs with the agility and the speed and the strength that he had, we had some phenomenal guys back then and they all had backgrounds in amateur wrestling and today they make me laugh, they say these guys who are big people today, yeah sure there are big people today, without question but how many of them are naturally big, back then, they weren’t naturally big, these were just big people. Without any use of steroids, who the heck even heard of steroids back in those days.

Eric: Bruno’s toughest match.

Bruno: You know a lot of people ask that and I have to go back to the one in Japan in 1966 with Giant Baba, & the reason that one was so difficult was because the temperature was like 100 degrees and the humidity was like 100 degrees and we were in an indoor building, completely sold out which made the heat that much more intense and the match went well over an hour. It was the exhaustion like a hot oven that made the match so extremely difficult after a long long journey to get there. I got there in the afternoon and they took me right to the arena, after along journey like that to go through an experience like that that was by far the most tiring exhausting match I have ever had. Of course the worst was breaking my neck of course when I wrestled Stan Hansen. But as far as one that I remember was so grueling because of that enormous heat that I never experienced anything like that in my 25 years was with Shohei Baba in Tokyo. The match went well over an hour, I believe an hour and 35 minutes.

Eric: Career Highlight

Bruno: Well having come from the old country and I was there during the war as a kid, and may family we suffered an awful lot. So a lot of deaths in my town, friends and relatives and that. Coming over to this country we struggles, we really struggles and I wanted to lift myself from that sense of poverty and what have you and see if i could help out at home a little bit, so winning the belt off Buddy Rogers, that was the turn about that would enable me to change as far as the past and a little brighter future and to help out at home a little bit, so that was the most significant thing Id have to say.

Eric: Being suspended in the US by Vince Sr. prior to winning the belt.

Bruno: I was blackballed all over the country and I had to for a while go back to Pittsburgh and literally get a job back in construction and then I went to Canada and I spent the next two years in Canada. He had me blackballed because well first of all the way the black balling went was this I was leaving, I was gonna leave because I wasn’t happy there at all and they intentionally booked me in two clubs at the same time, they had very strong connections with the commission in those days, I was booked in Baltimore, MD. Which was kept a secret from me was never advertised or anything just put on the commission report that I was supposed to be there and then they booked me in Chicago, and this was supposed to be my last match with the Capitol Wrestling as it was called then I went to Chicago to finish my date and from their I went to California, but when I was in California for one week? I had got a notice that said I had been suspended because of not appearing at a date, anyway, to make a long story short before I knew it that suspension went all over the country and I was blackballed. I couldn’t wrestle, there wasn’t any place I could wrestle, so I had to come home & I had to make a living I had a wife and a baby at the time I went back to construction, and from there I made my way by contacting Frank Tunney who was a real gentleman, he gave me a chance in Canada despite what he heard in the states, and why did they do that to me because I got trained very very hard all my life and they wanted me to do certain things that I did not want to do and did not believe in so they were going to teach me a lesson.

Eric: Record WWF Title win over Buddy Rogers

Bruno: Well there was never any kind of God rest his soul, the man is gone and he was a terrific talent, but there was never any love lost between he and I, it’s a long story that I’m not gonna get into, but we didn’t care for each other too much. And when given that opportunity and again it’s a long story which I’m not gonna get into but the place was sold out and I just grabbed buddy did a couple things to him, threw him on my shoulder told him that he should give up if he didn’t want serious injuries to him and he did and the match went 48 seconds. I thought the roof of the building was gonna fly off and that was it for me. That was the very beginning of a long long career for me after that.

Eric: On a proposed match with Muhammad Ali

Bruno: First of all, we challenged him. The match was negotiated and it would come about. One thing stopped it. He was demanding 6 million dollars and Vince Sr. could not raise that kinda money back then that was an awful lot of money and they just could not raise that kinda money and when Japan heard about it that such an idea had come about & so forth & they were able to get the money and that’s why they went with Inoki the tragedy about that whole thing was Inoki was a pretty good name in Japan, but he was not known any place else around the world, so the thing was a total flop and the match itself was a total flop as far as if your asking me what would have happened and there are people out there who would disagree and that’s fine but there’s no way that a fighter would beat a wrestler, I’m talking about a legit wrestler in a legit contest because a fighter is handicapped, remember he ‘s got the gloves on so forth. Guys like some wrestlers, I had sparred five rounds with Sonny Liston and I took all kinds of shots. So I wasn’t worried about, so besides as a wrestler go for a leg dive if your quick enough whatever, well once you take him off his feet his hands are useless to him, he’s at a tremendous disadvantage no, there’s no question in my mind., Even with Inoki look what he did, he was coached to stay by the ropes the whole time, because if any way shape or form, Inoki tripped him up he could hook the ropes and they’d have to break. He never left the ropes, if you remember that match. Inoki to me he was disgusting the way he went about that match anyway but anyway my match with him didn’t come off, after that disaster with Inoki nobody would touch another match like that because that match was absolutely awful.

Eric: Opinion of Hulk Hogan

Bruno: Well I’m sorry I’m not a fan of Hulk Hogan, first of all I never thought of him as a wrestler, because he doesn’t have no wrestling skills at all, I didn’t like him because he was heavy into those drugs, you know the steroids and the drugs and I didn’t like that because they were pushing everything towards the kids and here’s a guy who in my opinion is doing all the wrong things, I just I knew the guy and I’m not gonna get into everything about him. But he was just not a nice person and I never liked him and I don’t like him

Eric: Fan of:

Bruno: Kurt angle because I know what kind of a great wrestler he is. I’d like for a while the Steiners, I thought they did good stuff in that ring too Scott Steiner and Rick Steiner. I thought that they did real good stuff in that ring and now these younger guys like Benoit, Chris Benoit, Malenko, Guerrero These guys do good, good stuff in that ring too I mean they are little guys, but they do stuff with tremendous speed and all that kinda stuff and they are fun to watch, I am not saying that there is nobody out there who can’t wrestle and look real good and there are. I just resent all this soap opera stuff with the women, the sex affiliated with it, the nudity, the vulgar gestures that they make, like a guy pulls his tights down and moons the audience I mean give me a break and then all this language, the filthy language why is this all necessary that is just disgusting to me.

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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