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Sammartino On Hogan & Flair Still Wrestling, Not Entering WWE Hall of Fame

“The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino appeared on Busted Open with Doug Mortman and Dave LaGreca, which airs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Sirius 92 and XM 207. Highlights from his interview are as follows:

The WWE Hall of Fame and Vince McMahon: “Okay, first of all, let’s talk about the Hall of Fame. You see what people don’t understand about this Hall of Fame, they say that I’m being stubborn now. That’s not true. The first year he came out with the Hall of Fame, they totally ignored me like I didn’t exist. They named certain people—I don’t even remember who they inducted first—but they got these people. I was never even mentioned because that was McMahon—in my opinion—that was his way of showing me that “you don’t mean nothing to us” or “you’re out, you’re finished, you’re a has-been”. OK. But what happened was, it backfired on him because people called, wrote in, all kinds of stuff like “how the heck could you call that Hall of Fame? Here’s a guy who’s World Champion for almost twelve years. Sold out the Garden more times than all these blah blah blah, and he’s not in Hall of Fame…” It was because I guess he didn’t expect that kind of reaction.

“And after that a few years later, his attorney contacted me (Jerry McDevitt) and tried to talk me to go into it, and I said no, that I was not interested in it. I said first of all because I don’t believe I had part of that part of the wrestling. I was in the WWWF, not the WWF that he had which he transformed into something completely different from the wrestling that I had been involved with, number one. And I said so I don’t want no part of that Hall of Fame. And then also because,, when people say to me—the few, because most people understood me—but those who didn’t, I would ask them, I’d say “If you ‘re gonna go to this Hall of Fame, would you want to take your kids or whatever, tell me, where do you take ‘them?” I said, don’t you get it? This is strictly a marketing gimmick; this is no Hall of Fame! Where’s the building? Where’s the place that people can go to and see, what? And where does a guy like—eh, what’s his name—[Drew] Carey, a show host belonging to a wrestling Hall of Fame, or Refrigerator Perry or Pete Rose or Bob Uecker… These guys were all great guys and I’m not against any of them. They were all great at what they did, but what do they have to do with wrestling? So to me, I’d be embarrassed! I wouldn’t want any part of that kind of a “Hall of Fame”. And as far as McMahon and I…repairing our relationship, I don’t think it’s possible. I made it myself very very clear from the beginning: I totally disagree and went against what’s he done to wrestling. ”

Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan still wrestling: “Nah, I find it almost disgusting. Let me tell you something real quickly: When I was wrestling, I made a promise to myself that I would get out of that and retire, regardless whether I could afford to or not. When I didn’t feel that I could be on top anymore. In other words, where I wasn’t getting the job done, where I wasn’t drawing the crowds, and so forth. And I always paid close attention to every place I wrestled to see what the crowds wants and so forth. And I wanted to get out before it got bad, and I did. When I got out, we were selling out everywhere. I’m sure you’re familiar with the program I did with Larry Zbyszko; we sold out everything. And that’s when I retired. I retired right after that, that’s where I wanted to go out. This guy should have been out twenty years ago. To me it’s a shame, it’s a disgrace, no self-respect, no shame, no nothing, because—he should be ashamed!—because he looks like hell and he just don’t belong! He just don’t belong. [Hulk] Hogan’s the same thing for god’s sakes! Recently in England he had the audacity to say that he drew the house in Shea Stadium where Zbyszko and I sold out! (Zybszko and I, we sell out everywhere!) He was on the card, he takes credit for that house. Yet, he and André [the Giant], right after that show they went to, uh—what’s that arena in White Plains, New York—it’s holds four thousand, they only drew eleven hundred people. But as far as wrestling, like I said, he stunk then and he still has the audacity to go in the ring today once in a while. I don’t understand it, why these guys do that. I’m sure financially they must be okay ‘cause they were in it when the big money came into it. So I don’t know if they have no shame or what. But to watch these guys… I never watch wrestling, but I watched a couple times because friends call me up and say, hey you wanna see Hogan he’s gonna be in the ring, or Flair. And I look and I shake my head and I say, My god these people have no shame, no self-respect, no pride, nothing’.”

Kurt Angle: “Kurt Angle—we all know, right, he was an Olympian and a gold medalist—but even in the ring as he made the transition from amateur to professional, the guy can do some phenomenal, good, solid stuff. And he’s got that background so nobody can question or deny that he’s a wrestler. Yeah, I wish there were more Kurt Angles in there. And even if not in his caliber, in my day there were a lot of guys who were not Olympic champions or anything like that but they were great wrestlers in that ring. And it’s gone. They knew—as we put it—they knew how to tell a story. They knew how to make this match, if there’s gonna be a return match to where the people couldn’t wait for that return match to come. Because these were great talent, they knew what they were doing in the ring, they looked good, they weren’t a bunch of steroid freaks, but they were genuinely big guys who knew how to wrestle who were athletic. And now it’s a completely different thing. Yeah, Kurt Angle is one of the greats and too bad there aren’t more of him.”

  • JIR

    The McMahon HoF thing kind of sounds like bitterness but dead on with the rest

  • Nicholas

    I have to agree with BC Mitchell on this one. Bruno sounds very bitter and seems like for no good reason.

  • amzimuthis

    If wrestling stayed the way it was during Bruno’s time (Kayfabe and everything), it will not survive the arrival of the internet. It will be exposed and nobody will bother with it. What Vince did when he personally exposed wrestling was right on time. The fact that it boomed afterwards and still survives to this day is fact that the decision he made was right.

  • Devil_Rising

    @bc Mitchell

    I don’t think Bruno is bitter. I just think he doesn’t like or understand what the wrestling business has become, and in many ways he’s right. Wrestling has nothing to do with McMahon pulling things out of fake-JR’s ass on TV. Wrestling has nothing to do with Mae Young giving birth to a hand, or Gene Snitsky kicking a fake baby. Wrestling has nothing to do with bra & panty matches and shit like that.

    So from that point of view, it’s not apples and oranges. Just like the old NFL players. Some of them are bitter because stars are paid too much now, and they act like big babies. The old players were hard working and loyal, and while I’m sure they wish they got paid more, they also played because they loved the game. Johnny U played because he loved football. Not because he wanted to be a superstar, like Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers.

    Bruno does belong in the HOF. But he doesn’t NEED it. And that says something. Sadly, they’ll probably induct him after he passes away, and say all these good things about him, even though they completely ignore the fact that he was the WWWF’s biggest star throughout not one, but TWO decades. He was the most popular wrestler in the states in the 1960s, period, and was still on top in the 70s. He sold out MSG more than probably any other wrestler ever has.

  • D2K

    While I’m sure there is a lot of self-servitude and selfishness in Hogan and Flair’s decision to keep wrestling, because of the mountain of foolish mistakes they have made in the past they really have no choice but to keep wrestling to keep the lights on, which is VERY sad.

    For all those two men accomplished in this industry it is beyond sad that these guys have very little to show for it monetarily. Betwen his thre ex-wives and the people he’s borrowed money from to pay his ex-wives Ric Flair owes everyone money and will for the rest of his life. Linda took 74% of Hogan’s net-worth and assets in their divorce and Hogan will be paying the Graciano family for the rest of his life.

    There is no way I could have imagined this to be how each guys life would turn out watching them as a kid 27 years ago.

  • b c Mitchell

    If one were to build a Mt Rushmore of pro wrestling Bruno would most likely be on it. That being said he is also a typical bitter old athlete. One of those ” in my day we were tougher and better” kind of guys. Its like hearing old NFL players piss and moan about todays prima donna players. Its apples and oranges when trying to compare. Yes guys like Bruno routinely wrestled hour long matches but nobody ever mentions the 10 minute headlocks and 15 minute armbars used to get a breather in. That’s why those moves are commonly referred to as rest holds. Sure he sold out Shea and Hogan didnt sell out a smaller venue a few days later. Im sure the fact that the Shea show had been promoted for months as a huge weekend outing while the other happened in the middle of a workweek spoke to the fact that Hogan couldn’t draw.
    My problem is its always negativity from Bruno and that sucks man. He should be wrestlings Babe Ruth. A living legend in every sense but instead he always seems to be so bitter. Times changed. For better or worse? That’s the fun debate. He may hate Vince but the bottom line is Vince did what was necessary to take the industry to the next level. Has Vince shit all over that in recent years? Of course he has but what successful conqueror doesn’t screw himself over eventually?

  • Manny

    Don’t blame Flair and Hogan entirely. Blame the head honchos in TNA for still putting these two legends in harms way. And not only that but they can’t cut it anymore, and that’s not a bad thing, it’s a logical thing. They had their time! It is the nature of every sport, even staged, overdramatized sports like pro wrestling. Of course, yes at the end of the day Flair and Hogan both got not shame, but all the yes men around them can’t help them make the sensible decisions.

    With that said, what Sammartino says is kind of irrelevant. He’s older than Hogan and Flair… and he’s out of touch too. I don’t like McMahon myself, but what he did to pro wrestling he did it to keep alive, it could be argued.

  • Starship Pain

    Mr. Sammartino is right on everything. The Hall of Fame is a shame. There’s not an actual HoF; why the hell is Drew Carey in there?; just to get money.

    Ric Flair is one of the greatest, but he should retire right now. He’s too old and tired. The same with Hogan.

    And yeah, there should be more real wrestlers like Angle…