by Joe Thunder - August 18, 2012
The first inductee in Thunder and Lightning’s Pure Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame(PPW HOF is how it will be abbreviated) was selected by us, Joe Thunder and Mike Lightning. Going forward, the next inductee finalists will be determined by votes from you, the reader. The two finalists with the most votes will be taken into consideration and the actual inductee will be determined by a voting panel of five judges. That said, I’d first like to thank Mike Lightning for taking the time to do this lengthy write up on our inaugural inductee(I did the editing). Without wasting any more time, we’re proud to announce the first inductee into Thunder and Lightning’s Pure Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame: Bruno Sammartino!
Lightning: Bruno Sammartino being our first inductee into the Thunder & Lightning Pure Wrestling Hall of Fame is not only well deserved, but is the perfect fit. In terms of pure wrestling, Bruno Sammartino was light years ahead of a majority of the wrestlers in his time. The mat-orientated wrestling style, his outstanding mat-skills and his charisma led Bruno to becoming the most popular American Wrestler in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Bruno is the longest reigning WWWF/WWF/WWE Champion of all-time, he held the prestigous title from May 17th, 1963 to January 18th, 1971, making his title reign officially 7 years. In 1971, he lost the title to Ivan Koloff. Bruno would then regain the Title back in 1973, on December 10th, he beat Stan Stasiak. His second World Title reign last four years, and he lost the title on April 30th, 1977 to “Superstar” Billy Graham. The reasoning behind the title reign coming to a close was because Bruno had informed Vince McMahon, Sr. that due to a broken neck and other nagging ailments, his title run needed to come to an end. Billy Graham won the title with both feet on the ropes while pinning Bruno.
Sammartino’s list of accomplishments is uncanny and cannot be denied by any true pro wrestling fan. Though a majority of his matches nowadays are hard to watch and almost impossible to sit through entirely, it really wasn’t because of Bruno’s talent. A majority of his matches were booked to fit the market during his time, a time I like to call Pre-Media Era(not the Pre-Hogan Era that it is so often alluded too). Sammartino’s time as WWWF Champion proved that size, in a sport where size is normally praised, wasn’t an extremely important factor and that no matter your size, you could become a World Champion. Sammartino, in another amazing feat was the only man to have ever lifted Haystacks Calhoun. Calhoun weighed 640lbs at the time. It wasn’t so much a slam as it was Sammartino picking up Calhoun shoulder height and then dropping him, but it was an impressive feat for a 5’11”, 215-pound man to accomplish.
Sammartino’s first World Title run came when he beat “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in just 48 seconds. Rumors circulating the match have been controversial, as Rogers claims that he suffered a heart attack just a week before the match and was dragged out of the hospital to compete. It has been said by Sammartino and confirmed by others on the card that every wrestler had to be cleared by the State Athletic Board in order to compete on the card. Sammartino had to break the news to Rogers in the ring that Rogers was going to lose the title and he has been quoted as to saying “We can do this the easy way….or the hard way.”
Today, Sammartino still hasn’t been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, mainly because he keeps refusing. Bruno has become very critical of the WWE, especially during the time of the Attitude Era, claiming that it wasn’t wrestling’s place to have lewd and crude storylines and that the “outrageous” product is taking away from the sport of wrestling. Sammartino has refused involvement in other areas of the WWE as well(whether it be to help with a DVD of Legends or simply to partake in other ceremonies or promotional events). Other organizations have honored and celebrated Bruno’s accomplishments in the ring; most recently, Ring of Honor had a show in Pittsburgh and had a celebration of Bruno Sammartino in an Appreciation Night(Sammartino’s hometown).
I have had the pleasure of watching some Bruno Sammartino matches in preparation for this Hall of Fame column, and when I say pleasure, I truly mean it. Despite the dismal booking and the outdated nature of wrestling production from the 60’s to 70’s to today, Sammartino was something special to watch in the ring. His size was always a glaring disadvantage, but it was his strength that was unbelievable. The way he handled and out-muscled some of the bigger wrestlers of the time always impressed me. And his technique, his mat-technique, was unparalleled and his ability would rival and even be better than 90% of professional wrestlers today. Though he would lack the athleticism of the wrestlers today, he would be able to outwrestle a majority of them. Whenever anyone discusses the Top 10 Wrestlers of All-Time, a majority of people leave Bruno Sammartino off that list, namely because nobody takes the time to go back and really appreciate what he did, especially during the Pre-Media Era where his matches weren’t seen worldwide like they are in the industry today. Bruno Sammartino, should be a name that no one ever forgets, and a name that should go down as one of the greatest to ever grace a professional wrestling mat. His class and ability in the ring is amongst the best ever and I’m proud to have gotten the chance to experience several of his matches. There’s not a better fit for the first inductee into the Thunder & Lightning Pure Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame!
Thunder: To be perfectly honest, Lightning could tolerate watching these matches far better than I ever could. Sammartino, in the pre-media era that Lightning talked about, was the original version of Hulk Hogan. He was booked to be the long running champion and the guy that would help sell out cards throughout the Northeast. There are a lot of individuals to consider for this Hall of Fame, but none really have the combination of accomplishments and ability that Sammartino possessed, and none are more deserving to have the distinction of being called a pure pro-wrestler. With that, we are proud to honor Bruno. I hope you’ll all take the time to look back at some of his best matches on youtube and see why we selected him for this honor.
The voting will begin sometime next week for our second inductee. You will be allowed to vote once a day on each of our pages(so, twice a day) when we post the status, and you will have five choices to select from. The voting will go daily until October 1, and our tribute column will go up over the weekend of Hell in a Cell. I hope you’ll all join us on facebook and participate in the voting to make YOUR voice heard!
I want to again thank Mike Lightning for his dedication to this column, and for the hard work he put into writing this piece. It’s a fantastic read in my opinion. Until next time, thanks for reading!
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