WWE News WWE NEWS: More from Sammartino on why he accepted HOF invite, what crowd reaction is he expecting?, discusses Vince, Sr. begging him to save Inoki-Ali fight
Feb 6, 2013 - 1:18:53 PM
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By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
Wednesday afternoon, WWE released a full-length interview with Bruno Sammartino discussing his decision to accept a WWE Hall of Fame induction this year. The stated reasons in the interview boil down to (1) believing WWE has changed for the better, (2) Triple H reaching out to him and Hunter being trained by Killer Kowalski, and (3) the Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden.
"Triple H contacted me and he started telling me everything that was going on with WWE," Sammartino said. "There had been issues and things that I was not happy with, but when I saw the changes, I was very, very impressed. Triple H was a very sincere guy and he was trained by someone who I had the most respect in the world for, and that was Walter 'Killer' Kowalski. And then, of course, when he told me that it’s going to be in Madison Square Garden, that was huge for me, too, because of my history in the Garden."
Sammartino told the Torch exclusively in a Spring 2006 interview that one of the big changes he wanted to see from WWE was de-emphasizing "steroid bodies" and emphasizing strong, naturally-muscular wrestlers.
"You don't have to eliminate muscle guys if they're natural," Sammartino said in 2006. "Do away with all of the chemicals and do away with that garbage. Bring in guys who work hard in the gym, are athletic, and can go out there in the ring and provide the kind of action that people would be entertained by and respect without looking at it as a freak show. In my opinion, that's what it has become.
"I don't know why they (promotions) can't do honest-to-goodness legitimate testing on these guys and have them work out more at the gym to develop the bodies. It wouldn't be necessarily the same kind (of body) you would get by using steroids. But, then again, do people really care more about how freakish a guy looks or how his performance is in the ring?"
- Concerning the crowd reaction at this year's Hall of Fame, Sammartino told WWE's website, "I don’t know what to expect."
Sammartino continued, "As we mentioned, I won the title from Buddy Rogers 50 years ago. How many of those people that will be in the Garden were even around 50 years ago? [laughs] So I don’t know what to expect from the fans. But, for me, yeah, at this stage of my life, to have this opportunity to appear one more time in Madison Square Garden where I have such a history and have such fond memories of, it’s such a thrill. To be honored with the WWE Hall of Fame, I cannot put into words how big it is for me."
- Sammartino also talked about selling out MSG over the course of two decades, drawing huge audiences to Shea Stadium three times, and Vince McMahon, Sr. begging him to save the Antonio Inoki vs. Muhammad Ali fight after Stan Hansen broke Sammartino's neck in 1976.
"I spent a month in the hospital and for a while it was touch and go because the doctors told me I came within a millimeter of being paralyzed from the neck down," Sammartino said about the Hansen incident. "Vincent J. McMahon kept calling me at the hospital because he was very concerned. They had a match scheduled between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki. The thing turned out to be a dud. They just weren’t selling tickets. But Vince had invested a lot of money with closed circuit, so he wanted to schedule a return match between me and Stan Hansen. I wasn’t in the best condition, but I came out of the hospital and started to train because there was not much time.
"I always used to get goosebumps in Madison Square Garden, because as soon as I started making my entrance, people would be chanting my name. “BRU-NO! BRU-NO!” But at Shea Stadium, when I made my entrance to the ring, those people gave me such an ovation; I never heard anything like it. That was quite an experience and they really ate up the match."
The following is an excerpt from PWTorch senior columnist Bruce Mitchell's Newsletter-exclusive column on Bruno Sammartino's Hall of Fame induction analyzing the Stan Hansen situation.
Vince McMahon learned his most important promotional lesson from his father – differentiate your biggest star, make sure he stands out from all the rest, and work him. Get every dollar you can out of him and when he breaks his neck because the big, green "Cowboy" Stan Hansen dumps him on his head on one of your Madison Square Garden shows, beg him to get up off that hospital bed and risk his life to save your ill-conceived Shea Stadium co-promotion with the Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki fight (the one that 40 years later retroactively started Mixed Martial Arts). Get him over, keep him over, and keep him on the road for as long and as deep as you can until something, his family, your family, the federal government, another broken neck, or the movies finally stop him.
To read Mitchell's full column on Sammartino's HOF induction, click here to find out how to become a Torch VIP member at PWTORCH.COM.
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