On the Busted Open Radio Show, wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino explained why he refused to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and talked about how embarrassing it was (and is) to see Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair still wrestling at their respective ages. In addition, Sammartino lashes out at Hogan for taking credit for selling out venues that he and Larry Zbyszko main evented, not Hogan.
The below excerpts are courtesy of ProWrestling.net:
Bruno Sammartino on 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.”
Bruno Sammartino on 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.’”
Bruno Sammartino on being the main guy in wrestling in the 1960’s: “Well the ‘60s especially, they were just great, you know. There was a famous club in New York called Jilly’s and Jilly Rizzo was the owner, and he was Frank Sinatra’s right-hand man. And I mean, when you went into that place you’d run into anybody. But anyway, through him, yeah I did get to know Frank, and Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Peter Lawford, and Richard Conte. And I hung out with those guys through the years. It was a lot of fun. For me it was a big kick because I used to see these guys in the movies and what have you, and to be with them in person, it was quite fascinating. I was very fortunate because in my travels around the world, I got to meet a lot of great people. For example when I went back to Italy for the first time, I get to meet the President of Italy who came and I spent some times with.
“It’s just been one tremendous experience. I’ made like twenty tours of Japan alone. And Australia, many many tours. The Philippines, all through South America, South Africa, North Africa, been all over Europe… So it’s been quite a ride to be perfectly honest with you. For a kid who barely survived World War II, and then I came down sick with rheumatic fever which nobody expected me to live. And to have the opportunity then to come to this great country. (I came here as a human skeleton and I built myself up to a 275-pound guy, did some good weight-lifting competition I did very very well. And so it’s been like I say, quite a ride.”
Bruno Sammartino on 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.
Bruno Sammartino on WrestleReunion: “I think the first one we had was in Florida. It was awesome because we had eighty or ninety wrestlers from yesteryear and present., signing autographs and taking pictures with the fans, and having lunches and talking with the fans. It was kind of unique and they have done that now every year. They have gone to different parts of the country. This one coming up in Toronto is very special, especially for me, because that is where I got my big break was in Toronto, and I have not been back since. So when I was invited to go there, because I am retired I won’t travel much anymore, I agreed to do this. I am excited about it and they are extremely special and they are awesome these Wrestle Reunions.”
Excerpts above courtesy of ProWrestling.net and taken from:
Busted Open Interview: Bruno Sammartino
Hosts: Doug Mortman and Dave LaGreca
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