Bruno Sammartino, Pittsburgh's wrestling legend, dies at 82

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Bruno Sammartino was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.

Bruno Sammartino, who died at the age of 82, spent almost his entire life fighting. His first opponents were starvation, disease and the German Army when it was marching through the hills of Italy in World War II. Then, after immigrating to the United States at the age of 15, he battled the worlds best professional wrestlers to become the World Wide Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion and one of the sports most popular performers.

Sammartino won the WWWF (now WWF) wrestling title in 1963, using the back breaker in a 48 second bout against Buddy Rogers. “Give up or I’ll break your back,” he screamed at Rogers over the roar of the crowd in Madison Square Garden in New York City.



He held the title for eight years before losing it to Ivan Koloff. He regained it in 1973 but lost it to Superstar Billy Graham in 1977.

Sammartino’s reputation spread around the world. He sold out Madison Square Garden more times than any sports celebrity (187 out of 211 appearances). He wrestled in every state of the union and on every continent. He was especially popular in Japan.

His average yearly salary was $250,000 when he retired in 1981. He once offered to meet heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay for $250,000 in the ring.

Sammartino had several serious injuries, including broken wrists, elbows, ankles, fingers and collarbone. His nose was broken 11 times.

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