"The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino is the longest reigning WWE Champion of all-time. His two title reigns lasted over 11 years. That is almost double of the amount of time that the number two man on the list, Hulk Hogan, has held that title. Despite selling out Madison Square Garden 187 times and his two lengthy title reigns, Bruno Sammartino is not a part of the WWE Hall of Fame.
The Horrors of War:
Bruno Sammartino was born on October 6, 1935, in Abruzzi, Italy. When he was a young child, his father moved to Pittsburgh for a job but then fell out of contact with the family when the war began. When his town was taken over by the Nazis, Bruno's family was forced to hide in a secret refugee camp on top of a mountain. While on the mountain, his mother was shot in the shoulder while trying to get food for her family. She survived but Bruno almost didn't. He contracted rheumatic fever. When he arrived in America after the war, he weighed only 83 pounds.
Due to his small frame and his speaking of broken English, Bruno found himself picked on. He eventually discovered weights and became a dedicated weightlifter. He performed strongman stunts and was discovered by a wrestling promoter when was on a local television program showing some weightlifting techniques. Bruno made his pro wrestling debut in 1959. He began his career wrestling for the Pittsburgh territory which he eventually bought during his first reign as WWE Champion. Within months, Bruno was appearing in main event tag team matches at Madison Square Garden.
The First Title Reign:
Vince McMahon split away from the NWA in 1963 and created what is now known as the WWE. After having some difficulty drawing crowds, he reached out to Bruno Sammartino who was wrestling for the Tunney family in Toronto. Bruno used to work for Vince but was blackballed from the NWA at the time due to a controversial situation involving a show he had unknowingly failed to appear for. Bruno returned to New York and won the WWE Championship from Buddy Rogers in a match that lasted less than a minute. Bruno became so popular during this title reign that he was granted a private meeting with Pope Paul IV. After almost eight years as champion, Bruno's first reign ended at the hands of Ivan Koloff. This title reign is still the longest in the history of the WWE Championship.
The Second Reign:
Feud With Larry Zbyzsko:
Return to Wrestling:
WWE Championship Wins and Losses:
1/18/71 Madison Square Garden - lost the title to Ivan Koloff
12/10/73 Madison Square Garden - won the title from Stan Stasiak
4/30/77 Baltimore Civic Center - lost the title to Superstar Billy Graham
(Sources Used Include: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, onlineworldofwrestling.com, wwe.com, My Life Outside the Ring by Hulk Hogan, National Wrestling Allianace by Tim Hornbaker, and Slam Sports)