Talk is Jericho with Chris Jericho
Guest: Bruno Sammartino
Release Date: June 21, 2017
Recap by: Armando G. Ureña, PWPpodcast.com Reporter
Top Newsworthy Items
– Bruno Sammartino has a lot of respect for the current way WWE is structured.
– Bruno does not think Hulk Hogan was that versatile of a worker.
-Bruno thinks John Cena deserves better from the fans and doesn’t get why he’s booed.
-Bruno once wrestled an orangutan for money.
00:00: Sponsor Ads
00:42: Podcast Introduction & Sponsor Ads
04:46: Bruno Sammartino Interview Part 1
24:46: Sponsor Ads
27:42: Bruno Sammartino Interview Part 2
43:44: Sponsor Ads
44:56: Bruno Sammartino Interview Part 3
2:02:49: Podcast Conclusion & Sponsor Ads
Jericho gives a summary of the interview highlights. Bruno Sammartino was born in Italy, and lived in a cave for two years to escape the Nazis during World War II. He and his mother would emigrate to the U.S. where during his teenage years he discovered bodybuilding. The Pittsburgh Steelers offered him an NFL contract but Bruno turned it down to pursue a more lucrative contract with Vince McMahon’s WWWF. They are recording from from Sammartino’s favorite Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh.
Bruno Sammartino Interview Part 1
Bruno Sammartino, the youngest of seven siblings, was born in October of 1935. In January of 1936 his father moved to the states to work and came back to Italy to build on the land where they lived. When World War II broke out, all passages to Italy were closed, so his father was stuck in the United States, while Bruno, his mother, and siblings were in Italy. As bombings broke out in the Abruzzo region of Italy (where they lived), they hid in Mount Valla Rocca to avoid the Nazis. Bruno was the ages of 8-10 during this time, meaning their time in the mountains was from about 1943-1945. Bruno’s mother would sneak back into their Nazi occupied town to steal food. Being in the mountains, the entire journey would take two days. Bruno and his two remaining siblings, (two siblings had died during this) were terrified. The winters were brutally cold, and food was often scarce. The Nazis were eventually forced to leave the town, allowing the family to return.
Jericho asks if this upbringing made Bruno a stronger man. Bruno says he would compare some of the hard times he experienced in wrestling to his time in Mount Valla Rocca, and never felt as stressed about those harsh times in wrestling. Bruno went back to that mountain a couple years ago for a documentary. He found the same rock he would sit on as a kid waiting for his mother to come back to the town. He admits, without shame, that as the memories came flowing back in he cried like a child.
Jericho starts to steer the interview more towards Bruno’s wrestling career. Bruno compares the differences between today’s wrestling and his time in the business. Merchandise, TV, and pay per view were not around when he wrestled. Bruno recalls wrestling at Madison Square Garden every three weeks in the ’60s. He could make $3,000 in one night.
Bruno Sammartino Interview Part 2
Bruno and his family were ready to go the U.S. in 1947 but he was too sick to pass a physical to move into the country. He finally passed in 1950. His father enrolled him into a language school for kids to learn how to speak English. Here he would be introduced to the weight room of the YMWHA by a Jewish classmate. He made money cutting grass to pay to join the gym. Slowly he got bigger and stronger. He joined the wrestling team in high school. At 14 he was 84 lbs. In high school, he was 115 lbs. When he left high school, Bruno was 220 lbs.
In 1959, Bruno could bench press 565 lbs with a two second pause (which at the time was dubbed a world record). Bruno would get noticed and trained for Olympic lifting.
Bruno Sammartino Interview Part 3
Bruno says he met Arnold Schwarzenegger at a Mister Universe Competition he helped judge. They hit it right off and became friends. Bruno would go to Gold’s Gym whenever he wrestled in California to work out with Arnold. Arnold told Bruno he wanted to induct him in the WWE Hall of Fame when he found out he was going in.
Bruno talks about Andre the Giant. He mentions how Andre did not like being alone. A story was when Bruno was eating with him. Bruno went to the bathroom and when he came back Andre had split 14 beers, seven for Bruno and seven for Andre. Bruno says Andre did this so he wouldn’t be able to leave.
A man named Rudy Miller had noticed Bruno during a TV taping. He arranged to get Bruno to go to Washington, D.C. to meet with Vince McMahon Sr. He was 22 going on 23. Here is where he would be asked to become a professional wrestler. Even though he got an offer from the Pittsburgh Steelers, professional wrestling was proving to be more lucrative and he decided to start training.
Bruno talks about Buddy Rogers. He says he had a habit of shotgunning angles and ruining promotions on his way out. The two never got along that well. When it was time for Bruno to win the title from Buddy Rogers, the bookers lied to Rogers about the finish, saying he would win in order to make sure he wouldn’t fake an injury and no show. The championship match would be 45 seconds long.
Jericho asks about Bruno’s schedule. During his first reign, Bruno would work six days a week for McMahon. Every two weeks on the seventh day he would work at the Maple Leaf Garden. He did this for seven years before asking Vince to find a new champion because of the wear and tear on his body. Ivan Koloff beat him for the title, with Pedro Morales beating Ivan. Sammartino would regain the title for his second reign, only working the big arenas and earning a percentage of the gate, sometimes taking home $50,000.
Jericho asked about his biggest opponents. Bruno lists people like Kowalski, Ivan Koloff, Bill Watts, and Larry Zbyskzo.
Bruno describes how he would wrestle people. He would match his opponents’ skill sets. If he was with a brawler, he would brawl. If someone used a lot of high spots he would use high spots. He would mat wrestle people who mat wrestled.
Bruno talks about speaking out against the surge of steroid use in wrestling. He also isn’t a fan of the vulgarity that professional wrestling would see in the Attitude Era and early 2000s. He talks about how he carried himself as a champion. He wore and traveled in suits. He even bought a Rolls Royce to make wrestlers look good to the media. Ultimately, his open disgruntlement with the direction of wrestling turned off many in the business.
He talks about being called by Triple H to join the WWE Hall of Fame. Triple H assured him there is now legitimate drug testing, and that the program is more family friendly. Bruno did his research, with eight months of communication ending with a Hall of Fame induction. Bruno also says that Vince truly cares a lot about the wrestlers, citing the softer rings, and the ring not being as high off the ground.
Bruno talks about Hulk Hogan. He did not like the example Hulk set being an obvious steroid user. He also critiqued his in-ring work for not being a person who could keep people coming back for a program in the same area. Hogan could work a program somewhere once and that was it. He says he was limited. Bruno praises John Cena, being bothered that people boo him. Bruno says he doesn’t understand the business today, citing Roman Reigns being treated like a villain by the audience, despite him being a babyface.
Bruno’s favorite matches. Pedro Morales 85-minute babyface match. Ivan Koloff. Kowalski. Bruno fought an orangutan while he was young working construction. A carnival came to town that offered $50 to anyone who could last 5 minutes with the orangutan. Bruno fought it for 15-minutes.
“The guy deserves much better than he gets”- Bruno on John Cena
“He was very limited in my opinion”- Bruno on Hulk Hogan
Score and Review (9/10):
A lengthy interview of one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. They cover a lot, and Bruno is able to recall many details, whether they are about his childhood or his in-ring career. Listening about Bruno and his family’s hiding from the Nazi’s and his immigrant story in the early half of the podcast was the most intriguing part. The background noise of the restaurant gives this podcast episode a unique feeling, although sometimes it can get distracting. It is a must listen for any wrestling fan.