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 Welcome To The Vault! In This Edition, Harry Simon Goes Back To Yesteryear To Bring Us Wrestling's Living Legend Bruno Sammartino!

WRESTLING’S LIVING LEGEND: BRUNO SAMMARTINO
Approx running time: 70 min
Approx time period covered: Mid-70s to Mid-80s
Released:
1986
Hosts: Mean Gene Okerlund & Bruno Sammartino

Gene opened by welcoming Bruno to the studio, “This Is Your Life” style.

1) World champion Bruno Sammartino (w/ Arnold Skaaland) pinned Nikolai Volkoff to retain the title [JIP/clipped; 10/24/76]. I always wondered if Volkoff always sucked, or if his sucktitude was an erosion from greatness, or at least, mediocrity. Now I have my answer. It’s the former. Volk played the bully in this match, but Bruno surprised him with a schoolboy for the pin. Not a good match, but okay for establishing Bruno’s gimmick as an everyman who doesn’t back down from a larger, stronger opponent. (Chris)

2) World champion Sammartino beat Baron Von Raschke (w/ Fred Blassie) by DQ to retain the title [clipped; 3/28/77]. Now this is more like it. BVR could still go at this point, and the crowd was insanely loud in their support of Bruno. Huge heat for a spot where Bruno tied up BVR in the ropes and laid in the boots. On commentary, Vince put BVR’s claw over big and there was horror movie heat for the spots when the claw was teased. BVR worked over Bruno’s shoulder, and Bruno’s sell-job made him look like even more of a lionheart for fighting wounded. I wish today’s wrestlers could sell worth a damn. I wish a lot of things about today’s wrestlers. Finish came when BVR tied up Bruno’s leg in the ropes and clobbered him with a chair. A bunch of wrestlers ran-in to pull BVR off of Bruno. Before they cut away, cameras caught a clever fan sign that said “BRUNO IS UNO.” (Mike)

3) Sammartino (w/ Skaaland) pinned Ken Patera [JIP; 8/29/77]. Nice easy-to-follow storyline in that each guy claimed to be the strongest man in wrestling, so they had a match to settle things. This was Patera at his peak. Kenny got tons of heat by howling “Get up, boyyyyyyy” while pounding Bruno. Patera got his full nelson on Bruno (precursor to Patera’s “swinging neckbreaker” finisher), but Bruno kicked back off the turnbuckles and sent both guys to the mat. Bruno got a shoulder up so the finish was Patera pinning himself. I really, really, REALLY hate that finish. The trippiest thing about this match (and for that matter, the whole tape), was seeing a young Howard Finkel with hair and a burgundy tux announcing Bruno as the winner. (Mike)

4) World champion Sammartino (w/ Skaaland) went to a draw with Killer Kowalski, so Sammartino retained the title [JIP; 4/29/74]. On the voice-over intro, Gene and Bruno did a tremendous job in getting Kowalski over as one of the toughest wrestlers Bruno ever faced. Bruno even said that he had to change his entire training regiment to prepare for KK. Kowalski played an awesome heel, biting Bruno into Blade City. Then came the trademark Bruno spot where Bruno saw his own blood and went berserk on his opponent. MONSTER pop for when Bruno exploded on Kowalski. I mean, unbelievable. In the crowd, men and women from all different walks of life were jumping up and down and shadow boxing. Total chaos. Bruno kept punching and Killer kept biting, when the ref called for the bell for some reason. The locker room emptied for a pull-apart angle. The ring announcer declared the match a draw, which was not to the liking of the fans. Good brawl and the heat was incredible.
(David)

Gene and Bruno talked about Bruno’s history over still pictures showcasing some of Bruno’s biggest moments (Bruno beating Buddy Rogers for the WWWF title on 5/17/63, Bruno lifting the “620-lb” Haystacks Calhoun, and Bruno wrestling Pedro Morales at Shea Stadium in what Bruno called his greatest scientific match ever). When Gene asked Bruno to compare his era to “today” (1986), Bruno basically said that today’s wrestlers “scream” too much as opposed to letting their wrestling speak for them. I’d throw in a sarcastic comment here, but he was 100% on the money, IMO. Bruno candidly said that he felt that he wasn’t the greatest announcer in the world, even though he enjoyed it. Bruno said that he wasn’t coming out of retirement, but believed that one should stay in good shape even once out of the spotlight. Gene put over Bruno huge. Very cool segment.

Bruno was the guest on a live Piper’s Pit. The MSG crowd was still absolutely rabid for Bruno. Sammartino and Piper had a nice little back-and-forth going until Piper called Bruno a “stupid wop.” That set Bruno off, and a dust-up ensued. On a related note, Bad News Brown would later go on record calling Piper a “racist” in an interview after he retired from active competition. This angle kinda supports BNB’s theory.

5) Sammartino beat Piper by DQ [12/7/85]. Good brawl in Boston Garden. Piper used all the dirty tricks, and Bruno was at his fiery best. Bob Orton ran-in for the DQ finish, but Bruno caught him and started unraveling the wrapping on his cast. The heels finally got the drop on Bruno and left him laying. (David)

6) Piper & Bob Orton beat Sammartino & Paul Orndorff by CO [9/28/85]. Gene asked Bruno about the transition from a singles to a tag match. Bruno put over Orndorff, saying that they both hated Piper & Orton. This was during the angle when Orndorff wore a cast of his own to counteract Orton. Orton conked Orndorff with the cast off the top rope while the ref was distracted (just like Wrestlemania!). The near-fall got a big pop. Orndorff backdropped out of an Orton piledriver attempt and finally hot-tagged Bruno. I dunno, at this point in their careers, Orndorff making the hot tag to Bruno seemed kinda backwards. Bruno attacked Piper and immediately pitched him outside. Clumsy finish as Bruno tried to chairshot Piper at ringside, but Piper ducked, did the Three Stooges poke, and scrambled back into the ring to beat the count. Total brawl from start to finish, and a pretty damn entertaining one at that. (David)

7) World champion Sammartino (w/ Skaaland) beat George Steele in a cage match to retain the title [JIP; ?/70s]. The voice-over intro into this match had the predictably inspiring comment by Bruno that if he had it to do all over again, he would. This was Steele at the height of his career, when he was a heel with so much heat he was walked to the ring by riot cops. Steele pounded on the champ until he Bruno’ed up, threw Steele into the cage several times, and walked out the door to win. What aired had great heat, but it wasn’t anything special. (Mike) [Note: This match also aired on
George “The Animal” Steele.]

Overall over-analysis: I was a little disappointed that this tape didn’t finally answer the question I’ve wondered for years: Why the hell did Bruno need Arnold Skaaland’s ass? Not that big a deal, though. This was one of those “feel-good” tapes dedicated to getting one wrestler over, and it did a tremendous job. Before guys like DDP and The Rock turned it into a catchphrase, Bruno truly was the people’s champion and he took on all comers. This is a great collection of classic Bruno, although I would have liked to see some old interviews to complete the time capsule. But the biggest omission was the awesome Bruno vs. Larry Zbyszko angle, where Zbyszko turned against his mentor and they ended up in a cage match at Shea. The race-baiting crap with Piper pushed the envelope, but it was effective in getting Bruno over as a guy who took great pride in his Italian heritage (both Piper matches were good, too). Anyway, now that all the nits have been picked, this was a class tape for a class act, and worth checking out. That said, I don’t ever want to see Bruno Sammartino’s nasty cauliflower ears again. Ever.

This Observer’s Thumb……………….is up.

-HDS-

All match dates courtesy of
www.prowrestlinghistory.com

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TWF FLASHBACK

November 2006

SATIRE: DISCONTINUED WWE XMAS PRODUCTS!

by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).