The No-Longer Living Legend

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Editor's Note: This piece was originally published in 2007 in the Philadelphia Inquirer. With Bruno passing away today, we have republished it here.  He remains the Living Legend.

The distinctive voice of Bruno Sammartino, a native of Abruzzo, Italy, sounded just fine when I caught up with him this week at his home outside Pittsburgh, recovering from back surgery.

"I had two [operations] before this one, and I came back strong. I will be back in training within a matter of a few weeks, and I'll be good as new, I hope," he said. He sounded like he has plenty of fight left in him, particularly when the subject is the current state of his old profession.

"I finally got disgusted and walked away because it seems like nobody cares. People keep dying, keep dying, keep dying. But nobody cares."

Like many across the country, and in this area in particular, I grew up watching the man tangling on Saturday mornings with the baddest the World Wide Wrestling Federation had to offer. He had no equal.

Sammartino's career spanned four decades. He was the longest-reigning champion in WWF history. He headlined at Madison Square Garden on 211 cards, and 187 were sellouts!

I wondered what Sammartino was thinking as he watched the Chris Benoit tragedy play out. Investigators in Atlanta believe Benoit strangled his wife, Nancy, and their 7-year-old son, Daniel (who suffered from fragile X syndrome, an inherited mental disability).

Their bodies were discovered with Bibles beside them, which authorities believe Benoit put there before hanging himself with a weight machine pulley. The Canadian Crippler was just 40.