Wrestling icon Bruno Sammartino passes away at 82

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Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto says Sammartino was one of the city's greatest ambassadors.

Sammartino died Wednesday morning in a Pittsburgh, Pa. hospital after battling unreported health issues over the past few months, according to KDKA.

After setting a world record in 1959 by bench-pressing a mammoth 565 pounds, Sammartino caught the eye of Vincent J McMahon, and moved into the world of wrestling.

The WWE called Sammartino's rise to fame and fortune "the story of the American dream", following a tough childhood. He was inducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bruno's first reign remains the longest single reign for a champion in WWE history at an astonishing 2,803 days, for a grand total of 4,040. He held the title until 1971. Sammaratino's reign that second time lasted three-and-a-half years.

Sammartino remained a fan favorite into the 1980s before becoming a broadcaster and mentor for his son David.

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VAVEL would like to extend its condolences to the family of Bruno Sammartino as well as the friends and fans who mourn in his passing. He joined his immigrant father in Pittsburgh in 1950. His feats of strength were noticed by local wrestling promoters and eventually he worked his way up to Vince McMahon Sr.'s World Wide Wrestling Federation, grappling at the old Madison Square Garden for the first time in 1960. Sammartino, his mother and many villagers were almost killed by Nazi soldiers at one point while attempting to hide in the mountains but were ultimately saved by members of the Allied Forces. A household name all over the country, the beloved hero defended his title in legendary rivalries against WWE Hall of Famers Killer Kowaski, Gorilla Monsoon, and George "The Animal" Steele.

Bruno, a sickly 90-pounder who spoke little English, was a target of bullies at Schenley High School and resolved to build his physique with weight lifting and wrestling.

He walked away in 1988 and finally returned in 2013 to accept his induction into the Hall of Fame when he became convinced WWE had cleaned up its act.

Sammartino did not like the direction the WWE took during the so-called Attitude Era, starting in the late '90s, with its tawdry sexual overtones and foul language; it was one of the major reasons for the long estrangement between him and the company.

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