The Italian-born wrestler was the driving force behind the WWE’s success (then known as the WWWF) in the 1960s and the 1970s. He held the coveted WWE Champion twice, both for record lengths of time – the first for 7 and a half years, the second for an astounding 11. His record is unmatched and almost guaranteed to be unbroken, unless something major shifts in professional wrestling and the length of title reigns rises dramatically.
Dubbed “The Strongest Man in the World”, Sammartino was famed for his farmer-like strength that was unmatched in his day. He became bigger than wrestling itself, his legend growing with each passing day into his retirement and beyond. He left the wrestling world in 1981, the same year that Hogan was fired by the WWE for appearing in Rocky III. However, by the time he was coaxed back into action by Vince McMahon, Hogan was on the top of the wrestling business and ushered in a new boom the wrestling business had never seen before.
Hulk Hogan had already become a big star by the time Sammartino returned to the company. Hulkamania was just becoming the biggest thing in wrestling, with the “American Hero” persona endearing Hogan to the general audience. He replaced Bruno as the top man in the company, which could explain the curt comments from the Italian superstar.
Before his death in 2018, Bruno Sammartino spoke on the WWE Network‘s Legends With JBL about his comeback to the WWE in 1984, as well as the man who took over the mantel as the face of WWE from him – Hulk Hogan. Speaking candidly, he revealed his true feelings toward Hogan.
In the shocking declaration, he said that he was “never a fan” of Hulk Hogan. He also claimed that Hogan was never a draw, and that Vince McMahon had to call him out of retirement because he could not rely on the star power of Hulkamania to draw the crowds anymore. Clearly this absolute nonsense, given that wrestling exploded in popularity with Hogan being the headline act in the WWF. Speaking with JBL, Bruno said;
“Hulk Hogan, look, I’m not going to lie. You’re asking me, you’re being very sincere. I was never a fan of Hogan because I was never impressed with his quality of performance in the ring. He was not a guy that if you had to keep up like in our era, where you had to depend on the arena, for your payday every month, every month, to where you were dependent on going to the same arena month after month, year after year. A lot of people thought he was a great draw, but in reality, he really wasn’t.”
“That’s why Vince McMahon, Jr. asked me if I’d work Boston. He was the world champion, Hogan, and Boston was way down. Philadelphia was way down. An old guy like me came in, we went in there, and we sold the place out. He was not the kind of guy that knew how to work a match that he could come back next month and the month after that and a month after that. He just didn’t have it, so he was okay if you brought him in for a shot here and there. But if you’re going to feed him to the public every month in the same place, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do it.”
While Hulk Hogan never wrestled against Bruno Sammartino, the two men did share the same ring together once. The two legends teamed together on August 29th, 1987 for a tag team match against King Kong Bundy and One Man Gang. The match took place at the Baltimore Arena, and saw “The Hulkster” and “The Living Legend” defeat their opponents in a match that currently has no footage available from it.
The sole photo of the two teaming together comes from a newspaper article, which you can see below.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.