The WWE Hall of Fame would have never been complete without Bruno Sammartino. So the fact he was finally inducted at Madison Square Garden Saturday night provided a positive vibe throughout the rest of WrestleMania 29 weekend.
There were various factors that kept the longest-reigning WWE champion out of the Hall of Fame for awhile, but none were bigger than his unhappiness with the direction of the product—more specifically, the use of performance-enhancing substances and other drugs.
As he told CBS Pittsburgh after the induction decision was made, the downward trend caused him to distance himself from the company and its offers for him to get honored.
So much steroids and unfortunately other drugs involved in that, he said. And I was very appalled by that. I hated seeing the game that I had been in for all those years come down to that. We started having some deaths and so forth, reported due to these drugs.
In the same report, Sammartino goes on to talk about how WWE has worked hard to make changes when it comes to eliminating the use of those substances through stricter testing. Ultimately, that helped him change his mind and accept the Hall of Fame invitation.
This time, when the Hall of Fame came calling about induction in April, Sammartino said, Being that they made those changes, now that they want me in there so badly I absolutely accept it because they did what I wanted them to do.
There he was, Saturday night, inside Madison Square Garden, the place where he became a wrestling legend, taking his proverbial place alongside the other superstars of the past. It was a moment of unity for WWE.
Sammartino, who was inducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, had two championship reigns that lasted a total of more than 4,000 days. Nobody even comes close to that number, which was accrued during a different era.
His first reign lasted more than seven years. To put that in perspective, CM Punk's recent run with the belt lasted 434 days and was considered an amazing feat in today's fast-paced, ever-changing WWE.
Somebody that was able to perform on such a high level for an extended period of time belongs in the Hall of Fame. Sammartino is, at long last, a part of the special group.
It's also fitting that the greatest champion of a bygone era was there to see the top dog of the current era, John Cena, win the WWE Championship for a record 11th time.
Sammartino and his fellow inductees––Mick Foley, Bob Backlund, Trish Stratus, Booker T and Donald Trump––were given a moment to shine in front of the more than 80,000 fans inside MetLife Stadium for WrestleMania 29.
A short time later, Cena beat The Rock to become champion once again. It brought the entire weekend, which is by far the biggest part of the year for WWE, full circle, from honoring an all-time great champ to crowning a new one on the grandest wrestling stage of them all.
It wouldn't have been quite the same without Sammartino's presence to cap it off.
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