TRANSCRIPT OF BRUNO SAMMARTINO PRODIGY INTERVIEW

Posted April 18th, 2018 by 1Wrestling News Team

Bob Ryder interviewed Bruno Sammartino for Prodigy in June 1996. This is the transcript of that interview.

Ryder: Thanks so much for joining us Bruno. I guess the best place to start the interview is at the beginning. How did you get into the business?

Bruno: Well, Bob, I always had a passion for wrestling since I came from the old country. When I came here I went for 6 months to language school, then went straight to high school and they had no wrestling program at my high school. But I was fortunate because one of my teachers was friendly with a fellow by the name of Rex Perry who was the wrestling coach at the University of Pittsburgh, and he told him of my passion for wrestling. He made arrangements for me to go right from high school, I used to walk to the Pitt training center, I would go there after school and would work out with the team. I did that throughout high school, and besides that we also had a ring during off season, so like Monday, Tuesday, and Friday I would lift weights, and the other days I’d work on wrestling. I kept up a 6 day schedule that way. I got pretty good with the weights and started competing in both Olympic style and Power lifting as well. I was a big boy size wise, and kept getting bigger and bigger.

Ryder: This was in the mid-50′s?

Bruno: Well, I came over here in 1951…so this would have been shortly after that.

Ryder: You had your first match when?

Bruno: The first match came in 1959. I believe it was September of 59.

Ryder: How did you break in?

Bruno: What happened is I had been in a weightlifting meet in Oklahoma City…the North American PowerLifting Championship, and I won. I don’t know if you ever heard of a fellow by the name of Bob Prince…but he was the voice of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he had his own television show. I had appeared on his show a few times giving demonstrations in weight lifting and one time giving an amateur wrestling demonstration. When I won this competition in Oklahoma, I was a big boy by now…about 265 lbs or so, he invited me to come on his show. When I came on the show he asked if I was still working out at wrestling and I told him that was what I really wanted to do. While this was going on a fellow by the name of Rudy Miller, who represented Capitol Wrestling…that was before they became the WWWF, here in Pittsburgh they had live TV every Saturday…studio wrestling….well he happened to be watching and heard weight lifter who wants to be wrestler, so he started inquiring around. Rudy asked around and he contacted me to see if I was interested. The following week I went to meet him. He got me a plane ticket to go to Washington DC, where I met Vince McMahon Sr and Toots Monde. Over there they looked me over and took me to Capitol Arena where they used to do the TV out of in Washington. They put me in with a couple of guys to see what I had. They worked me out pretty good, and I guess I looked ok. I stayed there a couple of months training.

Ryder: At that time Vince McMahon was the owner of Capitol?

Bruno: He and Toots Mondt. They were partners.

Ryder: And Rudy?

Bruno: Rudy Miller was affiliated. He wasn’t an owner, he was an agent or something because he ran shows in some areas.

Ryder: So, your first match was in 1959 for Capitol Sports. Did you work for them for a few years?

Bruno: No, I worked for them from late 1959 until the middle of 1961. Then I went to Canada and worked for Jack Tunney.

Ryder: We’ve heard the story about how the WWWF was formed, about the controversy involving the NWA title and McMahon spliting from them….what exactly happened?

Bruno: Rogers was the NWA champion, and he wrestled Thesz in Toronto at Maple Leaf Garden in a title match. If I remember what happened, there should have been no title change if there was a disqualification. I believe it was 2 out of 3 falls. There were 2 pinfalls, but one fall was a disqualification. Thesz was crowned new champion, and McMahon…well I guess Rogers was working alot for him in those days…McMahon protested and said Rogers should remain champion. It was a big controversy, I don’t remember all of the details, but it was at that time that the World Wide Wrestling Federation was formed. Vince McMahon continued to recognize Rogers, and the NWA recognized Thesz.

Ryder: Before that you had been involved in a controversial decision involving Rogers and the NWA title, hadn’t you?

Bruno: I beat him in Toronto and he said he tried to leapfrog me as I was coming off the ropes for a tackle. He claims that I rammed him in the groin. It knocked him out and I covered him and the referee counted 1 2 3. The referee raised my hand as the new champion, but then they claimed that I won it with a foul. I said if that is the way it was going to be looked upon, that I won it on a foul, that I didn’t want it. So, I refused the title, and Rogers remained champion.

Ryder: Rogers then went on to become the WWWF Champion. You had your famous match with him in 1963?

Bruno: May 17, 1963.

Ryder: Tell me how that match came about.

Bruno: I had a dispute with McMahon. They had me suspended all over the country. I wanted to leave. I wasn’t happy with the way my career was going in New York. I was strictly preliminary and I felt I was going nowhere. I wanted to leave. In those days it wasn’t when you wanted to leave…it was when they wanted you to leave. So, kind of a dirty game was pulled. When I told them I was finishing up, I gave like a 3 week notice or to finish up the bookings before the new bookings came about. I was booked in Chicago as far as I knew, so I went to Chicago and that would be my last date with them. From there I went to Roy Shires who was just getting started in San Francisco. So, I worked Chicago and went to San Francisco and wrestled for about a week when all of a sudden someone from the State Athletic Commission came up and told me ‘you aren’t wrestling here anymore.’ I asked why, and he said “because you are suspended”. They said they had notification from New York that I was suspended. They wouldn’t tell me why. Then I went to Indianapolis, and the same thing happened. I figured everywhere I went it would happen, so I went back home to Pittsburgh and because I had a wife and a little baby, I went back to construction.

Ryder: And when was this all happening.

Bruno: In late ’60 and ’61. Anyway Toots Monde contacted me and told me he wanted me to wrestle for him in Pittsburgh. So I wrestled locally around Pittsburgh, and I wasn’t satisfied.

Bruno: So anyway, eventually Toots set up a meeting with Vince McMahon. Then I found out how I had gotten suspended. What had happened was I had been double booked. I knew I was wrestling in Chicago, but what I didn’t know was they had booked me in Baltimore too. I knew nothing about that. Baltimore inquired of my whereabouts and they had been told I just didn’t show up. They should have notified me and they would have had a hearing so I could give an explanation. If I had such a hearing I could have told them I wrestled in Chicago. That’s the way it was in those days.

Ryder: And the suspension was honored all over the country.

Bruno: I guess so. So, Vince goes to Baltimore with me, and he told me whatever you do keep your mouth shut and he would handle the commission. He told me not to say anything at all. I said OK…and I listened to those people talk like I was a criminal. One commissioner said if it was up to him he would throw me in jail and throw away the key. I had to listen to all this nonsense. The reason they wanted me to keep quiet is because if I had talked, somebody else would have gotten in trouble. So I kept my mouth shut and they fined me $500. Vince went into a private meeting with them and everything got handled. So now, I’m supposed to go back and work for McMahon and everything would be ok. But everything was just as it had been before…but now I was a little wiser. I got some legal advice and I sent a registered letter to every athletic commission in the country telling them what my last date would be and telling them I wouldn’t be responsible for any dates booked for me after that date. When McMahon got a whiff of it he didn’t like it, but I told him there was no future for me there. Meanwhile, in Toronto wrestling was really down. Yukon Eric told me I might do well up there because there was alot of Italians there. I told him I didn’t know…but he put in a word for me. I was afraid Vince would be badmouthing me, but evidently he took me anyway. Frank Tunney didn’t say anything, he just took me. Everything was going ok, and I started making a bit of a hit with the Italians. I was very strong then. I had done a 500lb bench press and a 720lb squat so they called me the Italian Samson. I started looking good and the crowds started coming in. Frank Tunney told me he had been told he would have problems with me, but he was very pleased and wanted me to know Toronto was my home. I was there for the next year and a half. Meanwhile New York was doing very poorly. McMahon heard we were doing good in Toronto, so he contacted me and asked me to come back. He told me he knew we had had differences and he said he wanted to bury the hatchet. He said he thought I’d do better in New York because of all the Italians. I told him I would come back under one condition…if I could wrestle Rogers for the title. He told me he didn’t think Rogers would go for that…Rogers and I didn’t get along. Vince told me he’d give me a guarantee if I’d come back, but I told him I was doing fine in Toronto and the only way I’d come back is if I got Rogers for the title. Anyway, finally we worked it out, and on May 17, 1963 in 47 or 48 seconds I became the new champion.

Ryder: And you immediately started selling out the Garden.

Bruno: I was very fortunate. It was almost overnight. The people started coming and we started selling out.

Ryder: You sold out all up and down the East Coast.

Bruno: The entire Eastern region.

Ryder: You had some pretty famous matches with Gorilla Monsoon in those days.

Bruno: A lot of big guys…Killer Kowalski, Big Bill Miller, Don Leo Johnathon, Bill Watts…we did great business with Watts, Toru Tanaka, Waldo Von Erich…we did good business with a lot of people. They were all great. Bobby Duncum was pretty much unknown, and he did great for us.

Ryder: You held the belt for how long?

Bruno: The first time for 8 years, the second time for 4.

Ryder: What was it like leaving the ring the night Koloff beat you?

Bruno: That was, man..it’s so hard to describe. When I lost it was the strangest thing I ever experienced in my life. I thought something had happened to my ears. It was eerie. I got up and started walking out. It was totally silent. Then people started sobbing and on the way to the dressing room they were telling me they still loved me. I was really surprised. I hadn’t expected that kind of reaction, and when I got to the dressing room, I was really depressed. I thought I had let those people down, and I felt very very sad because I felt the sadness that I saw. I didn’t know it would be like that…I couldn’t believe it.

Ryder: People had lost championships before, but never with that kind of reaction.

Bruno: It was unbelieveable. You had to be there to see it. It was eerie. Never in a million years did I think that would happen. If a guy beat me I thought they’d boo him, or maybe cheer me when I walked out. But these people were just devastated. It was really really strange. You could hear a pin drop. People were actually sobbing. I felt very bad.

Ryder: Right after that the titles switched from Koloff to Morales and then you left the territory for awhile.

Bruno: During the time between the titles I really began to love the business again. Let me explain. During those 8 years that I held the title I was on a ridiculous schedule. I worked every single day including 2 Sundays a month. I had told Jack Tunney I would work for him, and he ran every other Sunday…he had been good to me so I told him I would work for him. I felt I owed it to him. That only gave me 2 Sundays off a month. That had been hard on my wife and son. It was really one heck of a schedule, and the aches and pains were really building up. When I lost the title and rested up it really rejuvenated my enthusiasm. What I did was Sam Muchnik would call and I’d go to St Louis and work a couple of shows. Then I’d go to Indianapolis and work a couple of shows there. I’d take off when I wanted to. I would go to Los Angeles. I’d go to Japan then come back and take time off. It was great. I was in demand all over the world and could work at my own pace. Promoters were offering me good money, and at the same time I was spending time with my family. Believe me I had no desire to get that title back.

Ryder: What brought you back in?

Bruno: Well, McMahon came to me and said he needed me. He called a number of times and said “Bruno you have to come back. Things are slipping away. All I ask is one year.” He told me if I came back he would just use me in the big shows…so I went back. One year turned to 2 and that finally turned to 4, then I broke my darn neck.

Ryder: You mention the broken neck. What went through your mind?

Bruno: They tell you that it was the Lariat that broke it, but it was a bad slam. I came off the ropes and he went to slam me and dropped me right on my head. The way he picked me up I had no control, he just threw me right down on my head. At first it felt like a bolt of lightening went through me. Then I couldn’t feel part of my body. Things went to a blank and things got confusing. The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance and then a hospitol. I remember hearing the doctors saying I had no feeling on my left side, and I wondered what that meant. After some time they ran tests and showed the 6th and 7th cervical vertebrae were the ones that broke, and the reason I couldn’t feel anything on my left side was because of pressure being put on my spinal cord. The vertebrae were pressing against the cord. When they removed the pressure, I slowly started feeling things again.

Ryder: You were out for about 6-8 months?

Bruno: That’s about right. They had told me I was done, but I came back.

Ryder: And worked another 4 o 5 years.

Bruno: I worked until 81.

Ryder: You had some great matches with Ray Stevens. Was that in the first title reign?

Bruno: We wrestled during both reigns, but I think you are probably talking about the matches in 1967.

Ryder: What was the story there. You actually lost to him?

Bruno: We were both outside the ring. I was climbing back in and he grabbed my tights and pulled me out, and he flew in the ring and got the win by countout.

Ryder: He was something special on the West Coast.

Bruno: Ray Stevens was a great great talent. I don’t say this just because Ray has passed on. I truly thought that Ray Stevens was just super super great. He was tremendous in the ring. I will tell you this…everybody has their opinions about who is great and what have you. I don’t see anybody around that I have seen that was better than Ray Stevens.

Ryder: When you lost the second title did you stick around with McMahon?

Bruno: The only times I would come in is if they needed help in a town. I was always lucky and could bring in the crowds. So when things were down someplace I would come in.

Ryder: Tell me about the series with Larry Zbysko.

Bruno: Boy, you want to talk about a series that was something special. They do Wrestlemania’s and advertise all over the country and bring in celebrities. When I wrestled Larry in Shea Stadium we just advertised in one market, and we drew about 45,000 people. But, what is extraordinary about that was what we were up against. The same night the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing an exhibition against the New York Giants, and the Yankees were playing Baltimore in Yankee Stadium. We did a huge crowd against that competition. We sold out everywhere we went. We turned away crowds everywhere. This was in 1980, I was an old guy by that time.

Ryder: Was that one of your most successful series as far as drawing?

Bruno: Well don’t take this the wrong way…but a sell out is a sell out. We sold out the Garden and all those other Arenas almost every time we went there. It was a very hot series of matches, but we were used to selling out.

Ryder: Your last match in 1981, that was with George Steele?

Bruno: Well, they wanted me to open the Meadowlands, and I said OK. Then there were delays after delays, but I hung on. That was October 4. The next morning, I flew to Japan for a final appearance there. I worked a 10 day tour of Japan, and came home and was finished.

Ryder: What was the last match in Japan?

Bruno: It was me and Baba against Race and I can’t remember who the Japanese guy was. But that was the last match.

Ryder: You did work one of the Wrestlemania matches, didn’t you?

Bruno: Oh, when I came back as a commentator in 1984, I wrestled a number of times in the Boston area. In 1985 McMahon asked me if I’d put on the tights and I refused. Then they told my kid that if the old man would come back it would look good for him. I told him if they want to give you the big ‘push’ as they called it, they don’t need me to do it. My kid thought come on dad, you’re in good shape. I didn’t want him to think in the future that I did anything to hold him back, so I did it. I had no desire whatsoever, despised the thought of coming back, but you do what you have to do. I put on the tights and we sold out Boston, Philadelphia, the Garden. They kept after me and I told them my career is over…I wanted no part of it anymore. I told my kid, you see what happens we sold out all those places and it’s over…where is the push. Please don’t feel that I have to keep putting on the tights, because I can’t do that.

Ryder: You left in 1981, then Vince Jr took over and turned the company into Titan Sports in ’82 or ’83. Were you out of the picture then?

Bruno: I was completely out and retired then. I got a call from Vince Jr in 1984 and what I got out of the conversation was that he wanted to keep his dads tradition and because I had been such a part of the company…so I thought color commentating wouldn’t be so bad. But when I came back I started seeing all the drastic changes, and hey to each his own, but I didn’t like it.

Ryder: What kind of changes specifically?

Bruno: Throughout my career there were always things I didn’t like, certain gimmicks. You know my career, Bob, I just had a pair of tights and a pair of boots. I never had any fancy robes or anything. I felt those things didn’t mean anything and I felt all it did was bring criticism to the game, so I was very anti those things. They did exist in my day…but when I came back as a commentator, the whole thing to me seemed very bizarre. I also had a very big problem when I saw how widespread drugs were. I don’t like that and I didn’t like what I was seeing.

Ryder: You commentated for how long?

Bruno: A couple of years. From February of 84 until I believe 87.

Ryder: What happened to finally put the nail in the coffin?

Bruno: I was very unhappy the entire time. I had told them I wanted out, but we had a contract. I thought ok, I’ll wait it out. I was extremely unhappy. I didn’t like anything I saw to be quite candid. Not one single thing. Finally I just told them I had other interests, and I left. That was it, so I left. Things just appalled me. The drug situation was serious and I felt something should be done.

Ryder: How bad were the drugs?

Bruno: It was just horrible. Wrestling had been good for me, and I tried to be as good for it too. I felt instead of getting better it was going to be scandalous. I felt it would end up hurting a lot of people, young people just coming into the business were going to feel like they had to get on that junk because the mentality was that without it you couldn’t make it.

Ryder: You’re talking specifically about steroids now.

Bruno: Well it was steroids yeah, but unfortunately there were other things going around. But, Steroids yeah, as I’ve stated before just about everybody was on it. I said just about 95% of them were on it…and Billy Graham said try 99%. And they were gearing everything towards the kids. Cartoon characters…they wanted the kids because they wanted mom and dad to buy this and that. And yet, they were gearing towards the kids and these guys were all a bunch of drug freaks. I thought that was just horrible. Their biggest heroes were the worst offenders.

Ryder: After leaving, what was your next involvement in wrestling?

Bruno: Jim Herd was with WCW and he called me one time to be a special guest referee in Philadelphia for a PPV. Then later, Bill Watts called me and I came in for him when he was there.

Ryder: Aside from the drugs…the wrestling today doesn’t even resemble what it was in your day.

Bruno: I stopped watching it, in about 1988. It bothered me quite a bit, and I thought why agrravate yourself. I don’t like the kind of wrestling that takes place. I see alot of acrobatics and alot of brawling, but not much wrestling. Besides that, nobody has names anymore. Like Macho Man, Million Dollar Man. Nobody has a name anymore. To me it’s not wrestling. It just changed too drastically for me.

Ryder: What about Vince Jr. A lot of people think he dodged a bullet with the steroid trial.

Bruno: Well in that trial, they showed that large shipments of the stuff went to the office and he claims it was for his own personal use. On the other hand, they all said they got their steroids from other people. What they were trying to get him on, I believe, was distribution not the question that the guys were using, or he was using…but on distribution. So that’s how he dodged a bullet. He said it was for his own personal use and all the other guys said they didn’t get it from him.

Ryder: How long after you left was it before David left?

Bruno: Maybe a month, if that long. He got in trouble and they fired him. There was always a question if this might have been a setup….I can’t prove it. Some fan really got on David’s case…calling him all kinds of rotten things, and I think he spit on him…and David decked the guy. You can’t do that to a fan no matter what. The WWF immediately the next day, and this appalled me, issued a statement saying “The WWF does not condone such behavior and David Sammartino the son of Bruno Sammartino has been terminated.” Of course, maybe someone should be terminated…the problem was, McMahon had maybe a dozen guys who had done the same or worse. Some were being sued, yet my kid makes the newspapers as the “son of Bruno Sammartino”. I don’t condone hitting the fan. Fire him…that’s fine. But to issue a release like that while you still have other people on your payroll who did the same thing isn’t fair.

Ryder: What is David doing now?

Bruno: He’s running a gym in Atlanta. He always liked that kind of thing.

Ryder: When we spoke earlier today, you mentioned you wanted to clear up something that Mark Madden wrote in the upcoming WCW Magazine. In the article, Madden lists his top 10 World Champions and says that Lou Thesz in his 60′s had challenged you while you were in your 30′s to a winner take all match. Madden says you refused the match and “chumped out”. What are your comments on this?

Bruno: Let me clarify by saying it’s a ridiculous and pathetic lie. It’s something that absolutely didn’t happen. If something like that had actually happened, I can assure you it would have been done through the media, through the magazines, whatever. I’d like to ask anybody at that time if they had any recollection of that happening. There was never such a challenge and never did I refuse such a challenge. Obviously, this guy…who I consider a very irresponsible journalist…because first of all he lives here in Pittsburgh…let’s assume Thesz told him that, which I don’t believe…let’s assume Thesz might have made such a claim. A responsible journalist would have contacted me for my side of the story. But this is a malicious guy, for whatever reason, I don’t know what it is. I never met the guy…I have no idea what he even looks like, he’s just been described to me by other people.

Maybe when he gets up in the morning sometimes he looks in the mirror and that puts him in a bad mood and he decides to attack someone…and I’m a good target because for whatever reason he doesn’t like me. So, he published something that is such a lie…I think if you are a journalist is that what you do is try to get your facts from both parties before saying something like that. Like I say, I don’t believe Thesz said that. If Thesz said that, I’d like to say publically that Thesz is a damn lier.

That never happened and no challenge was made. Unless he challenged me by secret and didn’t tell me. I just know I wasn’t challenged and didn’t refuse a challenge. I’ve always respected Thesz and I don’t believe he ever made a claim that he made such a challenge. I just hope that when people read that they consider it comes from a very irresponsible human being….whatever his problems are in his life, I don’t know why he wants to attack people as he has done in the past. Some people just do irresponsible things.

Ryder: We also talked earlier about the history of the sport and the fact that alot of the young fans don’t know about the ‘old days’. Does it bother you, for instance, that the WWF has a Hall of Fame and their greatest champion is not in it?

Bruno: Does it bother me? I’m greatful that they kept my name out of it, I mean that sincerely. If it was the old WWWF, of course I would have appreciated that. I don’t even want to be associated with the present WWF. They are doing me a favor by keeping me out. That should tell anybody who knows the history of wrestling, however, that it’s a Sham Hall of Fame. I hope it doesn’t come out as boasting, but if it was legitimate I would be the first guy inducted because I held the belt longer than anybody else, for 12 years, nobody ever sold out the arenas as often as I did. How does one qualify for this Hall of Fame? Who is qualified?

Ryder: Let’s talk about a couple of a couple of wrestlers that remain from your last years of active wrestling. What is your opinion of Ric Flair?

Bruno: Ric Flair has been around a long time. Sometimes I’m bothered by the fact that he is involved in what is going on today, but he’s always a hard worker and always gives his all. I don’t know much about him now, I haven’t seen him wrestle in a long time. Yesteryear, when I used to see him…he could go an hour. A lot of people today I dont’ know what they would do if they had to go an hour. He’s from the old school.

Ryder: How about Terry Funk?

Bruno: I always thought Terry was very very good. The bad thing most of us are guilty of is we stick around too long. The mistake alot of us make is we should know when to quit. Is he out now?

Ryder: He retired earlier this year.

Bruno: It was a wise thing to do. Even myself, I stayed until 1981. I was talked into staying longer for this reason or that reason. I should have retired earlier. I had a lot of injuries, and noway could I do what I could do before. When you can’t do the best you can do, it’s time to get out.

Ryder: What are your memories about Andre the Giant?

Bruno: Andre was unique. He was enormous. Vince Sr had the right idea. When he booked Andre he had a decent relationship with other promoters and could keep Andre on the move. Andre wasn’t a wrestler you could keep in the same territory month after month. You just couldn’t do that. He was an attraction you could bring in periodically. Like Haystacks Calhoun. You couldn’t bring him in longterm. He was a special attraction. You know what made me last so long? I believe this very strongly. I was able to learn very young from people like Argentino Rocco and Eduardo Carpentier, both very good wrestlers. But, what I noticed is they did the same moves a lot. I thought if I ever headlined I thought that would get old after awhile. I would study an opponent, for instance you wrestle Ray Stevens in his style or Brusier Brody in his. With Ray Stevens you’d do high spots, and with Brody you would brawl. I was a big guy so I could brawl with him. That way I could be at Madison Square Garden every month without being repetitious. If I wrestled Hans Mortier it would be wrestling. If it was Ken Patera it would be power moves. So, I did that and it kept me different and fresh each time. Unfortunately, the experts that write newsletters just think they know the game. I heard one of the newsletter guys said I was a brawler. He didn’t know what he was talking about, unless he was talking about my matches with Kowalski. If you look at my Ray Stevens matches, I worked a different style completely. For example I wrestled Pedro Morales for an hour and 17 minutes and we didn’t do any brawling. Some of the other people that some of the newsletter people call the greatest, and I won’t mention any names, but those people always do the same moves always the same spots. They get stale. I tried to be fresh every time I worked with someone different. I’d adapt to their style and that made it possible to have such a long run.

Ryder: Let’s talk about Hulk Hogan.

Bruno: Hogan was in the WWF about 7 years. Did you know he only wrestled in the Garden 23-25 times. McMahon understood his limitations. Hogan is an extremely limited guy and couldn’t have carried the Garden every month. He was not the type of guy that could come back again and again. He’s a very limited guy.

Ryder: You came back last Friday night as a special guest for the Ilio Dipaulo Memorial show in Buffalo. What was it like to hear that ovation from the crowd?

Bruno: I’ll be honest with you. I had goosebumps because I didn’t expect it. I was extremely fortunate all my years in the business the way I was treated. I was the luckiest guy in the world…but time goes and new people come and go. It’s been a lot of years. I thought they would announce my name, I’d wave and get a nice hand. When they did what they did, it just blew me away. It’s a wonderful feeling, a great feeling. It shocked me, I didn’t expect it.

Ryder: Now you will be the guest referee for a series of matches between Flair and Savage.

Bruno: I’m thrilled. We are going to places I appeared from the time they opened. I opened Hartford, the Spectrum, the Capitol Arena. I’m working 4 shows with them. I guess Buffalo impressed them.

Ryder: You were interviewed last year by the New York Post when they did a story about wrestling deaths. You were quoted as saying “It’s time to clean up the business or abolish it because it’s nothing like it used to be. Right now it’s filled with human junk”.

Bruno: What bothered me was the number of deaths. If it was football players, it would be headlines all over the country…on radio and tv. The fact that guys were dieing left and right and nobody was doing anything about it. It was swept under the rug. The promoters that condone it were happy because it meant they could keep on doint it. I would have loved to see something so strong they would have wiped out wrestling…not to wipe out wrestling, because I love wrestling, but to wipe out what had become of wrestling. I thought that maybe, just maybe, some people would have learned a valuable lesson of what happened from 1983 on. Maybe some people who truly love the business would come back and get back to basics. In time they could win the confidence of the public and start doing business the old way.

Ryder: Do you blame Vince McMahon for the wrestling deaths?

Bruno: I can’t blame him for all those deaths because they weren’t all working for him. I blame the deaths on what the business had become. Certainly the mentality was you had to be on certain drugs to make it. The mentality existed and those on top who condoned that kind of mentality should assume certain blame for it.

Ryder: What can be done to clean up the problem?

Bruno: As long as the people you have up there now running it you can’t clean it up.

Ryder: Hulk Hogan went on Arsenio Hall and denied ever using steroids. Your comments?

Bruno: What you saw there was the real Hulk Hogan. A lier and a big abuser of drugs. This is the guy who told kids to say your prayers and take your vitamins. Then he goes out and injects himself with the drugs he denies ever using. You didn’t see those denials in court, though.

Ryder: So, you don’t think Hogan made a very good role model do you?

Bruno: Oh yes, a wonderful role model. I don’t know if it’s true because I haven’t followed it…but I hear most places he goes people boo the heck out of him. Is that true?

Ryder: It’s true.

Bruno: Well then people have wised up. They have come to understand just what this guy is about.

Ryder: What advise would you give to a young person wanting to get in this business?

Bruno: I’m sorry to say, Bob…right now I wouldn’t tell anybody to get in this business. If it’s a young guy, 19 or so, I guess I’d tell him to keep training hard, stay clean, pump iron, work out on the mat, and be patient. I don’t think it will be too far down the road that who’s there won’t be there in the near future.

Ryder: When Vince was building his empire in the early 80′s he did it by raiding all the smaller independents and signing their biggest stars. Now Vince is complaining that WCW has signed away some of his talent. What do you think about that complaint?

Bruno: Somebody told me that, and I had to laugh to myself. Here’s a guy that invaded every territory in the country and he put them all out of business. Now, I understand he is accusing the Turner organization of doing the same thing he did.

Ryder: Is the problem with today’s style that it stopped being wrestling and started being too entertainment oriented?

Bruno: Yes. There is no credibility. I remember when the police had to escort Zybsko in and out of the building. Same thing with Bill Watts. Today, I don’t care if 10 guys beat up one guy…on the way back people are asking them for autographs. The people themselves tell that. I saw a tape with Hulk Hogan talking in that fashion. Vince McMahon has said it’s make believe.

Ryder: Any last comments?

Bruno: A lot of people think I hate wrestling. I love wrestling. It was very good for me. Throughout my career I tried to be the best representative for the sport that I could. I hoped and dreamed that when I left the game things would get better. I love wrestling. I’m hurting for what’s happened to wrestling, and if and when changes come about…if I can contribute in any way shape or form I would get back involved in the business. I do care, I just don’t care for what has happened in the last 12 years.

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