The Living Legend" and the newest member of the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame, Bruno Sammartino spoke with Dave Lagreca and Doug Mortman. You can hear Busted Open every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on Sirius 92, XM 208 and online on Sports Zone. Here are some highlights:
What changed his mind about going into the WWE Hall of Fame: "I said I would refuse, I would not go in because I would be a hypocrite, because I had been very critical of some of the things that were going on. I felt that there was a big drug problem with the steroids and probably other things. I also didn't like the nudity and the vulgarity and the profanity that was going on in the organization. For that reason I said I would be hypocritical for going in because I had been critical of all these things. Therefore, how can I go into that Hall of Fame. A lot of people supported me and some did not. But I had to go in what I believed in. So I stuck by my guns for a lot of years. But let me tell you what changed my mind. Paul Levesque (Triple H). I don't know if I can say he runs the organization , but he is certainly a heavyweight in that organization. He has been involved in a lot of decision making and so forth. He contacted me probably five or six months ago. I didn't know too much except that he was one of the superstars known as Triple H. I didn't know Paul too well. When he called and introduced himself, we started a conversation and he wanted to open the door ,so to speak for us to talk about the Hall of Fame. He told me how much he would like for me to be in there. That's how it all started.
"What did it for me is that Paul comes across, and I believe he is from what everyone has told me is that he is a very sincere guy. He comes across sincere, very honest, very straightforward. He started telling me all the changes they made, for example, when he mentioned that Dr. Joseph Maroon who had the drug Testing with the WWE, that was big because I know Dr. Maroon. Dr. Maroon is a world renowned neurosurgeon. He operated on me three times on my back. I couldn't function anymore because I did so much damage to my back. But because of him here I am today. I know what kind of dedicated man he is. When he took on this challenge with the WWE and the drug testing, I knew they were sincere about fixing this problem. I have to take my hat off to them because they did take the proper steps where some other organizations did not.
"Paul then started talking about the changes in making it more family-friendly. He knew and understood some of the things I objected to. He told me all these things have changed, like the nudity and vulgarity. So I started watching it again. I haven't watched wrestling in many, many years. I was totally turned off on it. So I started watching it again and what Paul told me, he absolutely made me a believer. Let's talk about the talent itself. I see a world of difference. I don't see steroid users. These guys look athletic but certainly I don't see the likes of what we saw ten, fifteen years ago or even later. But I saw there was no nudity, I saw no vulgarity. All these long interviews and no profanity. Paul told me everything that they changed. He also told me the direction that he wanted to go in. It was all positive for me. I had said years ago, yes I would be a hypocrite if I went in when I was being so critical. In different interviews, I have also said that if they changed I would reconsider my feelings towards the Hall of Fame. The only problem was I never thought I would see it happen.
How persistent Triple H was: "Well it didn't happen overnight. We kept talking and this went on for months and months. Finally after so much time elapsed and everything we discussed , I finally became convinced that Paul absolutely wanted to take the business into a different direction. He was trained by Killer Kowalski. He was a student of the old days. He was a student of my era. He loved that and thought a lot of that. So he wants to make changes that goes back to that era. Everything he said, he convinced me because most of all I believed him. I absolutely believe his sincerity. The changes are there. Now I see these guys and the current guys are not on that stuff. Paul convinced me this is the way it is and is what they want going forward. So I said yes I'm interested and if I could help in any way as long as they keep going in that direction. I would make myself open to it."
If he has been able to mend his relationship with Vince McMahon: "Here is how I feel. As I criticized Vince as you guys are fully aware of. But I also know that these changes came about because Vince was a part of it. I'm sure Vince is the big boss. I'm sure Paul and Vince had many serious conversations and obviously Vince had to agree to everything. My feeling is yes I criticized, but I will also praise him because he took all the steps. I will criticize you if you deserve to be criticized, but I will praise you when that's proper. He has made all these changes and I praise him for that. I have not talked to Vince. I have not seen him. But when the time comes, probably when I get there, I'm sure a meeting will be held. I will be glad to meet with him and have conversations with him."
On rumors that part of the deal was that he doesn't have to deal with Vince McMahon: "That's a lie! I have heard so many different things that goes on in this internet and I don't understand where it all comes from. Where do people get this information? People have told me so many things that they saw on the internet. That is nonsense. I absolutely have never suggested that the conditions be that I would not have anything to do with Vince or see him or anything like that. Absolute lies. I resent people writing these things when they have no idea what the heck they are talking about because there is no truth to it at all."
The emotions he will have being in Madison Square Garden: "I'm wondering myself. There is no question, that its going to be something for me and I hope I can handle it emotionally because I appeared in that building over 200 times. 50 years ago I took the belt from Buddy Rogers. That's the place I picked up Haystacks Calhoun, when no one was able to budge him. It's a place where I also broke my neck. It's the place where I lost the title. It's a place where I regained the title. To be there as many times as I did, and the thing that I never forgotten and it still touches me and gives me goosebumps is that when I used to make my entrance from my dressing room towards the ring, that whole audience would explode and start chanting my name. Even though I was a fanatic about my training, but when I got in that ring I was even more energized. I wanted to give everything I had to give, to those fans because they treated me so great. You know in this business you're a headliner if given the opportunity. But if those fans don't come out for you, you're not a headliner for long. I was a headliner for twenty something years because the fans came out and supported me. For the fans who wanted me to do this, I wanted to please them as well. Yes I have thought about what its going to be like when I appear there one more time because I never thought I would step into Madison Square Garden again. I'm sure everything is going to be flashing back to all the stuff that happened there. I hope I'm man enough to handle it without getting too emotional."?
On the reaction he got on Raw the night his name was announced for the Hall of Fame: "That was a big shock to me, because when I heard that they were going to make the announcement in Atlanta, I'll be very honest with you guys, I didn't know what to expect. But I certainly didn't expect any kind of big reaction. I thought it might get a polite yay or okay. (Laughs). So when I was watching it and I saw the piece that was put together, and I saw the reaction of the people, I couldn't believe it to be honest with you. I was in shock. I thought, my gosh this isn't Madison Square Garden, this is Atlanta. I wrestled in Atlanta, but not like the Garden or some of the other arenas around here. To see that reaction from fans who probably weren't around when I was wrestling. That just blew me away."
Who does he want to present him at Madison Square Garden: "Paul said to me that they usually let the persons being inducted choose who they want. However he asked me if I would allow them to think about it for a while. They want to bring someone who they think would be fitting for the occasion. Someone who is worldly known. I don't know who they have in mind. But if it were me, there would be a number of people I would suggest. My good buddy, Dominic Denucci. Guys like Ivan Koloff who took the title from me and who I had some of the greatest matches with. There is Bill Watts who I have a history with. Look at the history I had with Larry Zbyszko. I always wanted to go out on top, that was my dream. The last thing I did in this business was with Zbyszko. Look what we did at Shea Stadium. We sold out Shea Stadium and turned them away from every arena that we went into. What a way to go out. He would be pretty darn good at that as well. I'll leave it up to them because they have their own idea."
With him now in the WWE Hall of Fame, if he now considers it legitimate: "Now I do! (Laughs) The other thing I asked and they are planning on doing it down the road is a building. A building that people can visit. It's down the road like I said but it's in the works."