Pittsburgh wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino passes away at 82 years old

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Sammartino, an Italian immigrant who moved to Pittsburgh in his teens, became a cultural icon throughout the Northeast U.S. during his 30-plus-year wrestling career.

In 1963, Sammartino captured his first championship against Buddy Rogers in just 43 seconds, becoming the second-ever champion in the WWF. His first title loss to Ivan Koloff in 1971 snapped a almost eight-year reign of 2,803 days as champion that still stands as a WWE record.

TMZ reports that the legendary wrestler, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, passed away at his home in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Hansen was mortified at what had happened and nearly didn't call Sammartino, but when he did call him, Bruno told him he knew it was a mistake and accepted his apology.

"One of the finest men I knew, in life and in business", WWE chairman Vince McMahon said.

The WWE confirmed the news that the Hall of Famer, whose nickname was "The Living Legend", passed away on Wednesday, April 18. During his time on top, Sammartino was a major draw, not only headlining the first pro wrestling event at Madison Square Garden, but selling out the Garden 187 times.

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Like those born in the Great Depression, who grew up only knowing Franklin Roosevelt as USA president thanks to his record four terms and 12 years in office, Sammartino had a similar effect in wrestling to many who came of age in the decades which followed.

Although Sammartino would retire the following year, he would then return as a broadcaster in the 1980s with a then young Vincent Kennedy McMahon. "WWE extends its condolences to Sammartino's family, friends and fans", the company wrote via their website.

Bruno retired from the ring in 1981, though returned to do commentary a few years later. Today he is better known as Bruno Mars.

Tributes to the wrestling star have already started pouring in, with Triple H describing Sanmmartino as a "true icon" and admitting to being devastated by his passing.

Sammartino is survived by his wife Carol and his sons, David, Danny and Darryl. RIP Bruno. My thoughts and prayers are with his family today.

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