Review of Timeline 1963-69 with Bruno Sammartino
by Alan Wojcik
“The Living Legend comes to the best DVD series going today. Should be in EVERYONE’S stocking including Vince McMahon!”
So far Kayfabe Commentaries has covered some great years in professional wrestling’s number one promotion the World Wrestling Federation (or WWE) through their TIMELINE series. We have seen Jim Myers AKA George “the Animal” Steele cover 1986, Lex Luger cover 1993, “Superstar” Billy Graham cover 1977-78 & Fit Finlay take the Smackdown side of 2006. But none of them match the “Living Legend” of professional wrestling and I don’t mean Larry Z (he did cover 1980 in an excellent manner) I mean the man I wish I got to see in his prime, WWE Hall of Fame member (about f$%king time) BRUNO SAMMARTINO who takes host Sean Oliver and us through from the inception of the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1963 through 1969.
1963 opened with Capitol Wrestling; which was run by Vince McMahon (yes Vince’s dad) and his partner Toots Mondt, being part of the National Wrestling Alliance who had “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers as its champion. The NWA decided they didn’t want Rogers as the champion and had him drop it to the perennial champion Lou Thesz on January 24th. That title change led Vince and Toots to exit the NWA and set up the WWWF with Rogers as the champion. At that point Bruno was working in Toronto, Canada off the US radar after being blackballed. After some serious negotiating by Vince Sr., Bruno came back to New York (all veteran wrestlers refer to the WWF as New York) to defeat Rogers in Madison Square Garden on May 17th. What followed was a championship reign that ended in 1971 at the hands of Ivan Koloff. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here are some notable names and moments covered in each year:
1963-Bruno wins the WWWF championship from Rogers, his professional differences with Rogers, teaming with yet wrestling Bobo Brazil, wrestling against the legendary Fabulous Kangaroos, competing in MSG version 3, defending against Killer Kowalski, Hans Mortimer, the Crusher and Gorilla Monsoon, Antonino Rocca running a rival promotion in Queens, the WWWF TV taping schedule and how wrestling Gorgeous George gave him insight on when he should retire.
1964-his rigorous travel schedule as World champion, wrestling in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, how he convinced Vince Sr. to not feature him weekly in wrestling matches on TV, doing feats of strength on TV, his friendship with NY organized crime families, competing in 2 of 3 fall sixty minute bouts, defending the title against Dr. Jerry Graham, “Classy” Freddie Blassie, Lou Albano (before he was “Capt. Lou”), Waldo Von Erich and Gene Kiniski.
1965-Wahoo McDaniels debut, midgets and lady wrestlers as the novelty act on a card, initial meeting of young Vince K. McMahon, the WWWF title belt stolen in NYC, defending against “Cowboy” Bill Watts and Dr. Bill Miller.
1966-nearly becoming Vince’s 50/50 partner in WWWF (which became Monsoon, Phil Zacco & Arnold Skaaland), Bruno buys the Pittsburgh turf from Toots Mondt, Bruno shooting down a NWA/WWWF championship unification, working for the Sheik’s Big Time Wrestling of Detroit, meeting Pope Paul VI in Vatican City, defending the title against Tony Altimore, Baron Mikel Sicluna and Curtis Iaukea.
1967-wrestling Giant Baba in Japan, Lou Albano & Tony Altimore’s run-in with the Chicago mafia, wrestling NWA US champion Ray Stevens and meeting lifelong friend Dominick DeNucci.
1968- the opening of MSG IV on 7th Avenue, a shoot incident in Japan with Antonio Inoki & Karl Gotch. 1969-the sudden drop off in the NY crowd when WWWF lost TV and defending against Ivan Koloff in MSG.
For a gentleman who turned 78 this past October, Mr. Sammartino has a tremendous memory for his career. He can vividly paint you a picture of an event like you were there too. His session is 145 minutes long and not for one moment will you be bored or lose interest. Sean brings up the criticism thrown at Mr. Sammartino’s title reign because he was not a traveling World champion like the NWA title holder and I respect the answer given by the legend. I feel sorry for anyone (Roddy Piper who will cover 1984 included) who has to follow him in the Timeline series.
Next on the www.kayfabecommentaries.com roster is YouShoot with Balls Mahoney (December 17) and Breaking Kayfabe with Jim Cornette (January 7, 2014)
In addition to reviewing pro wrestling themed DVD’s and books since 2001, Alan Wojcik also covers several wrestling promotions throughout the United States. Be sure to check out www.facebook.com/kayfabewrestlingradio & Follow him on Twitter @MyNameIsWojcik