Jim Ross has discussed the legendary Bruno Sammartino turning down an offer to join the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2004.
Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, the AEW announcer was discussing WrestleMania XX. The event would emanate from Madison Square Garden in New York, the spiritual home to WWE for decades.
Sammartino was a mainstay of what was then known as the WWWF, working for Vincent K. McMahon’s father, Vincent J. McMahon. Sammartino would hold the WWWF Championship for an astonishing near 12-year spell over two reigns in the sixties and seventies. The Italian star would also headline sell-out shows in Madison Square Garden one hundred and eighty-eight times.
In later years, after leaving the WWE in the late eighties, Sammartino would become an outspoken critic of the company – showing particular disdain for certain storylines and drug abuse in wrestling.
Ross detailed the approach WWE made to Sammartino to bring him into the Hall Of Fame in the city where he had competed for decades.
Jim Ross explained:
“That would have been perfect for Bruno [to enter the Hall Of Fame in New York City]. But he still was not happy with the positioning of the genre and the product from WWE. Bruno still had issues that were deep-rooted and so forth.”
Sammartino had also filed a lawsuit with McMahon Sr.’s Capitol Wrestling Corporation in the early eighties.The suit referred to lost earnings for Sammartino that had been part of his deal to return to the company in 1972. After McMahon Sr.’s death, Vincent K. McMahon would settle out of court with Sammartino. Part of that settlement would see Bruno return as a commentator.
“As we will see as we go forward, it just wasn’t time. He just wasn’t ready to do that yet. Eventually through Triple H [Bruno returned]. I had a meeting with Bruno in Pittsburgh about this. I flew to Pittsburgh to talk with him. I think Jerry McDevitt [WWE’s chief legal counsel] and I were to sit down with Bruno and his people. He was very polite to me, he has always been a wonderful man to me. Especially when he found out I married a Pittsburgh girl.”
“He was not ready yet. I didn’t sense whatsoever the venom or any hate or anger. I sensed more frustration and ‘I’m just not ready to go back there yet’ type of scenario. It was a very cordial meeting.”
“Later on, as we know he finally made a Hall Of Fame appearance, and quite frankly it was very emotional. I know the crowd went nuts to see Bruno. Bruno was so over for so many years, it was kinda incredible, quite frankly.”
Bruno Sammartino would accept an induction into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2013. As mentioned by Ross, Triple H was reported to be instrumental in getting Bruno to return to the company. That year’s Hall Of Fame ceremony was held in Madison Square Garden, allowing Bruno to headline the arena one more time.
On the podcast, JR would detail another former superstar that also refused a return in 2004, Bret ‘Hitman Hart.
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