An Autobiography Of Wrestling’s Living Legend
by Bruno Sammartino
Book Review by W. Dwight Hatfield
For the first time in nearly twenty years I forgot wrestling was a work. And if we need any more proof that Bruno Sammartino is the greatest wrestler in the history of professional wrestling, the fact that the man is still doing his job long after he retired from in ring competition is just another item to pile on the mountain of evidence for the immortal status of The Living Legend. Before I really get started, I want to thank Sal Corrente and Brian Thompson of www.RasslinRiotOnline.com for prompting Bruno to re-release his autobiography. I think it speaks volumes for their characters that they have given something so amazing a new life and have allowed a whole new generation of wrestling fans the ability to access to the amazing life story of Bruno Sammartino.Now some people are going to criticize the book, I’ve already heard several say that because the book isn’t a tell all, behind the scenes expose, that it shouldn’t be viewed as serious as other wrestling autobiographies. To that I say, nonsense. This book has just as much, if not more, merit than many others. Partly because of the sheer magnificence of the author and also because it’s a reflection of the authors inner self, through and through. There is nothing “phony” about this book.
Bruno begins by telling the story of his growing up in Italy. It’s a fascinating peek inside the life of a rural Italian village and the family life there. It should make the reader appreciate how easy we have it now. The story then turns mortifying as we enter World War II. You will hear firsthand as the evil Nazi regime begins its occupation, how deeply this affected Bruno and his family. Bruno has such respect and love for his mother, it’s beyond touching, you’ll read how she literally saved the lives of her children, over and over again. It’s hard for today’s generation to really comprehend what a terrifying and dangerous time that Bruno and his family went through. This is really a major part of the book, and in my interview with Bruno, he talked often about these things. If Bruno had simply grown to adulthood and lead a normal life, it would’ve been a miraculous accomplishment, but as you’ll come to realize, everything Bruno does is larger than life, except for his ego. I really had a hard time fathoming how a man could accomplish so much, achieve so much fame, and still maintain his humility. This was before speaking with Bruno and reading his book. Afterwards, I came to realize that when you work so hard for everything and temper that with remembering where you came from, it makes being able to manage that success much easier. It was sort of an epiphany really. We all have seen so many people rise to stardom only to crash and burn. Bruno has maintained since day one, just another thing that makes Bruno The Living Legend!
The book moves into how Bruno got started in wrestling, the hardships he experienced, and how those experiences molded him and gave him greater wisdom to leverage with. He’s never shrewd or callous, but he refuses to be taken advantage of. Both personally and professionally, Bruno never gets fooled twice, but because of his gracious nature, he does sometimes have to do things he otherwise wouldn’t have done. For example, rushing back from his broken neck, helping his son, and on many different occasions running to the rescue of Vince McMahon Sr. (and Jr. too!), Bruno seems to do everything for the fans. You’ll hear the phrase “I didn’t want to let the fans down” a lot in this book. No, Bruno, you have never let us down. There are a lot of great stories about working different places, working with different wrestlers. As a historical look into the business it is an excellent resource. I was particularly touched by his reminiscence of Bobby Duncum. There are cool tales about meeting celebrities and a one of a kind Frank Sinatra story, you’ll have to read the book, but it’s something else.
I don’t’ want to give away too much of the book, suffice to say it’s absolutely fantastic. What I would like to say is that I find it so encouraging that in this day and age of decaying morality, the absence of ethics, and just all out perversity, that a true icon of wrestling always stayed true to his word, always practiced what he preached and to this very day is a shining example of what a man could be and should be. So many “heroes” in wrestling turn out to be charlatans or become a mockery of their wrestling characters, Bruno Sammartino was not a wrestling character, he was a professional wrestler, the best the world has ever known, both inside the ring and outside the ring. I think Living Legend is inaccurate, a more befitting term should be The Immortal Legend, because Bruno Sammartino should be remembered for more than just his wrestling career. He should be looked up to as a survivor, a loving father, a faithful husband, a true hero, and what every man should aspire to be. This story is an American success story and not in that “immigrant makes good” sort of way. Bruno is an American just as much as he is an Italian, he loves this country and if more people embodied the principals that Bruno does, this place would be in much better shape. I’m glad we will always have a hero like Bruno Sammartino, and I am glad he took the time to share his life story with us.
You can purchase the book “Bruno Sammartino: An Autobiography of Wrestling’s Living Legend” at www.rasslinriotonline.com for $24.95.
It is soft cover with 265 pages. The book contains many great photographs, several are shown in the book for the first time anywhere.
You can listen to my interview with Bruno Sammartino where Bruno discusses the book and his legendary career at www.myvirtualbc.com/audiointerviews/brunosammartino.mp3
W. Dwight Hatfield