The SmarK Rant for Wrestling’s Living Legend Bruno Sammartino
So this one is in the WWE Home Video section of the Network, and even though I had a massive collection of Coliseum Videos in my tape collecting days and I rented everything available from the video store when I was a teenager, I’m 99.9% sure I’ve never seen this one. And I’ve been into Bruno lately, even with Dave Newman bugging me to review the Greek Death Match show all the time. So I’m intrigued! Plus everyone seems to be REALLY into this 80s nostalgia stuff here this week, so I’m gonna ride that gravy train as long as I can.
Released 06.06.86 by Coliseum Home Video according to the Network.
Also, once again, SCREW YOU to whoever changed the introduction music on these.
Your hosts are Mean Gene Okerlund and Bruno himself.
WWF World title: Bruno Sammartino v. Nikolai Volkoff
From October 1975 according to Gene, and we’re of course in MSG. Gene notes that it’s early in the career of Volkoff, so he’d only be 50 or so at this point, I’m thinking. Bruno takes him down and works the arm, but Nikolai breaks free with some shoulderblocks, only for Bruno to take him down with another armbar. Bruno with the knucklelock, but Volkoff actually bridges up and Bruno powers him down again. So Volkoff chokes him out this time, but Bruno runs him into the turnbuckles and slugs away in the corner for two. Bruno grabs a headlock, but Volkoff shoves him to the apron to escape, and Bruno heads back in and straight up rams his face into the mat a few times. And then Bruno waits for him to recover a bit and then kicks him in the head a few times. Volkoff bails to the apron and Bruno puts the boots to him out there as well, sending him to the floor. Back in, Bruno is full of PISS AND VINEGAR and just unloads on him in the corner. That’ll teach him to be Russian! Volkoff keeps calling for time, but then goes with a headbutt to the gut and stomps Bruno down for two. But then he misses a blind charge and Bruno rolls him up for the pin at 8:12 aired. This was fine. **
WWF World title: Bruno Sammartino v. Baron Von Raschke
From 1977 at MSG. First he has to deal with the Russian, and now the German. The Baron runs him into the corner and drops an elbow for two, but Bruno hits him with a kick from his back and sends him into the corner. He charges and hits Baron’s knee, but just keeps coming with forearms and a kneelift to send the Baron out to the apron. Back in, Baron catches him with a powerslam and drops an elbow for two as the heat for this is INCREDIBLE. Von Raschke does nothing more than walk around making a claw gesture most of the time and people are shrieking in terror. Bruno keeps him off-guard with armdrags and the Baron bails to buy some time. Back in, Bruno hammers away in the corner and charges with a HUGE stomp to the gut, which leaves the Baron tied up in the ropes. So he keeps putting the boots to the Baron. Give the people what they want! Baron finally goes to the throat to take over and puts a claw onto the neck muscle, but Bruno fights up and put the boots to him again. Powerslam gets two. Baron gets his own slam, but misses an elbow, and they collide off a shoulderblock for a double down. Bruno gets two off that. He slugs Baron down again and gets one, but they’re in the ropes. Typical Nazi, using the ropes instead of kicking out like an AMERICAN. Bruno boots him to the floor again, but the Baron grabs a chair and just beats on Bruno with it for the DQ at 8:10 aired. And then he applies the BRAIN CLAW to Bruno while he’s unconscious and tied up in the ropes, as a gaggle of people rush out to help Bruno lest he suffer permanent brain-claw-related trauma to his brain. Incredible heat for this one. **1/2
Bruno Sammartino v. Ken Patera
We’re joined with Bruno holding a chinlock and then booting Patera down to further weaken the neck. “Where are your muscles now?” he yells for the quality trash talk, but Patera pounds him down and then sends him into the buckles with MUSTARD. Patera misses an elbow and they collide, sending Bruno out to the apron in the process. Back in, Bruno fights him off and gets a powerslam for two, followed by an atomic drop to put Ken on the apron. Don’t see that one much from Bruno. Patera hides in the corner, so Bruno puts the boots to him and follows with an impressive backdrop for two. Patera tries to fight his way up and “accidentally” hits Bruno right in the meatballs, although Vince McMahon clarifies that Patera was “reaching for the abdominals” and can’t be held entirely responsible for his actions. So Patera takes over with a slam and drops a knee for two, but Bruno THROWS him off and they slug it out from their knees. So Bruno goes to work in the corner and whips Patera into another corner, but Patera bails to the apron and tries the full nelson. Bruno walks up the ropes and pushes off, and ends up on top for the pin at 7:56 in the ol’ Bret Hart finish. **1/2
WWF World title: Bruno Sammartino v. Killer Kowalski
Back to Bruno’s World title reign again, and these two of course had many matches together. We’re joined as Kowalski chokes him out on the mat a few times and goes to the top, but Bruno slams him off and adds another slam for two. Bruno throws knees to Killer’s back, but Kowalski uses a stomach claw and then BITES THE EAR. And we all know about Kowalski and ears! Kowalski goes up and gets a flying stomp, but Bruno hangs him on the top rope and boots him to the apron. Kowalski fights his way back in and hits A DROPKICK to send Bruno out of the ring. Vince notes that it caught Bruno off-guard. No shit, it caught me off guard too. Back in, Kowalski slams him for two. Kowalski hits him with a chop and Bruno bumps to the floor off it, and then back in Kowalski starts biting him again and beats on him with rabbit punches in the corner while biting the forehead in between punches. Bruno is course busted open, but the blood just makes him ANGRY and he takes the punches and makes the comeback as MSG goes fucking nuts. I mean, holy shit. So Bruno just beats the holy hell out of Kowalski and they slug it out until the ref just has to stop it at 9:00. That comeback was incredible and showed why they could put the belt on Bruno for years at a time. ***1/2
Back in the studio, Bruno goes over his life story with Gene, as he was weak and thin when he came over from Abruzzi, Italy, and he got into weight training to bulk up. We get stills of the hour long match between Bruno and Pedro at Shea Stadium, and Bruno talks about the importance of competition and being in the ring with the best competitors at all times. Bruno’s not a big fan of all the guys screaming in their promos and all the “hate hate hate”. What a tremendously likeable and humble guy that Bruno always carried himself as.
Piper’s Pit from MSG, October 1985. Piper starts out “Ladies and gentlemen…” and then remembers that they’re in New York and so there’s no ladies there, before bringing out Bruno. Bruno notes that he doesn’t even want to be there, and demands to get rid of “that garbage” Bob Orton unless Piper is too chicken to meet him one on one, and then threatens to walk off if Piper doesn’t comply. So Roddy insists that he has nothing to fear and sends Ace back to the dressing room. Piper: “We sit here face to face, and I realize you’re so much uglier than I am.” Piper goes on a run about how Bruno is old and washed up, but Bruno just keeps his cool and stands up to Piper every step of the way. “By the way, in Italy we don’t wear skirts”. Just fantastic body language as Bruno keeps moving forward assertively and Piper keeps backing off while defensively making jokes about Bruno’s hair and his son. And Bruno’s pretty sure if Piper was around 15 years ago, he’d have squashed him like a grape and he can still do it now. So Piper calls him “a stupid wop” and lays him out with a chair and the Garden is about to EXPLODE as Piper beats him down. But Bruno makes the comeback and takes a swing with the chair, and Orton pulls Piper out and rescues him back to the dressing room. What a segment this was!
Bruno Sammartino v. Rowdy Roddy Piper
From the Boston show I just reviewed recently. Bruno is good and pissed off and immediately attacks Piper on the apron, ramming him into the post and then into a chair at ringside to bust him open. Back in the ring, Bruno just unloads with a boot and slugs away in the corner. He gets so worked up that he shoves the ref, but while he’s apologizing, Piper hits him right in the meatballs and gets two. They fight back to the floor again and Piper runs him into the barricade. Back in, Bruno unloads on him again and boots him out of the ring, so Piper decides to retreat and Bruno hauls him back in for more abuse. Piper runs away to the back AGAIN and Bruno follows AGAIN and tosses him back in for the big comeback. So Piper runs away AGAIN but Bruno grabs him by the trunks this time and beats on him, but Piper finally just goes with a cheapshot and gets some axehandles. But then Bruno hits him in the gut and Piper fakes like it’s a low blow. Bruno is having none of that and continues beating the shit out of Piper, until finally Bob Orton runs in for the DQ at 5:07. Bruno just beats on him too, and actually rips off the cast because he’s so badass, but then goes back to beating on Piper and turns his back on Orton. And the beatdown commences! This is like the exact opposite of those lame feud matches these days where guys talk scripted shit for weeks and then do a lockup to start the match. Piper called Bruno AN OLD MAN to start the feud, and Bruno came out and kicked his ass and put the beats to him until Orton had to run in and save him. ***
Bruno Sammartino & Paul Orndorff v. Rowdy Roddy Piper & Cowboy Bob Orton
Interesting intersection of two people who hated Piper! This is also from Boston, I presume from the next show. Crazy brawl to start and Orndorff chokes out Piper in the corner by using the tag rope, and then brings in Bruno officially. So Piper runs away and lets Orton deal with it. And so Orton hits Bruno with the cast and now Piper comes in, but Bruno immediately slaps him around and Piper runs away in terrot. Bruno unwisely gives chase, which allows Piper to hit him with a chair and slow him down. And then Orton distracts the ref while Piper runs Bruno into the stairs and the crowd is just MOLTEN for this. Back in the ring, Bruno has had enough of this shit and beats on Piper in the corner, but Roddy goes to the eyes, so Bruno brings Orndroff in again and he hammers on both heels with his own cast. He tries the piledriver on Roddy, but Orton hits him with HIS cast, and Piper rolls on top for two. Piper goads the hot-headed Bruno into the ring and then the heels double-team Orndorff with the ref distracted, and Orton rams Wonderful into the mat for two. But then Orndorff uses his cast to make a comeback while Orton takes a tremendous bump in the corner, but Piper cuts off the tag. Orndorff tries a sunset flip and Piper slugs away to block, but Paul yanks the tights down and gets two while Roddy naturally leaves his ass hanging out. Orton comes in and tries his own piledriver, but Orndorff backdrops out of that and puts Orton down with a clothesline. HOT TAG Bruno and he’s in no mood for Piper, who wisely runs away again, but Bruno hauls him out of the crowd and grabs a chair, but then Piper rolls in and beats the count at 8:35 of mayhem. Loved this one. ***1/2
And we finish with…
Cage match, WWF World title: Bruno Sammartino v. George “The Animal” Steele
Back to Bruno’s 70s reign, as we’re joined with Steele in control and choking Bruno out in the corner. Steele puts the boots to him, but Bruno has had enough and whips George into the cage in the corner. Steele tries to climb and Bruno hauls him down roughly, then rams him into the post, opens the door, and walks out to retain the title at 3:34 aired.
This was, to quote Bruno, a “tree-mendous” 90 minutes that flew by, and once again increased my respect for what he brought to the business. RIP, Bruno.