The wrestling world is in mourning today.
Bruno Sammartino, one of the most respected and revered WWE stars of all-time, died on Wednesday morning at his home in Pittsburgh.
He was 82 years old.
Known as “The Italian Superman,” Sammartino won the WWE Championship in a match against Buddy Rogers in Madison Square Garden in 1963…
… and then held the belt for eight straight years, easily the longest reign in the company’s history.
To be exact, he was champion for 4,040 days in a row.
He got his start in what was then known as the WWWF, an organization run by Vince McMahon Sr.
But Sammartino went on to do color commentary and make plenty of on-camera appearances for the WWF (now the WWE) throughout wrestling’s explosion into the mainstream in the 1980s.
The cause of death is unknown at this time.
Sammartino was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the 2013 class after turning down previous offers to do so, according to ESPN.
Why did he wait to long to accept this honor?
Because he first insisted on seeing changes made in the organization, such as performing drug tests on athletes and the end of the frequent use of profanity.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden is the biggest thing in my life,” Sammartino told ESPN years ago, adding:
“Anytime that people feel that you accomplished enough to enter into a Hall of Fame, of course this is a tremendous, tremendous thrill for me.”
Sammartino was actually inducted at the time by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bruno is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Carol, along with three children.
He also leaves behind a wrestling legacy few can match, as evidenced by the messages that have come pouring in via social media since news of his death went viral.
Hulk Hogan: RIP Bruno,thank you for loving and living our business,only love HH.
Triple H: Devastated to hear the passing of a true icon, legend, great, honest and wonderful man… A true friend…and one of the toughest people I’ve ever met. My thoughts are with his entire family. #RIPBrunoSammartino #AmericanDream.
Bret Hart: Forever a champion. Rest in peace.
Back in July, musician Bruno Mars even shared a photo with his namesake while holding a replica championship belt.
“I was nicknamed after this professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino. Tonight in Pittsburgh I had the honor of meeting him!” the singer captioned the snapshot.
We certainly did not.
May Bruno Sammartino rest in peace.
Below, we have compiled a list of other wrestlers who died over the past few years, many of whom were far younger than 82 years old.
This is a tough business and it can take its toll on its participants, both physically and mentally.
We send our condolences to their friends, family members and loved ones.