2013 WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino spoke with Donald Wood of Ring Rust Radio. Here are some highlights from the interview.
Why it took so long to accept being inducted: “After I retired, I spent a quarter of a century in the business, and when I retired and a new regime took over, Vince McMahon Jr. and that, and in the beginning I went back to help out. I color commentated with him, but then I started to see things that were disturbing to me. I saw the steroid use in wrestling that became kind of rampant and I saw the changes in wrestling itself with some nudity and some vulgarity going on with different things that they were doing. And the profanity was so much. That bothered the heck out of me, and it bothered me so much that I became very outspoken about it. I hated to see the business that I spent 25 years in take that direction. That’s what really started it all.
“When it came to the Hall of Fame, I’ve been very critical of the direction they’ve taken and I’d feel like a hypocrite if I just accepted this Hall of Fame while I’m so against what they’re doing. So all these years have gone by and I have refused every time, but now what happened is that I found out doctor Joseph Maroon, whom I happen to know personally, he’s a world-renowned neurosurgeon—in fact, he’s operated on me three times—but his reputation is awesome. When I found out he took on that challenge to clean up the drug situation there was over there, that made me feel good.
“Time went by, and I was contacted by the WWE, which was Paul Levesque — better known as Triple H — when he contacted me, I was curious, wasn’t convinced, but after awhile he started telling me about not only about the drug program and how strict they were, but he started talking about how they were making it more family friendly by doing away with the nudity and vulgarity and the profanity and all that.
“About six or seven weeks ago, I started watching it because I had my doubts, to be honest. Meanwhile, Paul kept calling me and talking to me more and more about the whole business and the direction they wanted to go in and so forth, and after watching it and having a meeting with Dr. Maroon who explained time and again what they were doing, as I told some previous people, they said, ‘you’d never go in the Hall of Fame because you’d feel like a hypocrite, but what if they change? What if the whole thing changed? Would you reconsider?’ I would absolutely. If they change, absolutely I would reconsider.
“Well they’ve convinced me that they have changed and they convinced me — Paul Levesque has — that they want to be family friendly and the plans to go ahead is to do even more so, and I liked everything he had to say. Putting everything together is what made me want to go in.”
On his interactions with Vince McMahon and his relationship with him: “Well, first of all, I have not talked to Vince McMahon at all. In the past six months that I have been speaking with Paul Levesque, I have never once talked to Vince McMahon. Now, yes, as you said he is the boss, so I feel that from my conversations with Paul Levesque and the agreements we’ve come to and so forth, I do believe he had to speak to Vince, and Vince of course had to agree.
“But as far as myself, I will see him for the first time at Madison Square Garden at the Hall of Fame. But I have not talked to him, and as far as I know, there aren’t any plans for us to talk until we meet in person at that time. So when that time comes, we shall meet in person and if he wants to bury the hatchet as the old saying goes, I commend him for the changes that he made. I criticized him before, and I will give him credit because these changes could not have taken place without his approval. So, you know, I have to be fair too here.
“So, when I meet him I will shake his hand and I will tell him, ‘Hey, I’m willing to bury the hatchet, I didn’t like what you did before, but I like a lot of what you have done since, so I’m willing to put our past behind us.’”
Who he select choose to induct him: “There is a number of people I’d probably select, but to be perfectly honest and fair, I told Paul that if I have my choice and they want me to pick someone that I would, but if they had somebody in mind because the business has changed—from what I understand, they’re like in 126 countries around the world—so I thought maybe they’d want that they feel is known through all of their markets that would be more appropriate, I don’t know. I don’t want to force the issue.
“If it were me, there would be a number of names I’d want; that I think would be fitting I should say. It could be [Larry] Zbyszko as you mentioned, could be a [Ivan] Koloff because he’s the one I lost the title to the first time, could be Bill Watts because I certainly have a history with him in this business as well, it could be a good friend of mine that I like very much—we come from the same neck of the woods—and that would be Dominic DeNucci, You know, but if they choose someone that they feel is more appropriate because of their 126 markets around the world and they think they might be more important, then I wouldn’t argue with them. I’d be fine with that too.
“As of right now, it has not been determined on who it’s going to be.”