WWE stars pay tribute to Bruno Sammartino

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That would give Sammartino the longest combined reign as WWE Champion, holding the title for an astonishing 4,040 days. For 4040 days, he was a world champion of the WWE. Sammartino managed to take the belt from Rogers in 48 seconds, and held the WWWF Heavyweight Championship until January 18, 1971. That's when Vince McMahon Sr. discovered his new talent. He helped turn professional wrestling into the massive industry it is today, and many current wrestlers shared their memories of him and thanked him for his contributions to the sport after learning of his passing.

His 187 sellouts of Madison Square Garden as the marquee attraction is still a jaw-dropping statistic.

Sammartino was a huge inspiration to many in the professional wrestling business, so his passing hit some WWE stars pretty hard. Bruno Samartino with Steven McMahon.

According to KDKA in Pittsburgh, Sammartino passed away with his wife and two kids at his side.

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Bruno Sammartino in victory after a match in the 1970s.

After leaving Italy with his family following the World War II, Sammartino settled in Pittsburgh. Though he believed it literally at the time, Sammartino would experience fortune and fame first-hand as the longest-reigning WWE Champion and the most beloved competitor in the history of the squared circle. The proud Italian's background resonated with fans from all walks of life. When the Nazis occupied his hometown of Abruzzo, Sammartino and his mother hid in the Valla Rocca mountains.

Sammartino began lifting weights at a young age in hopes of becoming one of the strongest men on the planet. He held the title for almost eight years - the longest reign in the organization's history.

Sammartino played the hero with aplomb, battling against numerous greatest heels of his era, including Gorilla Monsoon and George "The Animal" Steele. His hero image was solidified as he also feuded the era's top heels at that time such as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Macho Man" Randy Savage and The Honky Tonk Man. He's also notable for selling out Madison Square Garden a massive 188 times, including one final time when Arnold Schwarzenegger inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.

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