It’s no secret. Bruno Sammartino and Vince McMahon hated one another for many years. Sammartino was an outspoken critic of WWE. He grew disgusted with the pervading use of steroids that took over the sport along with the crude storylines McMahon turned to after he left the business.
In an interview from 1991, Bruno remarked, "I’m hoping some wrestling-minded people will come back into the scene and perhaps start back from basics, get some good-looking athletes, get away from the steroid crap and painted faces."
Sammartino was also quite frank about the main event performers during WWE’s boom period of the Attitude Era, once saying, "I don’t care for Steve Austin because of his mouth. He is a very, very vulgar individual, and anybody who is like that I can never be a fan of. So, any of his positives are overshadowed by the negatives."
This animosity between Sammartino and McMahon kept "The Living Legend" away from WWE for years, which created quite a tense moment when the two of them were left alone behind closed doors for the very first time in over twenty-five years before 2013’s WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.
What Caused the Bitter 25-Year-Plus Feud Between Bruno Sammartino and Vince McMahon?
"The private meeting that took place was at Madison Square Garden that evening [of the Hall of Fame], his son-in-law Triple H and Stephanie [McMahon] came to my dressing room – I had my own dressing room – and they asked me, you know, Vince is waiting in his dressing room down the hall and if I minded going over there. I went. Stephanie opened the door, and I went in, and she shut the door, so Vince and I were alone.
"He was standing toward the back of the room. And as I came in, I was waiting for him to make the first move to see what he was going to say before I responded. And actually, as I walked in, he looked at me and he smiled and said ‘Bruno, welcome home’ just like that. And I said, ‘Well Vince, I’m glad to be home, but we both know the situation and what brought me back home. I have been very critical of you.’ I told him right to his face, ‘You know I have been very critical of you, but I also will recognize the fact that you have made drastic changes, and for that, I applaud you. But for all these years, I did not like what happened to the business that I spent 25 years in and the turns it took; drugs, nudity, etc.’
"Vince said, ‘Well Bruno, I know you were always very outspoken about what you believed. I hope now you are satisfied with the changes. They are in the past, we want to go forward, and we want to do a better and better product. And we are very happy that you are back.’
"He did say this to me, which I appreciate.
"‘When it was the World Wide Wrestling Federation, you were the main reason for this organization to become as big as it did. So we want this [Hall of Fame induction] to happen, and we’re thrilled that it has happened.’ And that was it.
"I said, ‘Thank you. As long as things stay that way and keep moving forward with improving the product. At this stage of my life, there is not much I can do to contribute, but if there is something, especially with young talent, I’d be willing to do that. As long as the product gets better and better.’"
Vince McMahon has been known to make amends with many of the people he’s had a strained relationship with over the years, and it’s great to know Sammartino was not an exception to this.
Watch the Emotional First Encounter Between Bruno Sammartino and Vince McMahon in Years:
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out these other recommended articles on our site:
- Our Forever Champ" – Memories Of Bruno Sammartino
- The Night Bruno Sammartino Saved Freddie Blassie’s Life
- Killer Kowalski on Dream Feud: Bruno Sammartino versus Lou Thesz
- Campo die Sogni" – Bruno Sammartino’s Last Christmas
Some quotes above contributed by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.