A few days ago, I stumbled upon an article on NoDQ.com via partial highligts of Busted Open with Dave Lagreca and Doug Mortman with regards to Bruno Sammartino’s views towards his criticisms towards WWE & Vince McMahon, WrestleReunion, and other things. As an avid professional wrestling fan since July 1989, I often enjoy comments made by many of the legends from the years past. For the most part, I have been viewed those interviews as part of entertainment; however, there are some “rhetorics” made by Mr. Sammartino over the years since he walked away from the industry in the mid-1980s, that have forced my hands to defend Vincent Kennedy McMahon despite of my respect with his in-ring accomplishments in his career. At the same token, I concur with his disgusts towards the likes of Ric Flair & Hulk Hogan still get into the squared circle and perform in their late ages, with an exception of the fact that both Flair and Hogan did not do what the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage had done with the finances at the height of his career. Had they done that, Hogan would only do a few appearances per year for photograph sessions, instead we had to painfully watch them wrestle when they shouldn’t have been at all. So, for the first time ever, I am writing this article to point out why Sammartino may be wrong about Mr. McMahon on some of the core issues he mentioned.
For someone who lives in San Francisco, and had the “misfortune” of reading about recent financial plight on Asian Arts Museum over the last year, I realized how much investment that is needed to maintain a museum for anything – since I have been gone into a few of them over the years (in spite of not going there as often as I would like to due to cost concern). So, when WWE established their Hall of Fame back in the mid-1990s and returning in 2004, there have been rumors of having an actual location built in the country. However, considering the amount of resources needs to put in to build AND maintain the structure and contents inside a museum, as well as the concerns of attracting the numbers of tourists going to the building, and finally with the current economic state in the country, Vince McMahon was quite reluctant in going full-blown with building the actual structure while opted to do the online version of a museum – at least for the time being. So with that said, here’s Bruno’s criticism on Busted Open (which he have been reiterated since he left the business )
“Okay, first of all, let’s talk about the Hall of Fame. You see what people don’t understand about this Hall of Fame, they say that I’m being stubborn now. That’s not true. The first year he came out with the Hall of Fame, they totally ignored me like I didn’t exist. They named certain people—I don’t even remember who they inducted first—but they got these people. I was never even mentioned because that was McMahon—in my opinion—that was his way of showing me that ‘you don’t mean nothing to us’ or ‘you’re out, you’re finished, you’re a has-been’. OK. But what happened was, it backfired on him because people called, wrote in, all kinds of stuff like ‘how the heck could you call that Hall of Fame? Here’s a guy who’s World Champion for almost twelve years. Sold out the Garden more times than all these blah blah blah, and he’s not in Hall of Fame…’ It was because I guess he didn’t expect that kind of reaction.
“And after that a few years later, his attorney contacted me (Jerry McDevitt) and tried to talk me to go into it, and I said no, that I was not interested in it. I said first of all because I don’t believe I had part of that part of the wrestling. I was in the WWWF, not the WWF that he had which he transformed into something completely different from the wrestling that I had been involved with, number one. And I said so I don’t want no part of that Hall of Fame. And then also because, when people say to me—the few, because most people understood me—but those who didn’t, I would ask them, I’d say ‘If you’re gonna go to this Hall of Fame, would you want to take your kids or whatever, tell me, where do you take ‘them?’ I said, don’t you get it? This is strictly a marketing gimmick; this is no Hall of Fame! Where’s the building? Where’s the place that people can go to and see, what? And where does a guy like—eh, what’s his name—[Drew] Carey, a show host belonging to a wrestling Hall of Fame, or Refrigerator Perry or Pete Rose or Bob Uecker… These guys were all great guys and I’m not against any of them. They were all great at what they did, but what do they have to do with wrestling? So to me, I’d be embarrassed! I wouldn’t want any part of that kind of a ‘Hall of Fame’. And as far as McMahon and I… repairing our relationship, I don’t think it’s possible. I made it myself very very clear from the beginning: I totally disagree and went against what’s he done to wrestling.”
Now, having read all of that, here’s my response to that idea, in which I had mentioned on Facebook once upon a time. I’m sorry to say, this is 2012, not 1972. It’s the digital age, not the “chisel and hammer” age of the 140th Century BC. Vince knows that, and as much as he wants to build a museum for displaying those contents on shelf/display cases with shatter-proof glass, the cost of each of the display case rises due to flutuation in the inflation rate, as well as construction costs, salaries towards each of curiators to keep those archives in prestine condition, security officers who try their hardest to maintain peace at the floor, even the location where that museum is being constructed, and the licensing fees for construction paid to either city & county councils or state govenments. All those costs are not cheap at all, even after factoring in any tax incentives towards this project. Like I said before, I’m sure Vince have gone to some of those museums when he have the opportunity, and have discussions with those who are in charge of those operations, he is wary of the economic and potential concerns towards maintaining an actual building – since he’s also been managing the office complex known at “Titan Tower”. Besides, he knows that it’s much easier to keep those archives in a digital environment than putting that on public display in a museum.
Then there’s issue with his views towards WWE and WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation), in which he still believes to this day that they are totally separate entities, and should never be discussed hand-in-hand at all, and he double-downed with a follow-up stating that he would rather have more amateur wrestlers to be part of professional wrestling. Thus bringing up with the following opinion from yours truly. In the professional wrestling business today, skills and strength only counts about 1/4 of what it needs in that industry, particularly when the needs to deliver promos to draw crowds and entertaining the audiences from around the world with shenanigans and trick are more important than just the ability to wrestle. If a talent can’t talk to the audience and make any reactions from them, that individual may not last in the business regardless of how well the ring work may look. This is especially true with the soar lack of legitimate quality manager such as Paul Ellering, James J. Dillon, Bobby Hennan, and Jimmy Hart, to become the mouth piece for those talents who lack the ability to freely express themselves in public. By picking only one sort of athletes to become wrestlers is similar to a restaurant business that only accepts cash for payment, which severely handicaps those who wants to pay by credit card for convenience and the lack of available cash in hand.
Another issue he brought up was the inclusion of the celebrity guests into the WWE Hall of Fame, which he stated repeatedly that such idea lowered the value and status of WWE HOF. That, sadly, I also beg to differ. For instance, while some baseball fans know who Bob Uecker is by either listening to radio for Milwaukee Brewers, he may otherwise not be discovered by a bigger audience had he not made any appearances at Wrestlemania III & IV, never mind the somewhat futile attempt of the Baseball Network, Mr. Belvedere, and Crylon spray paint commercial with Johnny Bench. Would Mike Tyson be just a bit more relevant without appearing the setup of Wrestlemania in the main event match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels? I sincerely doubt that would happen since Tyson had been dogged by negative publicity from the likes of the rape case, and the ear-bitting incident in a boxing match against Evander Holyfield, yet Vince McMahon took the chance on him and made his mark at Wrestlemania in 1998. Even though I do have to question about the validity of his induction, would Drew Carey be named as a replacement for the legendary Bob Barker for “The Price is Right” on CBS, and become a part-owner for the Seattle Sounders FC in Major League Soccer? Highly doubtful. Even for a high-profile NFL defensive player like William “Refrigerator” Perry, who was willing to give wrestling a try at Wrestlemania II battle royal match, would not have otherwise been known as a cultural icon. Even though Pete Rose was essentially disgraced in the eyes of baseball media, his involvements with WWE generated more positive impact that he finally able to somewhat reconcile with Bud Selig by admitting his gambling involvement that led to his lifetime suspension. Despite of all the negativity towards such idea, they became a bigger culture icon than what was already in their known fields.
I suspect that Bruno Sammartino has yet to get off from the glory days during the 1970s when he won 2 lengthy world championship in WWE (at the time it was called WWWF), and his mindset have essentially “stuck in cement” with 1970s. However, we are not living in the 1970s anymore like I said earlier, we are now in 2012, the digital age. The impact from cable television has become the daily norm including wrestling and everything else, and day-by-day ticket sales only counts as a fraction of the overall income for wrestling promotions. Unless all financial institutions call in the loans on every industry and create a super calamity on global media, online or otherwise, this digital media is here to stay for a long, long time. As for some wondering as to why I don’t put this on my Versus column, the simple fact is that while I have respect for his accomplishment, his idea is just as dilapidated as the old English Football League for many years. Time only moves forward, not backwards, and those who wants to roll everything back, sadly, that ship has sailed a long time ago.
For now, I’ll bid you, until then.
In a follow up to my article on Bruno Sammartino above, I would like to congratulate the legend for two things – even though it’s rather belatedly: not only he finally reconciled with WWE (though apparently not directly with Vince, I may be wrong about that), he is now officially a member of WWE Hall of Fame. With that said, things are looking very bright between these two parties, and for once, I am looking forward to hear more on their reunion in the near future.