An introductory guide to the early WWE Champions

Page 3 of 9
April 24, 2013

Bruno Sammartino

Recognized as one of the wrestling industry’s all-time greats, the recently enshrined WWE Hall of Famer had two historic runs as WWE Champion.  His first reign began on May 17, 1963, as an upstart Sammartino upset “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in an unprecedented 48 seconds. For seven years, eight months and one day, Sammartino defended his title against the top villains of his era like Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon and Hans Mortier. No one could stop the Italian sensation until Jan. 18, 1971, when Ivan Koloff beat Sammartino before a stunned Madison Square Garden crowd.

Nearly three years later, on Dec. 10, 1973, the Garden was the setting for Sammartino to begin his second go ’round as champion, as he defeated Stan Stasiak for the title. From Ernie Ladd to Ken Patera, the challenges kept coming at a fast and furious pace. On April 30, 1977, an important era in WWE history came to an end when “Superstar” Billy Graham got the best of Bruno and won the WWE Championship.

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