April 18 (UPI) — Professional wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino died Wednesday at the age of 82.
Sammartino died peacefully with his wife and two kids by his side after dealing with health problems for the past several months, CBS Pittsburgh reported.
Sammartino, named The Italian Superman, caught the attention of Vince McMahon Sr. and became a professional wrestler after setting a world record in 1959 by bench-pressing 565 pounds.
The grappler became the second-ever WWE Champion in 1963 when he defeated Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds. Sammartino held onto the WWE Championship for eight years, a record that still stands today.
Sammartino enjoyed rivalries against fellow WWE Hall of Famers such as Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon and George ‘The Animal’ Steele. He lost his championship to Ivan Koloff in 1971 but won it back in 1973 to become the first-ever two-time WWE Champion. The second title reign lasted more than three years.
Sammartino, who sold out Madison Square Garden in New York 187 times, became a color commentator for WWE in the 1980s and was inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame in 2013.
“Devastated to hear the passing of a true icon, legend, great, honest and wonderful man…A true friend…and one of the toughest people I’ve ever met. My thoughts are with his entire family. #RIPBrunoSammartino #AmericanDream,” WWE COO Triple H said on Twitter.