When Bruno Sammartino retired in 1981, his opinion of wrestling began to sour however. He believed that he had been cheated on his gate percentages by Vince McMahon Sr. and took the case to court. The case was settled out of court, with Bruno Sammartino being paid $200,000 in back pay and given a three year contract as a color commentator for the WWF Superstars of Wrestling syndicated show. In order to help his son David's faltering wrestling career, Bruno agreed to return to action to form a tag team with him. The two did incredible business at the top, so well that soon Bruno was main-eventing on his own again while David did little of note in the lower card. When Jake Roberts failed a drug test and was found with cocaine in his system, Bruno would replace him on a tour in a feud with the Honky Tonk Man. The final wrestling appearance of Sammartino's career would see him teaming with Hulk Hogan for the first and only time, defeating King Kong Bundy and The One Man Gang before posing with Hulk Hogan.
The relationship between Vince McMahon Jr. and Bruno Sammartino has seen extreme ups and downs in the last twenty years. Sammartino chose not to return to the WWF when he stopped doing announcing for the company in 1987, critical of the direction that wrestling was headed and upset that his son was fired for punching a fan. Sammartino hated the use of drugs, particularly steroids, running wild in wrestling at the time, and ironically Bruno's own son David would eventually admit to using them to improve his appearance. Bruno would become one of wrestling's biggest critics, and even testify against the WWF in a case where preliminary wrestler Chuck Austin sued the WWF for 25.7 million dollars after suffering paralysis a match with The Rockers in 1989.
In July of last year, Bruno Sammartino attended a live taping of Raw in Pittsburgh to negotiate an offer to become an announcer for the WWE 24/7 concept, where he would speak to Vince McMahon for the first time in over twelve years. The two wouldn't reach a deal, Sammartino would get in to a confrontation with Ric Flair over comments in Flair's book, and Sammartino wouldn't stay for the main event of HHH vs. Chris Benoit that he was invited to stick around and watch. At current day, Sammartino maintains that he wants nothing to do with World Wrestling Entertainment or their Hall of Fame.
Earlier this week, Bruno Sammartino was a guest on "To the Point", which airs on The Score sports network out of Canada. Sammartino was said to be friendly and talkative, a stark contrast from his disposition when typically talking about wrestling. The following are highlights of that interview:
Bruno Sammartino claimed that it seems like ages ago that he worked all of those shows at Madison Square Garden, and enjoyed that time in his life a great deal. On the neck injury that he suffered against Stan Hansen, Sammartino called it the worst injury of his career and said that he came extremely close to suffering paralysis. Bruno claimed to now feel good for his age, despite undergoing major back, hip and knee surgeries since retirement. Bruno called Yukon Eric the strongest wrestler that he ever stepped into the ring with, and put him over as being great to work with.
When asked what the biggest difference in wrestling now, he claimed that he came from an era of excellent wrestlers, mentioning Lou Thesz and Vern Gagne, and said that while there were blondes and fancy robes during his era, the shows were about wrestling. Sammartino then mentions the scantily clad women, people being buried alive and crucifixions that occur today. He also specifically pointed out Triple H raping a corpse as well as something that he disagreed with, and claimed none of these things were wrestling. He also stated that the drug scene in WWE is appalling. Bruno said that he respects the enjoyment some people may have for this kind of entertainment, but it isn't what he thinks that wrestling should be about.
When asked about the possibility of joining The WWE Hall of Fame, Sammartino again stated that he didn't want to have anything to do with it, because it would be hypocritical after all of the criticism he has given to Vince McMahon Jr. over the years. Sammartino also claimed that the epidemic of early deaths in wrestling could be attributed to the culture of drugs behind the scenes, and cited the problem being a big reason he left the WWF in 1987. Sammartino said that he was outspoken against this because no one else is, and what he says needs to be said. Sammartino claimed that Congress should be looking into the wrestling business, but they aren't.
Sammartino finished the interview talking about the documentary on his life that he has been working on for several years now.
In 2005, World Wrestling Entertainment can no longer afford to run Madison Square Garden due to the increase in cost to rent the famous building, and the dwindling attendance at the gate for Vince McMahon, and aside from watching the occasional match of his favorite wrestle Kurt Angle, Sammartino still wants nothing to do with Vince McMahon. Some things never change.