Bruno Sammartino, one of the most iconic stars in professional wrestling history, has died at age 82, the WWE announced Wednesday morning.
Sammartino was the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation’s longest-reigning world champion, holding the title for nearly eight consecutive years. He began his record title reign after beating Buddy Rogers at Madison Square Garden on May 17, 1963.
He would not relinquish the belt until a loss to Ivan Koloff on Jan. 18, 1971.
After regaining the title in December 1973, Sammartino went on to have a run of more than three years; that’s also one of the five-longest world title reigns in the company’s history.
Those title reigns are indicative of Sammartino’s place as the centerpiece of Vincent J. McMahon’s WWWF, which later became the WWF and then the WWE.