PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - The long-anticipated documentary about late Pittsburgh wrestler Bruno Sammartino is being released.
“Bruno Sammartino” will launch this Friday in New York City and Los Angeles and will debut around the world in the spring.
The film features actor/politician/body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger, wrestler/actor John Cena, The Miz and Stan Hanson.
The film will explore how Sammartino, born in Pizzoferrato, Italy and came to the United States after World War II.
Sammartino settled in Pittsburgh because his father, Alfonso, had emigrated from Italy to work in a mill before the war to make enough money to bring his family to the United States.
In 2017, Sammartino was honored with a statue in his hometown in Italy. He told the KDKA Radio Morning News the statue was an honor but he reason he went was to be there for the dedication of a new medical center in Pizzoferrato, where a wing was named after his mother, Emilia Sammartino, who was his hero and the reason he became a champion.
Emilia risked her life repeatedly to keep her family safe from the Nazis during World War II. She fled into the nearby mountains with her family and would travel an entire day to sneak back into their Nazi-occupied house to steal back their own food for her family, while Nazi soldiers slept. One time, she was caught but escaped by jumping off a truck, was shot in the shoulder but still made it back up the mountain to take care of her family.
As a young boy, Sammartino was malnourished and suffered bouts of rheumatic fever. After being told by medical staff he wouldn’t survive, Emilia refused to listen and nursed him back to health.
Bruno told Larry and John a few years ago, “She was determined . . . that I was going to live and by golly I did . . . she pulled me through.”
When Sammartino arrived in the United States he didn’t speak the language and was in poor physical health, making him the target of bullies.
“By the time he got to America he was 13. He weighed 75 pounds and then there was this young Jewish man who was tired of seeing Bruno get picked on . . . he took [Bruno] to the Jewish [YMCA] here in Pittsburgh and started lifting weights and Bruno told me when he started lifting weights, he knew that very first day that this was going to be his thing,” said Richert.
Bruno persevered and grew to become “The Living Legend” selling out Madison Square Garden 188 times and is the longest reigning WWE champion of all time. He held the championship for 2,803 days and a combined reign of 4,040 days.
Sammartino and his wife Carol were involved in making sure the story accurately detailed his family’s journey to American, especially the heroics of his mother.
Bruno Sammartino” has been submitted, accepted and is currently under consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an Academy Award as a feature documentary.
A gala premier is being planning for Pittsburgh in the coming months to coincide with the film’s world-wide release.