Friday, 17 May 2013 07:31
Today is the 50th anniversary of the match where Bruno Sammartino defeated Buddy Rogers to become the WWWF champion in Madison Square Garden. Sammartino would go on to hold the title for the next seven years and seven months, the longest uninterrupted reign in company history.
It was actually the first ever WWWF title change. Rogers had been the NWA champion until a few months earlier, loising the title to Lou Thesz in Toronto. Vincent James McMahon (father of the current Vince McMahon) and Toods Mondt, who ran Capitol Wrestling, which promoted in the Northeast, were against the title change and quit the NWA.
At first they attempted to keep the news of the Thesz win undercover. Magazine editor Stanley Weston refused to comply with the request and word got out that Thesz won the title. So on the WWWF television show, they announced that a tournament of champions was held in Rio de Janeiro , and claimed Rogers defeated Argentina Rocca (McMahon's former top star who was on the outs with him at the time) to become the Worldwide Wrestling Federation champion.
Sammartino was the company's choice to replace Rocca as the big drawing card in New York, in particular. He and McMahon had a falling out as well and was working out of Toronto. He refused to return unless he was given the championship. He did so well that for the next 14 years, the only time he wasn't champion was because he demanded to lose it to get out of the schedule.
Many would consider today as the 50th anniversary of the WWWF. It's hard to pinpoint a day. Capital Wrestling left the NWA in January but the WWWF name came a few months later. McMahon also was involved with an Ohio-based group called the WWWA, and had Dory Dixon beat Rogers, which may have been a backup name and title change had the Sammartino thing not worked out.