Bruno Sammartino Cause of Death: Legendary Wrestler Dies Aged 82

WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino died on Wednesday at the age of 82 in Pittsburgh.

Tributes from the world of wrestling began flocking in shortly after news of Sammartino's passing, with WWE executive VP Triple H describing the Hall of Famer as a "true icon" of the sport.

"Devastated to hear the passing of a true icon, legend, great, honest and wonderful man [... ]," he tweeted.

"A true friend [...] and one of the toughest people I've ever met. My thoughts are with his entire family."

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

— Triple H (@TripleH) April 18, 2018

According to PWInsider, Sammartino had been hospitalized, although details over the cause of death remained unknown as of press time. Pittsburgh's CBS-affiliate KDKA reported the former wrestler had battled health issues for several months and passed away peacefully with his wife and two kids by his side. He had stepped down from public appearances in October last year, although there was no mention of health issues to the public at the time.

Born in Pizzoferrato, in Italy's Abruzzo region in 1935, Sammartino moved to the U.S. in 1950 and settled in Pennsylvania, where his father had emigrated years earlier.

A keen bodybuilder, Sammartino turned to professional wrestling after failing to find a spot on the 1956 US Olympics team. He made his debut in the Pittsburgh area in 1959, before moving to the city where he would make his wrestling name—New York.

Spotted by Vince McMahon Sr. as a potential superstar, after a rocky few years Sammartino became WWWF World Heavyweight Champion in 1963 by defeating "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. The pugnacious "Living Legend" was a hero to New York's Italian community, and a superstar to everyone else. He was the face of the New York territory, famously selling out New York's Madison Square Garden an astonishing 187 times.

His career came to a halt in the late 1970s after suffering a series of neck injuries, forcing him into quasi-retirement after losing his second world title to "Superstar" Billy Graham. He worked as a colour commentator for the renamed WWF, but never had as close a relationship with Vince McMahon Jr. as he'd had with his father. Indeed, many were surprised in 2013 when Sammartino accepted an invitation to join the WWE Hall of Fame, in what many saw as a burying of the hatchet.

Bruno Sammartino 2
Professional Wrestler Bruno Sammartino arrives to the Feast of San Gennaro on September 22, 2005 in Hollywood, California. Matthew Simmons/Getty Images