Bruno Sammartino
via Public Domain

Iconic pro-wrestler Bruno Sammartino has died, the WWE announced Wednesday morning (April 18). He was 82 years old.

The former wrestler held the title for nearly eight consecutive years (1963-1971) while with the World Wrestling Federation.

Sammartino took the title from Buddy Rogers at Madison Square Garden on May 17, 1963, before relinquishing the belt after a loss to Ivan Koloff on Jan. 18, 1971. He would regain the title in December 1973 and went on to have a run of more than three years — one of of the five-longest world title reigns in the company’s history.

During his wrestling career, Sammartino (aka “The Italian Superman”) headlined more than 180 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, and wrestled other legends like Superstar Billy Graham, Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon and George “The Animal” Steele, among many others.

Despite his success, Sammartino had a falling out with the company for more than two decades, but returned in 2013, when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Arnold Schwarzenegger at Madison Square Garden.