Wednesday, April 18, 2018 marked the passing of a legend. One of the most influential pro wrestlers of all time and longest-running WWE champion Bruno Sammartino died at age 82. Before WrestleMania, before the national expansion of the WWF, Bruno was the flagship wrestler for that company.
It just so happens that the same day as Sammartino’s passing, I was reading the original Tiger Mask manga, and who would show up in Volume 6 but the Italian Strongman himself.
The Tiger Mask manga, published beginning in the 1960s, was known for showcasing real professional wrestlers, such as Classy Freddie Blassie and Angelo Poffo, alongside fictional ones.
In the above scene, Giant Baba (a Japanese wrestling legend in his own right) is describing the best American wrestlers to another character. He ranks the top three as 1) “Human Power Plant” Bruno Sammartino 2) “Iron Claw” Fritz von Erich 3) “Great King Thunder” Gene Kiniski. (4 is the fictional Mr. Question. You may have seen him in Tiger Mask W!)
The nicknames are directly translated from the Japanese; I have no idea where “Human Power Plant” comes from. Amusingly, “Great King Thunder” seems to be a creative interpretation of Gene Kiniski’s actual nickname “Big Thunder”—the Japanese word for “great king” is daioh; literally “big king.”
Rest in peace, Bruno Sammartino. You’ve been immortalized in more ways than one.