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Bruno, meet Bruno: Mars meets namesake in Pittsburgh

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    Bruno Mars, left, meeting retired professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino, right, as Mars holds Sammartino’s world champion belt, coinciding with a concert as part of Mars’ 24K Magic World Tour in Pittsburgh on Aug. 22. The pop singing sensation and the retired professional wrestler met after Sammartino heard through friends that Mars, born Peter Gene Hernandez, was nicknamed “Bruno” by his father because he was a “chunky” baby.

PITTSBURGH >> Bruno Mars has met the man he’s nicknamed after: former pro wrestling champion Bruno Sammartino.

The two met Aug. 22 when the pop singing sensation’s 24K Magic World Tour stopped in Pittsburgh.

Sammartino heard through friends that Mars, born Peter Gene Hernandez, was nicknamed “Bruno” by his father because he was a “chunky” baby. The wrestling legend — now 81 — was about 275 pounds in his prime and the favorite wrestler of Mars’ father.

Sammartino said today he didn’t know much about Mars before the meeting, but came away “extremely impressed.”

“I hope he’s like that in everyday life. He was the most humble, nicest guy,” Sammartino said. “He couldn’t have been more respectful.”

Sammartino jokingly gave Mars a picture of himself in his wrestling “prime” to prove he was more muscular than chunky, and a replica of his championship belt from what was then known as the World-Wide Wrestling Federation. The group is now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE.

Mars posted a picture of the meeting on Instagram saying, “I was nicknamed after this professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino. Tonight in Pittsburgh I had the honor of meeting him!”

Mars, 31, told the website RapUP in a May 2010 interview that his dad nicknamed him for the wrestler.

“Bruno is after Bruno Sammartino, who was this big fat wrestler. I guess I was this chunky little baby, so my dad used to call me that as a nickname,” said Mars, who was born and raised in Honolulu. “The Mars came up just because I felt like I didn’t have no pizzazz, and a lot of girls say I’m out of this world, so I was like ‘I guess I’m from Mars.’”

Sammartino said Mars got curious enough about his career to check out clips of him on YouTube. He told Sammartino that he planned to chat with his father about the meeting.

“He told me, ‘You know, I called my dad and told him I was going to meet with you today and he was so excited,” Sammartino said.

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