I should have written this last week, but other things dominated my attention that seemed more time sensitive an issue to read about at the moment. I figured that with the million websites out there that there would be so many columns on this subject that you guys wouldn?t want to read anymore about it, however here we are a week later and even though there is plenty going on in the wrestling world there is still only one thing I personally want to write about: Captain Lou Albano?you?re reading “Wrestling Rumblings.”
I am not going to sit here and say that Captain Lou Albano was my favorite wrestler or my favorite manager; while others may do that I won?t sit here and lie to you in that way. What I will tell you all is that if the global phenomenon known as WWE was a brick house than Captain Lou Albano would be one of the bricks that made up the foundation. Born in Rome Italy in the early 1930’s Lou Albano would immigrate with his family as a child to the United States and grow up in Mt. Vernon New York (I actually live right on the outskirts of Mt. Vernon myself). He was a standout football player in High School playing for Archbishop Stepinac High School earning enough acclaim to garner himself a scholarship at the University of Tennessee. From there it was a stint serving in the army he found himself working as a bouncer and met two wrestlers who convinced him to start wrestling. Lou at this point 20 years old embarked on a pro wrestling career. As the 50’s gave way to the 60’s Albano would find himself in Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wide Wrestling Federation with his partner in the Sicilians Tony Altimore. The duo would go on to win the World Wide Wrestling Federation United States Tag Team Championship which was the top title for the then regionalized WWWF before there ever was a Unified Tag Team Championship.
While not an accomplished mat technician (Outside of the WWWF US Tag Titles the only title Albano held was the NWA Midwest Tag Team Championship) Lou was gifted with the gift of gab and would go onto actually announce for a while but of course that is not what made him the legend that he ultimately would go onto become. Captain Lou Albano would become one of the legendary triumvirate of WWE managers in the 70’s with the other two of course being the late Grand Wizard Ernie Roth and late Freddie Blassie respectively. One thing that gets lost on today’s wrestling fans is that these guys were more than just managers, they were the heels. You see in those days you wouldn?t have a Edge or a Randy Orton having 5 year runs as heels as the WWWF was a babyface territory where the babyface champion be it Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales or Bob Backlund would be the main headline attraction with heels from all over coming into the territory to do a one year run where they would at some point get a program with the champion. During this period it can be argued that the mangers were the ones largely responsible for helping the babyface champion draw sell out houses. You see with a rotating roster of heels coming in and out of the territory the easiest way to get heat was to pair your heels with a manager who already had an enormous amount of heat amongst the fans and Lou Albano was as dastardly as they came back in those days.
Unlike the other two mangers Lou was still apt to getting in the ring every so often. Many of his contemporaries would freely admit that Lou was in a large part responsible for some of the sellout houses of those days as unlike some of the other managers who in that era did not travel to the shows and only did television Lou would actually get in the ring and team up with some of his weaker guys in order to get more heat on them. Again he wasn?t in the eyes of many a great catch as catch can wrestler but Lou knew how to get heat. Everyone likes to bring up the fact that he managed a record 15 different tag teams to the WWF World Tag Team Championship but no one ever mentions how he was the first manager in WWE’s history to manage what would I would call the managerial grand slam of the WWF at the time in having had title holders win the World, Intercontinental, Tag Team and Women’s Championships something no other manager has ever accomplished in WWE’s history. For those who would argue that Fabolous Moolah was well into her reign as Womens Champion when Lou Albano came along I will give this nice stat: Even if you took away his managing the womens champion Captain Lou is one of only two managers in WWE’s history to manage wrestlers to the remaining titles the other of course being the legendary Bobby ?The Brain? Heenan.
Of course if I had to stop there no one would be able to deny his successes in the business but for those who might I don?t have to. Lou would go onto come up with the idea that became ?The Rock N Wrestling Connection? after a chance meeting with Cyndi Lauper who at the time was a singer budding in popularity on what was the fledgling Music Television channel better known as MTV. Albano would go onto appear in the music video for ?Girls Just want to have Fun? which if you were alive for it was the most popular song in the country at the time (actually that was just the first of Cyndi’s videos Lou would appear in as he would appear in plenty more as him and Lauper would go onto become great friends) and after cards (?Brawl to End It All? & ?The War to Settle The Score?) that were nationally broadcast on MTV to the rest of the country the wrestling boom of the 1980’s were underway and to those that would still downplay the good Captain without it we wouldn?t have had Wrestlemania and all the great things that have come since then.
Of course all good things don?t last forever and neither did his time in wrestling but unlike many whom this business would break the good Captain would persevere. What child who grew up in the 1980’s didn?t watch him every weekday afternoon as he played Mario in the ?Super Mario Bros. Super Show?? Others would bring up his appearances on Nickolodeons ?Hey Dude? and the 80’s hits such as ?Miami Vice? and ?Wise Guy? and even have a small part in the movie ?Stay Tuned?. He even had a song written about him by popular group NRBQ who would tribute him in one of their songs. Captain Lou would go onto become a pop culture icon. A run in Herb Abrams UWF that was best left forgotten and another WWE run in the 90’s that would culminate in his being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 would cap his wrestling career.
I?d like to say he settled nicely into retirement but well he would still go onto to co author ?The Complete Idiots Guide to Pro Wrestling? his own autobiography ? Captain Lou: Often Imitated and Never Duplicated? and of course would still make appearances on the convention circuit. It was actually at the only convention I ever attended that I had the pleasure to meet the legend myself. I?ll never forget the day June 23rd 2005, for those who think it looks familiar to them it was that very same weekend that the Benoit family tragedy occurred. I was at a comic con suggested to me by a co worker to meet ?Rowdy? Roddy Piper. I never really believing in paying to meet or receive an autograph from a wrestler made the exception for this one time occasion as I was a big Piper fan and had plenty of items for him to sign. The first wrestler I happened to meet in this convention was Captain Lou Albano and I will never forget that many of today’s younger fans had absolutely no idea who he was. It really bothered me but I took advantage of the situation and engaged in conversation for about 20 to 30 minutes with Lou before even asking him to autograph anything. After telling him how much I admired his work, growing up as a child of the 80’s we would talk about today’s state of the business. I recall leaving and seeing not many fans approach him and it would stick with me throughout the weekend that today’s fans were losing their touch with the history of the business. They were missing out on the great ones; make no mistake about it Captain Lou was one of the great ones. There loss was definitely my gain and I have an autographed WWE Classics figure on my wall that was signed to me personally that I will now look at fondly as a remembrance of that meeting.
He may not have been the greatest manager in your eyes or he could have very well been the greatest manager that ever lived. Regardless of your feelings or mine he deserves all our respect. Goodbye Louis Vincent Albano, heaven must have needed a manager, good bye and god speed.
I won?t waste words in closing. If you want to write me in regards to this column or anything else you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week I will try to do better, until then I am out.