Captain Lou Albano
By Steve Slagle
For the nearly forty years that Capt. Lou Albano was involved in professional wrestling, be it as a wrestler or manager, he created controversy, excitement, and in many cases, genuine hatred from the audiences he performed for. For a man who, by his own admission, was not a tremendous wrestler Albano certainly made a huge impact in the "sport" and was, for many years, one of the most well-known cross over celebrities that wrestling had to offer. His vaudevillian style approach to cutting interviews, combined with his over-the-top personality and ring persona made Albano one of the most hated managers of all time. Later in his career, Albano transformed that intense hatred into babyface popularity, and became one of the most beloved figures in wrestling. In either case, the rowdy Captain made the fans care about him, which, in the wrestling business, is all that really matters.
Lou Albano first rose to national prominence in the late-fifties as
part of a tag team known as The Scicilians. Along with partner
Tony Altimore, Albano created a fair amount of controversy doing the
stereotypical Italian gangster gimmick -- so much so that, according
to Albano, he and Altimore were once approached in Chicago by some legitimate
"wise guys" and were told -- in no uncertain terms -- to tone their
act down. The Scicilians, despite their somewhat limited ring
ability, were able to win a few titles while raising their stock in
the world of tag team wrestling. On June 30, 1961 The Scicilians
won the prestigous Midwest Tag Team title in Chicago, which helped them
immensely in building their reputation in the eyes of the fans.
Their other major championship, the United States Tag Team title, was
captured in Atlantic City, NJ. on July 10, 1967and eventually lost to
Bruno Sammartino & Spiros Arion.
However, despite the modest success of The Scicilians, Albano did not
truly break out as a star until he ended his partnership with Altimore,
and forged a completely new identity as a manager. With WWWF Heavyweight
champion Bruno Sammartino the target of his efforts, Albano managed
a revolving door of the meanest, toughest, biggest athletes he could
find in order to take the gold strap from the hugely popular WWWF champ.
Men like Crusher Verdu, Fred Blassie, Prof. Toru Tanaka, Ivan Koloff
and many others were led to battle against Sammartino by Capt. Lou.
In fact, it was one of Albano's men -- the powerful "Russian Bear" Ivan
Koloff -- who finally did the impossible and ended Sammartino's 7 year-long
first WWWF title reign. Later, Albano would also wage the same
type of never-ending war with WWF kingpin Bob Backlund. Other
than Koloff, Lou was never able to guide another man to the World title.
However, he did manage many other men to championships, including Inter-Continental
titleholders Don Muraco, Pat Patterson and Greg Valentine among others.
However, it was in the tag team ranks that Albano was most successful,
guiding nearly 15 different teams to WWF gold -- including the likes
of the Wild Samoans, The Valiant Brothers, Saito & Fuji, The British
Bulldogs, and many other legendary tandems. And what would the
"Rock `n Wrestling Connection" -- the angle that essentially launched
the WWF to national prominence -- have been like had Lou Albano not
been involved? Or for that matter, WrestleMania 1, which largely
revolved around the boisterous manager? For some reason, I can't
help thinking that Cyndi Lauper and The Grand Wizard just wouldn't have
been as effective. Perhaps that most important (and, at the time,
innovative) angle needed the P.T. Barnum-esque wit and personality that
Albano -- who once summed up his talents by saying, "I'm a good bullsh**er"
-- was able to deliver.
The Captain parlayed his MTV rock `n wrestling success into other Hollywood
ventures, including several movies, commercials and a hit television
show (Mario Brothers). In fact, throughout most of the eighties,
Albano was a wrestling celebrity on the scale of Hulk Hogan and "Rowdy"
Roddy Piper. Capt. Lou's newfound main-stream fame and babyface
status was entertaining (if not a little bizarre) for the older WWF
fans who remembered him as the most controversial, devious and hated
manager in the history of the promotion. Nevertheless, Albano
continued to be one of the most recognized celebrities of the 1980's,
and helped attract a whole new audience for pro wrestling..
the while, of course, he maintained contact with his large wrestling
fanbase by occasionally making special guest appearances on various
WWF programs as the 1990's rolled in. As far as his personal life went,
Albano eventually gave up many of the "poisons" that he felt were combining
to shorten his life. His switch to vegetarianism helped the perpetually
obese Albano drop over 150 lbs. And although he lost his flabby girth
(which was a big part of his wrestling persona for many years) his quick
wit was as loud and brash as always. Even though his "Mario Brothers"
job eventually ended, Capt. Lou remained a fairly well-known (within
the mainstream) and active media celebrity, especially by pro wrestling
standards. In 1996, the World Wrestling Federation inducted Albano into
its Hall of Fame. Naturally, no shrine to our "sport" would be complete
without "The Captain", so it is with great honor that The Ring Chronicle
inducts wrestling's Manager of Champions, the entertaining and bombastic
Capt. Lou Albano into the TRC Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame...
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