Friday, October 16, 2009
Captain Lou Albano
Lou Albano passed away earlier this week after a long illness at the age of 76.
Albano is known for his 1980's appearances with Cyndi Lauper in videos when Lauper was red hot (think of Lauper as one of the top handful of rock stars for a year or two),his television role as Mario on the Saturday Morning kids show Super Mario Brothers and most notably as one of the holy trinity of wrestling managers in the WWF territory along with the Grand Wizard (Ernie Roth) and Fred Blassie.
Lou Albano was known for the insanely manic interviews and for the rubberbands that he often wore on his face long before face piercing became as common as you see it today.
Lou usually was assigned the heel tag teams of the area and would occasionally manage a single wrestler,if the grappler in question had a odd gimmick.
The Grand Wizard usually had the wrestlers that were actually the top notch wrestlers and Fred Blassie usually had the monster style heel,but Albano began to have some of the better wrestling heels after the passing of the Wizard as he began to have the likes of the Magnificent Muraco and Greg Valentine wrestle in his stable.
Albano managed well before I became a wrestling fan,but his tag champions in the territory when I was a fan included the Wild Samoans,the Moondogs and Mr Fuji and Mr Saito as well as his many champions before I was a fan.
Albano also had a rock song about him released in the early 80's before the WWF went national by cult group NRBQ and yes,I did have the 45!
Albano was also in a way responsible for me knowing about " the business".
Having grown up watching "legitimate" sports until the age of 12,the ultimate expose' of the business for me was this-The WWF would come to the Capital Centre once a month and a few times a year would feature a six man tag match.
On the one side would be the babyface team that was either chasing Albano's tag champs or being chased by the latest team brought into the area by the Captain and usually their partner was Andre the Giant,who was touring world wide,but was being booked by Vince McMahon Sr and therefore the WWF had first dibs on the Giant.
On the opposing side would be Albano's team and their partner would be Albano.
Now,even to a 12 year old,this made no sense.
What kind of level playing field gave one team Andre the Giant and the other Lou Albano?
This would be the current day equivalent of the Phillies playing the Dodgers tomorrow and the Phillies get Albert Pujols and the Dodgers Biff Pocoroba (a poor player in his day and his day was 30 years ago).
These matches usually features a stomp or two from the Captain and a quick blade job (usually an extremely obvious one) and Albano either quickly losing or scurrying to the locker room after a beating from the opposition.
If those matches were able to be figured out by 12 year olds,you had to figure others had the score as well.
I suppose that was the difference between the McMahon product and the superior in ring territories in various parts of the South,the WWF was just so easy to see through.
Albano also was responsible for setting the stage of the final big drawing run of the WWF as a regional territory before the arrival of Hulk Hogan and the national expansion.
Jimmy Snuka came into the WWF under Albano doing flying moves that northern fans didnt see much of and the spectacular Snuka soon became a huge crowd favorite.
Between Snuka's moves and the growing unpopularity of champion Bob Backlund,Snuka was being cheered everywhere and included his title matches vs Backlund.
The problem was that Snuka and Albano were heels and the WWF didnt want their heels cheered,so Snuka was turned fan favorite with the hook being Albano stealing Snuka's money and ending with Ray Stevens piledriving Snuka on the concrete floor,when that actually meant something.
The Snuka-Stevens feud drew huge dollars and then led into the Snuka-Don Muraco battles which drew even more money.
Albano brought Cyndi Lauper into the territory and that was the first time that the beginning of wrestling meeting mainstream celebrities andinvolving them in the business.
Albano "saw the light" and began managing teams favored by the fans,but it never truly seemed to click as that was a very difficult role to pull off.
Albano has one final memory for me personally.
As someone that rooted for the "bad guys",I enjoyed jabbing at my brother,who liked the "good guys" and hated Albano.
So in order to tweak him,I started calling him "Captain Shane",which he hated and worked so well,I then started having other people call him that as well,driving him into a frenzy.
Nice guy,huh> :)
The ironic thing about that was and always makes me smile thinking about it was this-he hated Albano and the way he acted,yet he acted like the manic Captain when he was called that!
Rest in Peace,Captain Lou!