Captain Lou Albano

Over the course of his 42-year career, Albano guided 15 different tag teams and three singles competitors to championship gold. Albano was one of the “Triumvirate of Terror”, a threesome of nefarious WWF managers which included The Grand Wizard of Wrestling and Freddie Blassie. The trio was a fixture in the company for a decade until The Grand Wizard’s death in 1983.

A unique showman, with an elongated beard, rubber band facial piercings, and loud outfits, Albano was the forefather of the 1980s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection. Collaborating with Cyndi Lauper, Albano helped usher in wrestling’s crossover success with a mainstream audience. Capitalizing on his success, he later ventured into Hollywood with various television, film, and music projects. He became well known to a new generation of fans as the actor and voice of Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

Albano made little impact as a solo wrestler, working prelims in various circuits, but he achieved moderate success as a tag team performer with partner Tony Altomare. Dubbed The Sicilians, Altomare and Albano competed as a stereotypical Italian gangster combo in the mode of the then-popular television series The Untouchables. The team split up shortly after losing the tag team titles.

In 1970, fellow wrestler Bruno Sammartino mentioned to McMahon that Albano, a mediocre wrestler who was nonetheless an entertaining speaker, might be better utilized as a manager. In professional wrestling, a manager might be tasked with behind-the-scenes efforts to help push forward a charge’s career or handle his booking, but plays an equal or even greater role in the ring, speaking for his charge and helping rile up the crowd for or against him. Sammartino recalled: “One day I said to Vince Sr., this guy [Albano] isn’t the best wrestler, as a team, they [Albano & Altomare] can only go so far. But he’d be a great mouthpiece for some guy. Lou has such a gift of gab that he can help some people. As a wrestler, he just seemed limited. He was always the same. He was never looked upon by promoters as someone who could be anyone special. But as a manager, he shined. That was his calling.”  Albano, realizing that wrestlers had only a limited lifespan in the ring, and still dealing with his old football injury, agreed. Although it was his decision to split up his ten-year tag team partnership with Altomare, the two remained close until the latter’s death in 2003. Albano then resumed his role as the mastermind trying to lead his latest bad guy protege to the gold. For the remainder of the 1970s and into the mid-1980s, Albano’s cadre of loyal henchmen were unable to re-secure the heavyweight championship, held by either Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund or Hulk Hogan. However, Albano guided singles wrestlers Don Muraco and Greg Valentine to the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship. Furthermore, Albano guided fifteen teams to the WWF World Tag Team Championships, including The Valiant Brothers, The Wild Samoans, The Yukon Lumberjacks, The Blackjacks, The Moondogs, The Masked Executioners, and after becoming a face (short for babyface, a wrestling term for a good guy/heroic character), the U.S. Express and the British Bulldogs. It was during his stewardship of the Valiant Brothers that Albano picked up his “Captain” nickname, as the act was promoted as “Captain Lou and the Valiants too.” By the end of his career, Albano had managed over 50 different wrestlers who won two dozen championships.

Albano could also help elevate wrestlers by splitting from them. In 1982, despite being managed by the villainous Albano, Jimmy Snuka was unexpectedly becoming a fan favorite due to his high-flying ring style. An interview segment revealed that Snuka had no legal contract with Albano, and thus was able to leave his manager. Shortly thereafter, a bloody beatdown by Albano, Freddie Blassie and Ray Stevens, helped transform Snuka into a sympathetic figure, and triggered the most successful period of his career. Albano had previously helped turn the villainous Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson into a fan favorite, by “purchasing” Patterson’s contract against his will. He also managed the U.S. Express at WrestleMania.

The Captain managed several wrestlers and made appearances for the NAWA after he left the WWF.

The Captain died October 14, 2009.

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