Name: Lou Albano
Year Inducted: 2009
Induction Category: Non-Participant
"Captain" Lou Albano
With his trademark beard wrapped in rubber bands, his wild Hawaiian t-shirts, and his unforgettable personality, "Captain Lou" entertained millions of fans while becoming one of the most recognized figures in professional wrestling during his near 40-year career. Born Louis Albano on July 29, 1933 in Mount Vernon, New York, Albano excelled in athletics as a youth and eventually earned a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee before joining the United States Army.
After his military duties, Albano began his professional wrestling career in Canada in 1953. With partner Tony Altimore, they formed "The Sicilians," a team that would rise to the top of the tag-team rankings. The team's Mafia style-gimmick was portrayed so well that it opened the eyes of some people in the Mafia and the duo was told to downplay their characters. The Sicilians won tag-team gold by capturing the prestigious Midwest Tag-Team Title in Chicago on June 30, 1961. Six years later, after joining the World Wide Wrestling Federation, the team won the United States Tag Titles from Bruno Sammartino and Spiros Arion on July 10, 1967.
Albano was making a strong case as a competitive wrestler but, after the breakup of The Sicilians, he revamped his character. He made his lasting mark as one of the most memorable managers that the wrestling industry has ever seen. Captain Lou began targeting long-time WWWF Champion and fan-favorite Bruno Sammartino in order to manage a world champion of his own. In trying to dethrone the champion, Albano managed heels such as "Classy" Freddy Blassie, Crusher Verdu and others before eventually finding Ivan Koloff, who ended Sammartino's seven year run as champion in 1971 at Madison Square Garden.
Captain Lou also managed many of the WWF Intercontinental Champions including Don Muraco, Pat Patterson, and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. But the majority of Albano's success in managing came in the one division where he held a plethora of knowledge - the tag-team division. Albano managed the Valiant Brothers, The Executioners, the British Bulldogs, the Headshrinkers, the Wild Samoans Afa and Sika, The Moondogs and others en route to his stellar career record. A total of fifteen different teams became tag-team champs under Lou's and he earned the nickname of "The Guiding Light."
In 1983, Albano launched himself in a new direction and changed his outlook to become a beloved fan-favorite. Albano appeared in Cyndi Lauper's megahit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" video. This musical film was prominently featured on MTV and it helped usher wrestling into the new world of pop-culture. Suitably entitled the "Rock ‘n Wrestling Connection", Albano's character was easily identified along with the legendary Hulk Hogan to help spearhead Vince McMahon's vision of a more flamboyant WWF wrestling show during the mid-1980's.
Outside of the wrestling business, Albano made the most of his newfound fame. In the latter part of the 1980's, Albano made appearances in acclaimed television shows and movies including Miami Vice, Hey Dude, Brian DePalma's Wiseguys, and he had a huge role with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in the 1987 film Body Slam. Albano even had his own theme song constructed by the rock group NRBQ, with whom he had the opportunity to manage and perform. The Captain attained greater stardom by landing the leading role as Mario in the animated show The Super Mario Brothers Super Show where he served as the voice of Mario.
In 1996, Albano was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and two years later, he co-authored the book entitled The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pro Wrestling with Bert Randolph Sugar. Today, Captain Lou makes appearances at wrestling events and conventions to touch base with the fans who appreciate the emotions and entertainment that he has brought to them for five decades. Albano is one of the industry's most recognized celebrities and has reached iconic status due to his fame in both the wrestling industry and in entertainment world. Whether you loved him or hated him, it's certain that there's only one Captain Lou Albano and it is an honor to induct him into the 2009 Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.
- Andrew Malnoske