Thursday, October 15, 2009
Oh Captain My Captain
The recent passing of WWE Hall of Famer Captain Lou Albano brought back a rush of nostalgia taking me back to my infancy in the world of pro wrestling (NOT sports entertainment). As a kid growing up in the Northeast all that existed was the WWWF (soon to become the WWF) with it's formulaic and, as far as we were concerned, extremely entertaining version of pro wrestling. Bob Backlund was the champ. Bruno, recently coaxed out of the color postion, was the guy you had to beat to get to Backlund or involved in the grudge matches. Most of the programs revolved around 3 matches in 3 months in all the major arenas (the initial meeting which the heel would win by countout or something to that effect, the rematch with some kind of inconclusive finish, and the blowoff in a steel cage or another gimmick match). The lead heel charges were usually managed by one of 3 men. "Classy" Freddie Blassie who usually had the giants (Big John Studd, Hulk Hogan) and who most of us had no idea he was once a headliner all around the world, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling who typically had more "skilled" heel opponents (Superstar Graham, Stan Stasiak) and who most of us had no idea was once known as Abdullah Farouk in Detroit, and Captain Lou Albano who tended to concentrate on tag teams and "character" wrestlers (The Wild Samoans, The Moondogs). Captain Lou to me was the most entertaining of the 3. His flabby physique flaunted by his open shirts, rubber bands around his beard and through his cheeks and his cliche driven promo's made him my favorite non-wrestling character. Of the "3 wise men of the WWF" he was also most likely to get physically involved usually taking a bump for the baby faces on the rare non-squash T.V. matches of the era. At live events, he was a bleeder of Tommy Rich proportions always selling the ire of the face team
As a young man, he was impossible not to be fascinated with. He never drew the anger with me that TGW did as he was too funny. His wrestlers were always "often imitated, never duplicated", he was always "in the best shape of his life and could suplex from his knees" and he called VKM "Junior" long after he made it known he LOATHED" being called that. His interviews were often done while he was eating, say, a meatball sub which was all over his bare, ample belly. I think, other then his always great interviews, I most remember Lou from the famous Snuka/Albano/Stevens/Rodgers angle and, of course, the whole rock-n-wrestling era which everyone will be writing about. His long, storied career, from the Sicilians to the Samoans, from NRBQ to Cyndi Lauper was one to be in awe of. He was one of the guys who bridged the gap from Sr. to Jr., WWWF to WWF, Bruno to Hogan, and from pro wrestling to sports entertainment.
I know in the most recent Wrestling Observer hall of fame voting he didn't fare well and reading Mr. Meltzers comments on him to me really show the East Coast/West Coast bias in wrestling. I hear about Ray Stevens, Roy Shire and the Cow Palace and I think beer belly, who, and rodeo. I hear Captain Lou, TGW, Classy Freddy Blassie, Landover, MD and the Boston Garden and I think of my favorite time in my life loving pro wrestling. I wasn't "smart", hell I wasn't even a "smark" yet but I looked forward to every Saturday morning at 11:00 A.M. Lou was the single most entertaining character of the era, baby or heel, and, in my humble opinion, a sure fire, non-wrestling hall of famer.
Rest in peace Captain Lou and Kappa Dilly Dilly