Professional-wrestling fans the world over are mourning the passing of Captain Lou Albano. Though he was beloved among wrestling fans as an in-ring entertainer in various roles as a wrestler, manager and announcer, his main claim to crossover fame was as an ambassador who bridged the worlds of music and wrestling — a relationship that helped Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (now Entertainment) to become a dominant national force in the 1980s and solidified Albano's place on the pop-culture map.
Not surprisingly, a lot of Albano's work in the music world saw a crossover with MTV. The network has always had a friendly relationship with professional wrestling, airing various pieces of WWE programming over the past few decades (including the reality show "Tough Enough" and the recap show "Sunday Night Heat"). Albano was a centerpiece of two early shows that aired on the network.
Having met and made friends with Cyndi Lauper, Albano dreamed up the idea of a movement that was dubbed the "Rock N' Wrestling Connection," which manifested in a series of crossover events that saw the two worlds collide. Albano appeared in Lauper's video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" in 1983, and she subsequently began appearing on wrestling television. In one such segment, Lauper took offense to Albano calling her "a broad," so they decided to settle their differences in a match that saw them each supporting a female wrestler.
The resulting show, dubbed "The Brawl to End It All," aired live on MTV in the summer of 1984 and featured a main-event match that pitted Wendi Richter (representing Lauper) against the Fabulous Moolah (cornered by Albano) for the Women's Championship. MTV News also hosted a lead-in show, which saw VJ Allen Hunter's interview with Albano and Lauper devolve into a staged brawl.
The relationship between Albano and Lauper continued: He appeared in Lauper's videos for "She Bop," "Time After Time" and "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough." In the lead-up to the first Wrestlemania in 1985, MTV again hosted a high-profile match, this time pitting superstar Hulk Hogan against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. The show, broadcast live from Madison Square Garden in New York City, ended with Piper assaulting Lauper. Mr. T intervened, which led to the main event of the first Wrestlemania two months later.
Albano was responsible for much of the WWF's crossover success, because he understood that music and pro wrestling could co-exist in synergistic ways. He also understood television: In behind-the-scenes footage unearthed by MTV News, Albano can be seen directing crewmembers, explaining exactly how to get the most out of the footage of the brawl they were about to stage. A savvy businessman and a natural entertainer, Albano not only helped the WWF but also gave a nice assist to MTV, as in the early days of the network, wrestling-related programming scored it record ratings and helped further establish its anything-goes attitude.