Austin Idol, also known as “The Universal Hearthrob”, was an International Pro Wrestling star who started his illustrious wrestling career in 1972. Idol survived a fatal plane crash in 1975 when the plane he was a passenger in went down in the cold, dark, and murky waters of Tampa Bay. Austin made wrestling history when he defeated WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler in a “Hair vs Hair” match within the confines of a steel cage. This historic Pro Wrestling match took place in Memphis, Tn on April 27, 1987 and is still a hot topic with avid wrestling fans. The Idol retired from wrestling, or at least we think he retired in 1993. Who really knows, look at Bret Favre? Austin Idol is currently a co-owner in “YNOT Athletics LLC and still makes guest appearances throughout the U.S. Visit Austin Idol’s website here: http://austinidollive.com.
It was March of 1973 when I hopped a plane in Tampa, Fl bound for New York City. Still virtually new in the business but, having received some good breaks to offset the bad ones, I was heading for the “Big Apple” in hopes I could sink my teeth in and grab a bite for myself. I was 25 years old at the time and hungry to make a name for myself and earn a significant income. I had just finished a tour in Australia working for the flamboyant Promoter James E. Barnett, and I was bound and determined to keep the momentum going! It was in Australia where I really started to learn the true psychology of the wrestling business. After all, the talent pool was amazing, and Mark Lewin who had a brilliant mind, was the booker. Here are some of the “All Stars” who were part of the talent pool when I was there: Mark Lewin, “King” Curtis Iaukea, “Playboy” Gary Hart, “Bulldog” Brower, “Tiger” Jeet Singh, Spiros Arion, Mario Milano, Brute Bernard, and little ol’ me, an unknown kid from Tampa, Florida who was a former power lifter and construction worker! I was part of the A Team and didn’t know what letter followed A?
This was an extraordinary group of talent to be surrounded by, and all I had to do is shut up and listen. Listen and learn, sound familiar? Learn I did, and as fast as possible, every waking moment of each day. I was fortunate to be living in a penthouse overlooking the internationally renowned “Bondi Beach”! Check this out? My lease payment was only $400 per month. By the way, I was earning $1,000 per week and remember, this was in 1972! All good things must surely end and Australia came to a close for me.
Now, it was on to New York City (the old WWWF territory) in hopes of keeping my career ball rolling along. I flew into Philly for my first TV taping and grabbed a cab to the old Philly Arena located in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Admittedly, this was a tense situation for me, and I was definitely nervous about meeting Vince McMahon Sr.
As I entered the arena, the boys were hanging out waiting for interviews to start. It was a circus act with personalities like Mt. Fuji and Professor Tanaka, The “Grand Wizard” Ernie Roth, “Moondog” Lonnie Mayne, Andre The Giant was there, King Curtis Iaukea, and Louis Vincent Albano, better known as “The Captain”!
This was a defining moment for me, as I approached this strange group of well seasoned and polished professionals. Thankfully, my friend from Australia, the one and only “King’ Curtis Iaukea came up to me and gave me a Monster Hawaiian hug! With all eyes on me and Curtis, I was immediately accepted as one of the family. The late great King Curtis knew exactly what he was doing, and to this day I thank him for being a true and loyal friend!
With this behind me, it was time to start focusing on work! Before we actually started cutting promos, Vince Sr. called me over to the side and said, “If it’s OK with you, I would like to give you the name “Iron” Mike McCord”? I said, “Sure thing Mr. McMahon, anything you want”!
“Just call me Vince from now on Mike and we’ll catch up later,” he winked. Me, call Vince McMahon Sr. Vince? Damn, I hope I can do it! What a classy man Vince was, and to this day I owe him a lot. I was in the territory for about six weeks and making a reasonable living when one day back at the Philly arena for TV again, Vince sent someone to fetch me for some face time with him. Of course this made me nervous because for all I knew, maybe I was gonna get canned!
“ Mike, I have decided to start making you some money, and from here on out Lou Albano will be your manager,” he said. “Is this OK with you?”
My heart was pounding as if it were a jack hammer, and just like a private to a 5 star general I replied, “YES SIR”! This was the beginning of my relationship with one of the greatest personalities in the history of professional wrestling. “Iron” Mike McCord was now in the elite stable of none other than the “Guiding Light” himself, Lou Albano! Man, did I really start learning,
and when it came to promos, Lou was as good as anyone and better than most.
The cool thing was, when it was our time to cut an interview, Lou would always start and set the tone which happened to be a tone of shear insanity and confusion. He made it difficult and extremely challenging for me to follow. I knew I couldn’t, so I didn’t force it. Having Lou Albano as my manager was an amazing experience because I learned the art of the promo and how to be completely confident in yourself while in front of the camera.
The Captain was a true legend in the WWWF , and all his heat or hatred by the fans transcended to me! Sometimes things got a little out of control and turned very ugly. Take the Boston Garden as a prime example. The situation became so hot, they had to install a fiber glass protection device around the ring that was used for professional hockey! Then they would drape a mesh net from the ceiling down over it in hopes of deflecting everything imaginable that was thrown at us. Fans would literally pull up the bolted down chairs from the floor, tear them apart, and throw them at us while we were in the ring!! Coke bottles, apples, oranges, anything they could hurl at us, they kept it coming! I always thought, if I can just get to the ring and back in one piece then I have dodged a bullet, at least this time? What a way to make a living but, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing! It was a different time in wrestling, nothing like now, and this is why they call it “Old School!”
I remember arriving in Worcester, Mass for an exciting night of wrestling, zip guns, bottles, razors, etc….. I just happened to get to the building early that day, and as I was walking to the dressing room, I heard beautiful piano music that sounded like a concert at Carnegie Hall. I followed the sound of music until I found the room where it was coming from. As if flowing like a beautiful crystal clear mountain stream came fabulous Italian standards that were being played flawlessly! One after another they poured out like the sweetest honey you ever tasted. I stood motionless and in total silence, listening to my own private piano recital. With his back to me, unknowing, and in his own private world he continued to play. I knew I was in on something that most had no clue about? Remember, I’m just a kid from Tampa who just happens to be standing behind none other then The “Captain” Lou Albano playing like a Professor from the Julliard School Of Music! All of a sudden he paused but, didn’t turn around? He still wasn’t aware of my presence.
“Lou, that was beautiful! I didn’t realize you could play the piano!”
“ Most people don’t Mikey but, I grew up in a musically talented family,” he retorted. “My sister plays piano at Carnegie Hall in the City, and I learned from her. What a moment to remember, not to mention the old saying, “Never judge a book by it’s cover”!
Louis Vincent Albano, in all of his weirdness, was a gifted individual in more ways than one. He helped mold The “Universal Hearthrob” Austin Idol in becoming who I was then and still am now! “YNOT” REMEMBER LOU ALBANO!
We’ll see everyone right back here next week with the exciting life and times of yours truly, The “Universal Hearthrob” Austin idol! Check out the YNOT Athletics Facebook page and LIKE US: http://www.facebook.com/pages/YNOT-Athletics/168372929856672?sk=app_4949752878……..Send any comments or inquiries to: http://www.austinidollive.com/contact.htm