The Stampede Wrestling promotion and the Hart family has lost another graduate far too early.
Following the deaths of former Stampede stars like Brian Pillman and Owen Hart comes the passing of Gary Albright, known for part of his time in Stampede as Volkan Singh, half-brother of Makhan Singh (Mike Shaw) and a part of the dreaded Karachi Vice.
Albright went through a feeling out process on pro wrestling with legends like Billy Robinson, Danny Hodge, Lou Thesz and Bruce Swayze before hooking up with Stampede.
“He was pretty green when we had him here,” recalled Ross Hart. “We knew that he had the raw talent. We encouraged him to exploit his mat wrestling. He could do some just beautiful front belly-to-belly, and back suplexes.”
Bruce Hart said it was Brian Pillman who was instrumental in Albright arriving in Calgary. A friend from Albright’s days at the University of Nebraska (1981-1986) knew Pillman from their days together at the Cincinnati Bengals. That friend contacted Pillman on Albright’s behalf.
Albright kept in touch with Bruce over the years.
“It’s funny, I spoke to Gary, ironically, about a day or two before Owen died, touching base, shooting the s***, you know,” said Bruce.
In Stampede Wrestling, Albright started out as a babyface, before joining Karachi Vice. Eventually, he won the tag titles with Makhan Singh, beating the British Bulldogs December 30, 1988 and losing the titles to Chris Benoit and Biff Wellington on April 8, 1989.
Albright left Stampede in April 1989 for South Africa, then to the southern States. Bruce Hart hooked him up with the go-between in the United States for the UWFI in Japan, and Albright was off to compete in the new, ultimate fighting style of wrestling.
He was an “excellent freestyle wrestler,” said Ross Hart. “I remember his greco-roman wrestling, his on-the-mat wrestling, which was quite phenomenal. We knew that if wrestling kind of went in that direction, which it certainly did with the Ultimate Fighting … that was an area in which he would excel in. He had the credentials, he had the size and he had the discipline still to be a good showman in the ring and not carry it too far and actually hurt other performers.”
From 1992 to 1995, Albright, Vader and Nobuhiko Takada were the three stars of UWFI (Union Of Wrestling Force International), trading wins amongst each other. In 1995, UWFI was the hottest promotion in Japan, with the largest average house show attendance in the world. The UWFI — a strong style/work promotion, had the appearance of being legit with only a little of the showmanship normally associated with pro wrestling. Albright, along with Vader, played the invading foreign heel against the top star Takada, seen as spoiling the purity of Japanese strong style wrestling.
“I think he was quite content to wrestle in Japan. They let him wrestle his style,” said Ross Hart. “He was always exceptionally noted for that, that ultimate-type fighter. He never wrestled out of character, which I always admired about him. That’s why you never did see him go to the WWF or WCW. I think he would have been a great acquisition there, but I think he thought it would infringe on his style too much. That they would have had him set all his technique aside, and he would have had to give up that art, which he wasn’t prepared to do.”
When the UWFI folded, Albright went to All Japan was immediately put into matches with the top Japanese stars like Toshiaka Kawada, Kenta Kobashi, Akira Taue and Mitsuhara Misawa. For Albright to have been put into programs with the top stars, along with the top foreign stars like Stan Hansen and Steve Williams was a major accomplishment and sign that All Japan promoter Giant Baba respected his work with UWFI. The last couple of years has seen Albright work mainly in Japan, but occasionally on independent shows in the United States. He was married to Monica Anoai, the daughter of Afa the Wild Samoan #1.
UWF International Highlights:
- 05.08.92 Defeats Takada to win the UWFI World Title In Yokohama
- 0921.92 Loses title to Takada In Osaka
- 2.25.94 – At Tokyo’s Budokan Hall before sellout of 16,500 teams with Dan Severn in losing to Takada and Naoki Sano.
- 4.03.94 Competes in singles tournament in Osaka with wrestlers like Vader and Takada.
- 10.08.94 – Teams With Kazuo Yamazaki to defeat John Tenta (Earthquake) and Russian grappler Victor Zangiev
- 11.10.94 – Defeats Takada at Budokan Hall before sellout
- April 2 At Tokyo Dome – This was a joint show promoted by Weekly Pro Wrestling Magazine in Japan which featured 13 different promotions on the card: Takada, Billy Scott & Masahito Kakihara beat Albright, Jean Lydick & Kazuo Yamazaki
All Japan Highlights:
- All Japan Debut: 10.02.95 Teaming With Johnny Ace and The Patriot to beat Kobashi, Jun Akiyama And Takao Omori.
- 10.25 Lost to Toshiaka Kawada
- Teamed with Hansen to place third in The Annual Real World League Tag Tournament In December
- 1996: 1.24 With Stan Hansen won the All Japan Double Tag Titles from Kawada And Akira Taue in Matsumoto
- Lost the titles a month later on 2.20 to Taue and Kawada in Morioka
- 3.02 Has first title shot at All Japan’s Triple Crown Title held by Mitsuhara Misawa in Budokan Hall. It was a big deal to fight for the title, considering that it is only defended about a dozen times a year. It’s even more impressive because he’d only started with All Japan a few months prior and because he was a foreigner.
- April 20th, at Tokyo: Teams with Johnny Ace & Toshiaka Kawada to beat Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama when Albright pinned Kobashi.
- July 24th In Tokyo: Beats Toshiaka Kawada with a choke sleeper.
- 1997: Won All Japan Double Tag Team Titles On 7.25 with Steve Williams beating Kenta Kobashi and Johnny Ace, lost them back on 10.04.97 in Nagoya
— with files from John Molinaro
ALBRIGHT QUICK FACTS
Born: May 18, 1963
Died: January 8, 2000
Weight: 340 lbs.
From: Billings, Montana, U.S.A.
Finishing Maneuver: Rolling German Suplex
Amateur Statistics: State Champion (55-2 record)
University of Nebraska (1981-1986)
Record: 112-19-4 (70 by pin)
3 time All-American
Big 8 Champion
Big 8 All-Academic team
Freestyle and Greco-Roman
U.S. team member from 1981-1984
1982 National Open Freestyle champion
1981 World Greco-Roman Elite champion
Member of Sunkist Kids national championship team
Held numerous FS and GR titles
– courtesy www.GaryAlbright.com
- July 22, 2023: Albright family brightens up Tragos/Thesz induction
- Jan. 10, 2000: More details emerging in Albright’s death
- Jan. 8, 2000: Gary Albright dies in the ring