Earlier this month I was saddened to learn of the death of Joe Laurinaitis, better known to wrestling fans as Road Warrior Animal and one half of one of the greatest tag teams the Road Warriors/ Legion of Doom. Animal was sixty years old. Animal was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1960 and grew up in Minneapolis Minnesota. Animal stood an impressive six feet, one inch/ 185 cm and weighed 285 pounds/ 129 kg. His wrestling career began in 1982 as a singles competitor. He was simply known as the Road Warrior and portrayed a biker gimmick. In 1983 he signed with Georgia Championship Wrestling which was a territory of the National Wrestling Alliance, NWA. It was in GCW that he teamed up with his childhood friend Mike Hegstrand, better known as Hawk and The Road Warriors were born. Managed by Precious Paul Ellering The Road Warriors were part of the wrestling stable Legion of Doom, which consisted of The Road Warriors, Jake the Snake Roberts The Spoiler, Matt Borne, King Kong Bundy, Arn Anderson, The Iron Sheik and the original Sheik.
Throughout their wrestling career The Road Warriors were no nonsense tough guys who looked like that they could legitimately hurt you. This was not hard for them to pull off, not just because of their size and strength but because they worked as Bouncers before becoming wrestlers. On the WWE DVD about their careers Animal talks about how along with Ravishing Rick Rude and Barry Darsow better known as Smash, Hawk and Animal worked as Bouncers at a bar in Minneapolis called Gramma B’s. It was there that all four were spotted by Eddie Sharkey who trained them all to become wrestlers. All four were very successful, working through the various wrestling territory’s before signing with the then World Wrestling Federation, now WWE. In 1990 The Road Warriors signed with WWE and their name was changed from The Road Warriors to The Legion of Doom.
Tag team wrestling was at its peak in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. It was during this period that the most famous and successful tag teams were together, and all wrestling championship belts were important as they did not change hands as much and there were fewer titles to win. If the wrestling promotor you worked for made you their champion it meant that they had enough confidence in your work to put that responsibility on you. It was during this period that The Road Warriors wrestled for every major promotion and won every tag team title that mattered. For me to talk about every championship The Legion of Doom won would take all day however below you will find some of them:
- All Japan Pro Wrestling: NWA International Tag Team Championship
- American Wrestling Association: AWA World Tag Team Championship
- Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling: World Japan Tag Team Championship
- Georgia Championship Wrestling: NWA National Tag Team Championship (3 times) NWA National Tag Team Championship Tournament
- International Wrestling Superstars: IWS World Tag Team Championship
- i-Generation Superstars of Wrestling: i-Generation Tag Team Championship (3 times)
- Independent Pro Wrestling: IPW Tag Team Championship (1 time)
- Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling: NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Dusty Rhodes and Genichiro Tenryu, NWA World Tag Team Championship (Mid-Atlantic version) Iron Team Tournament (1989), Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup (1986)
- Super World of Sports: One Night Tag Team Tournament (1991)
- World Wrestling Federation/WWE: WWF Tag Team Championship (2 times)
- New Japan Pro Wrestling: IWGP Tag Team Championship (2 times) Working as The Hell Raisers
- Toryumon Mexico: UWA World Tag Team Championship, working as The Hell Warriors
In 2003 Hawk sadly died. Hawk had a long and well-known battle with drugs and alcohol. Although he had been clean and sober for a long time when he passed, some people suspected that the long-term effects of his battles may have played a factor. In 2011 The Road Warriors and Precious Paul Ellering took their rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. They are also members of the Quebec Wrestling Hall of Fame, NWA Hall of Fame, NWA Legends Hall of Fame, Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame, and Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Museum.
Animal is survived by his brother, former wrestler, and WWE producer Jonny Ace, three children including NFL Star James Laurinaitis, his nieces Brie and Niki Bella and his wife Kim Laurinaitis.
The Road Warrior’s had something very few wrestlers achieve. That is the ability to simply stand in the ring, say nothing and get a twenty- minute standing ovation. Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin all developed this ability, however, “The Road Warrior Pop” was the greatest of them all. The first main event tag team and one of the greatest tag teams ever. “Oh What a Rush”