411 Book Review: The Road Warriors: Danger, Death, And The Rush Of Wrestling
Throughout the 1980s & 90s, the world trembled before the presence of the most dominant tag team in the history of professional wrestling. The men known as Animal & Hawk captivated audiences across the world during their journey across every major wrestling promotion known to man, and earned respect, admiration and championships everywhere they went. Joe Laurinaitis, the man known to millions as Road Warrior Animal, tells the story of the Legion of Doom in Medallion Press’s newest release: The Road Warriors: Danger, Death, And The Rush Of Wrestling. Co-written by Andrew William Wright and with a foreword by long-time manager “Precious” Paul Ellering, the book tells the story of two of the biggest and baddest stars wrestling has ever seen.
The first three pages covers the twenty-two years of Animal’s life before wrestling. He says that he’s no dummy and knows that people are reading to learn about his wrestling career, so you have to give him points for honesty. I still think that a little more time should have been spent on those years, if for no other reason than to establish Animal’s character more and shed more light on what kind of a person he was growing up. After that, the book picks up in intensity pretty quickly. We learn how Animal, Hawk and several other young men broke into the wrestling business by breaking people in bars, which led to Eddie Sharkey training them, Ole Anderson discovering them, and the rest becoming history.
As the title indicates, the main storyline in the book is the relationship between Animal & Hawk and their history as a tag team across the world. Animal gives us insight into their stays in each of the major North American wrestling promotions. (Yes, since this isn’t a WWE book he refers to the company as “WWF”.) We get a behind the scenes look of some of Hawk & Animal’s most famous matches, such as the Night of the Skywalkers against the Midnight Express, the very first War Games, their tag team title victories in the NWA, AWA & WWF, and even some of their clashes with great Japanese wrestlers like Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu. He talks about how big an influence Ellering was on their careers, referring to him as the third Road Warrior and talking about how he actually served as a real manager for them. He reveals the famous wrestling promoter that gave them the idea to paint their faces, and another territorial legend who gave Hawk the idea to no-sell piledrivers. Animal also tells a story about an injury that a certain wrestling tax collector received while working for Jim Crockett Promotions…you’ll probably never look at that guy the same way again.
He discusses the behind the scenes aspects of each promotion they stopped in, where the common trend seemed to be dysfunction after a period of success. His take on Jim Herd is the same that you’ve heard from everybody else who worked under him, and he touches on a funny comment Hawk made on TV directed towards Herd that the boys loved. He talks about WWF’s original plan for the “Drunken Hawk” angle, which was a story that I hadn’t heard before and was quite surprised by. Wait until you hear which tag team Jake Roberts claimed was the WWF’s “new Road Warriors”…it’s a hoot! He also touches on some of his outside the ring endeavors, most notably his association with Zubaz pants, which I’m pretty sure everybody had a pair of at one point another. I can tell you that the chicks loved my Bengals Zubaz pants back in the day. Wish I still had those.
Animal also talks about various performers he helped get into the business, and expresses his pride for his brothers’ success as well. He kind of sugarcoats things with them, as the Wrecking Crew never won the WCW tag team titles like he says they did & he doesn’t mention that the Dynamic Dudes were a huge flop, but this reviewer certainly won’t fault him for that. Animal is definitely a family man, a theme that comes up in the book quite often is how his main motivation was to make a good living and support his children, and the main reason he got into wrestling back in 1982 was to provide for his oldest son.
Animal has an affinity for re-living his matches, and it’s interesting to read his descriptions of other workers. He tells the story of the match from a kayfabe perspective, but will also note that somebody was a great heel. He remembers some things a little differently than I’ve heard in the past, but I don’t think he’s trying to change things around on purpose…for example, he says that Jim Cornette came up with the idea for his scaffold fall, but Cornette’s always said Dusty Rhodes came up with that idea. I doubt Animal was sitting in on that meeting (he & Hawk were probably in Japan at that point), so he probably heard Cornette talking about it and figured he came up with it. No biggie. He spends a little time talking about how wrestling is a business and wins and losses don’t matter, but tells quite a few stories where he didn’t want to put people over cleanly. I understand where he was coming from, as Road Warriors losses should have meant something when they happened, but it’s kind of weird when one page talks about how losing doesn’t matter, and then on the next page he’s trying not to lose to somebody.
As most of you know, Animal & Hawk didn’t always have a perfect relationship. We hear about their one and only “backstage altercation” that took place very early in their career. They grew apart later on in their tag team run when Hawk began to succumb to his demons and got them suspended from the WWF on two separate occasions, and then once Hawk formed a new tag team in Japan while Animal was recovering from a back injury, they didn’t speak for a long time. They became friends again and once Animal was ready to wrestle again they had runs in WCW & the WWF, but Hawk’s demons still hadn’t gone away and both runs were ultimately disappointing. WCW didn’t want to give them a contract, and the WWF run was pretty much the low point of their career on a professional and personal level. Hawk hit rock bottom during a trip to Australia, which led to Animal joining WCW just as they were about to go out of business. They re-united and had one last chance in WWE, and Animal tells us what kept that from going longer.
Animal also discusses his comeback to WWE in 2005, and talks about the reasons why that didn’t work out. His tag team partner during that run reminded him a lot of Hawk, and not in the good ways. While he may have been disappointed with his final stint there, he ends things on a positive note by talking about his family & faith. Animal is very proud of his three children, who have all gone on to do great things, and he gives most of the credit to his wife for that. He spends a little time talking about finding God again, but he doesn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about it, so if that’s something you don’t like in these books don’t let that turn you off. He does have an interesting story about a couple of wrestlers that became born-again at the same time, Hawk & Shawn Michaels.
By anybody’s standards, Road Warrior Animal had an amazing wrestling career, and he & Andrew William Wright do an admirable job of converting it to the written word. You feel like you’re right alongside Hawk & Animal during the biggest matches of their career, and you’re back in the locker room to see all the craziness of pro wrestling firsthand. It’s a fine companion to WWE’s DVD set on the Road Warriors a few years back, with the addition of more details and some funny stories that can only happen in wrestling. If you’re a fan of the Road Warriors, reading this book is an absolute must.
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