411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2006: The Road Warriors
We snack on danger and dine on death!
Sound familiar? How about..
OHHH, WHATA RUSHHHH!
Yeah, you know who I’m talking about. No team in the history of wrestling has had the influence and sustained popularity as the Road Warriors/Legion Of Doom.
Ever since Joe Laurinaitis (Animal) and Michael Hegstrand (Hawk) joined forces they were fated to be stars. Big and muscular, they stood out from the regular wrestling crowd with their punk haircuts and face paint. Now if that was all to their appeal they would have fallen off the map with a bunch of other goofy looking wrestlers. They named themselves after the notorious biker gang of the same name and more than proved they were deserving of their moniker.
Coming to prominence in the Georgia territory, they were part of the Legion Of Doom, a heel stable that included Jake Roberts and King Kong Bundy that were managed by “Precious” Paul Ellering, they quickly separated from the rest with their vicious and violent wrestling style that incorporated their big power moves with some surprisingly high flying moves. No move however was more powerful and high risk than their Doomsday Device.
Animal would sit a battered opponent on his shoulders when Hawk would ascended the top rope and he would launch himself half way across the ring and clothsline his victim to the mat. No one ever got up from this move and defeat was assured. They were violent, original and edgy and gave great promo in their own particular style. Animal would yell and scream full of rage and always end what he said with Tell ‘em Hawk... Well, Hawk would start off, It seems to me, that it seems to be… and he would make his point in a very pointed and cold way. They always meant business.
They were VERY different when they formed in 1983 and created a major stir wherever they went in the formative years. They left Georgia for the AWA because the NWA tried to ban them and even in the AWA they didn’t make any friends. One notable occasion was a match where the then rookie Curt Henning was caught in a hangman between the top and second rope and Hawk unleashed with a series of unprotected chair shots to Curt’s head leaving him bleeding hard way and the crowd rioted when they tried to leave and were forced to fight there way to safety. This was the norm, not the exception.
Jim Cornett LOVED working with the warrior because no matter how much any of his teams beat on the Warriors and how insane the heat became (a dangerous thing in the regional days) they were always safe because the crowds never truly believed the Warrior would lose. And they rarely did. They were too big, too strong, too fast and too good.
They feuded with every major team of the 80’s and 90’s and had massive runs with the Four Horsemen, The Fabulous Freebirds, The Von Erichs, The Midnight Express, The Russians (whatever combination they had), Demolition, The Hart Foundation, Doom, The Skyscrapers, The Steiners, The New Age Outlaws, The Outsiders and many more. Their versatility and ability to create heat with almost any team was astonishing.
You can read their achievements like an honour role of wrestling. The only team to win the three recognised major tag team championships in North America (WWE/F, WCW/NWA, AWA) when each of those promotions were at their prime and they were a legitimate draw for nearly 20 years. Pro Wrestling Illustrated stroked themselves over Warriors so much they gave them multiple Tag Team of the Year Awards coupled with Tag Team of the Decade and when they couldn’t get more over-of-the top, Tag Team of the Century!
They broke so much ground and were so successful that when Vince Jr couldn’t get them in the 80’s to the then WWF he created his own version, Demolition, that went on to become hugely popular in their own right. Hell, even the NWA copied them (Power of Pain) and they had the Road Warriors still under contract! They often wrestled in groundbreaking gimmick matches like a tag team ladder match with the Powers of Pain, scaffold matches and helped inaugurate the very successful War Games cage match concept. They were hardcore and no fight was too violent.
Quite simply, they were the cool heels decades before Steve Austin. Even booked as the nastiest heels in whatever territory they wrestled, they were always cheered. Passing from the regional territories to the AWA and then onto the NWA, they were always one of the biggest faces on the card regardless of the booking. They were so popular that even the hugely popular Dusty Rhodes booked himself as a teammate of the Road Warriors in their NWA tenure so he could get the rub!
Coming to the ring with those huge sliver spikes sticking up from the mammoth leather shoulder pad to the ominous strains of Black Sabbaths Iron Man, they would DESTROY opponents. Their televised jobber matches would rarely break the minute mark. They had an aura of invincibility, so much so that one of them would often headline a house show in a singles match with the NWA champion (usually Ric Flair) and even managed to share title matches against Flair during the Great American Bash cards in 86!
Their time in the NWA was an odd period. So popular they had become they could rightfully claim to be the top faces of the promotion but they were never given the tag titles. For years they would always get close but be denied by some heelish tactic and the Warriors were in danger of losing their aura. Common sense thankfully prevailed.
First they attacked Dusty and then Sting and then any other face they could lay their hands on. Secondly they cut a series of pissed off promo’s that announced that the wimpy Warriors were a thing of the past and the old Warrior were back. Third and lastly, the annihilated NWA tag champs The Midnight Express in a match so awesomely brutal that both Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton bladed and had little offence as the Warrior finally became NWA tag champions. As always, they were so awesome they instantly became faces again!
Perhaps seeking challenges elsewhere the Warriors headed to the WWF. They were repacked as the Legion of Doom (in a nod to their old heel stable and a name the WWF held ownership of) they chased immortality and beat the Nasty Boys at SummerSlam to become the first and only team to win the Big Three tag team titles. This was a different Road Warriors however. Gone were the big steal spikes and in there place orange shoulder pads and fake looking smaller black spikes. The WWF was aimed at children and this helped them fit a more cartoon-like image than the violent team they were on the past.
After their tenure in the WWF the Warriors lost their way somewhat and even split for a while but like all good teams, the reformed and headed back to the WWF for one big final run. They quickly won the titles again but it was plainly clear that years of wrestling and abuse to their bodies were taking it’s toll and in late 1997 and early 1998 they were jobbed out to the hottest tag team in wrestling The New Age Outlaws and quietly let go by the WWE before years end.
With their reputation, fans still craved to see them perform and they were a major draw on the Indy circuit and even earned themselves a cameo on RAW last year shortly before the untimely death of Hawk.
Why The Road Warriors were selected…
Popular to the end, the Warrior earned the reputation for years of kicking ass and taking names. Hugely respected in Japan for their toughness and respected in American for their popularity and longevity there will never be another team like them. JR used to call them “American Originals” and they were.